From “Hillbilly Shoes” to “Headlights,” Montgomery Gentry has become one of the most identifiable duos in the history of country music—as much for their outlaw-meets-gentleman sensibilities, their yin and yang personalities and their intensely energetic live performances as that balance of voices that gives their brand of country an edge or their version of Southern rock a softer place to fall. This chemistry has been reacting for over 15 years. After nearly a decade and a half, Montgomery Gentry continues to draw door-busting crowds into their concerts and release albums that stay true to the Kentucky country music movement they helped define.
That doesn’t mean that the duo has an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude or has become complacent. That isn’t the case at all. Once again, the duo has been working with Michael Knox (Rebels On The Run), and they have collectively embraced the ever-changing environment of country music while remaining true to their signature sound. However, that’s what Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have always done, and that practice has positioned them as trailblazers for contemporary country. A modest Troy scoffs at the notion, but says, “We’re going to continue to do the same music that we always have, and if that puts us in that leadership role, then so be it. I definitely want to be the one on the front end and not trying to copy something else that’s already been done.”
They won’t and they haven’t. Since breaking into the format in 1999, Montgomery Gentry has been a representative of the workingman, releasing blue-collar anthems for what Eddie calls, “the good, the bad, the ugly and the party on the weekend.” But the songs are about more than just factory workers who like to blow-off a little steam. They dig deeper. They’re about passion: for doing a good job, for working hard and playing harder, for being an honorable person, for loving your God, your country, your family and your life.
Despite their success, Eddie and Troy remain close to the folks like them—not just family and friends, but their family of fans. In fact, they feel a responsibility to those who have elevated their career to the level where they have earned ACM and CMA Awards, and sold several million albums and been honored with memberships into the Grand Ole Opry and, in April 2015, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Troy explains, “We’ve always been about cutting songs that everybody can identify with and at any given moment go, ‘Hey, that’s me and they get where I’m at right now,’ and maybe get some kind of peace or something that they can grab onto and go, ‘That’s cool that they know exactly what I’m going through’ or ‘Man, they like to party and have a great time on the weekend, just like me.’” Eddie is in agreement with his partner. “I think it’s what a lot of people can identify with when they see us live on stage or they’re listening to an album. They’re like, ‘They’ve actually lived this,’” he says before laughing and adding, “Some things we wish we wouldn’t have done, but sometimes we do it again.”
Deep down, they haven’t changed in holding the things that are most important to them at the forefront of their focus, but looking back Troy admits, they have undergone some transformation. “Every now and then it feels like it’s just been a few days ago, a few weeks ago since we got started; but looking back through photographs and listening to the older albums and stuff, you can definitely feel some maturing and some distance in between the club days and where we are now.” Eddie continues, “We’re still who we are at the roots. I reckon, hopefully, you let it branch out a little bit and you learn. You live and learn, so that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
If Montgomery Gentry sounds more serious than you thought they might be, it is only because they take their role in country music quite seriously. They work with some of Nashville’s biggest hit songwriters to help them maintain their musical integrity. Writers like Jeffrey Steele, Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, David Lee Murphy, Craig Wiseman, Chris Stapleton and Brett James. Working with these renowned writers has paid off as a new generation of fans join them in their meet & greet lines. Troy smiles broadly, “We are now starting to see people who are bringing pictures of their first concert their mom brought them to when they were 15, 16 years old and now they’re 20, 21. It’s pretty amazing to transition from the mom and dad who were the fan and now the son or daughter continues to be a fan this many years later.”
That means this duo isn’t about to throw in the towel. Heck, why would they with the new fans they’re bringing to the format and they’re still just having a great time? “Just getting on that stage and hanging out with everybody and getting to be able to do it different places all over the world,” says Eddie. “There’s nothing like it. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life and I still ain’t found nothing that gives me a rush like that.” Troy nods adding, “I think with the success we’ve had under our belt, we’ll be able to do it as long as we want to; and that’s what we came in to do. We didn’t want to be an overnight success like acts that have one or two hits and then go away. We wanted the longevity like Waylon, Willie, Charlie, Cash, Kristofferson. All those cats; and they weren’t about No. 1 hits all the time. They had enough success with their music to be appreciated, to be able to play as long as they wanted to, and they did it the way they wanted to. To still be out this long and doing what we’re doing, we’ve been very blessed and we’re very thankful.”