*EXCLUSIVE* Then vs. Now with Montgomery Gentry


The fact of the matter is Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, collectively known as country music duo Montgomery Gentry, are folks like us — down to their tattoos and scars — and that’s something to be proud of. Perhaps the main difference is that the duo has had a decorated sixteen year career in the limelight, releasing albums ranging from the 1999 Tattoos & Scars to the 2015 Folks Like Us and a collection of “in betweens.”

Throughout the course of their lengthy musical partnership, Montgomery Gentry has seen an evolution in the country music genre, as well as in its own sound. However, Troy Gentry explained that the duo’s goal is to always remain true to themselves and the sound they created years ago.

I hope that we’ve kind of stayed true to our sound, but through the years be able to keep that same sound fresh, or current, if that makes sense. When we first came out, we were kind of daunted as one of the first bands to have twin lead guitars, twin lead electric guitars sound on our record, and I guess that’s something that through growing up in the clubs, some of the bands we used to cover like Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers, the southern rock influences we had, had that sound we kind of carried over into our sound. And I think that has stayed consistent throughout the years, but each year trying to keep, staying true to that, but keeping it fresh and current.

In order to stay consistent with the Montgomery Gentry sound that was introduced to country music in 1999, the guys continue to tap into the same influences that impacted their creativity at the inception of their careers. Those who made an impression on Montgomery Gentry years ago, and who remain in mind today, include The Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Jr. Throughout the years, though the pair’s records have evolved with the times, the hope remains that fans still hear the roots of their music, if even subtly.

We want, when you put in a Montgomery Gentry record, or song, or mp3, when you hear it, you know who we are. And that consistency is through making the same music throughout the sixteen year career that we’ve had.

Maintaining a sound that fans can rely on has been a big component in Montgomery Gentry carrying a tremendous and dedicated following along for the ride. The duo attributes a catchy tempo and relatable lyrics for keeping the fan base engaged during the journey, suggesting that the ability to enjoy, yet understand, the music is a reason the fans have stood by them.

Again, going back to our early influences, they sang about the ups and downs and “the party on the weekend,” and I think people can embrace that. People can identify with situations they can identify with on a daily basis. [We] can try to sing about that. Sing about our families. Sing about the blue-collared, hard workers out there. Singing about our military. Singing about American pride. Singing about our faith. That’s stuff people deal with on an every day basis and I think they can embrace that whenever they hear our songs. They can attach themselves to our lyrics, and I think that’s another reason we’ve been able to build and keep the fan base we’ve had for so many years.

To that end, returning back to the beginning of Montgomery Gentry’s career, the song that put the twosome on the map, had a hand in its CMA Vocal Duo of the Year win, and started its rise as one of the most celebrated duos in country music history was “Hillbilly Shoes.” The edgy, rock-infused track was released at a time when ballads were prominent and love songs were filling the airwaves, and brought something different to the table.

Recognizing early on what its formula for success was, Montgomery Gentry decided to stick to the plan it enacted and which proved fruitful for its particular purpose; and it has remained a foolproof plan over the years. However, in order to grow with an ever-evolving industry, Montgomery Gentry has had to make minor changes — most of which take place at the production level of the creation process.

We are fortunate enough that through the years we have had producers who have been able to do that. Take songs we have chosen for the record that fit our model and the things we want to sing about and . . . they’ve been able to take the message we wanted to bring to the record and take our sound and tweak it into what was still current, or at least not make it current, but make it fresh enough to be relevant to everything that was around us at the time. And even today . . . with the new “Folks Like Us” album, if you sit down it does have a little bit different sound if you were to A/B it to the “Tattoos & Scars” record, but there’s a lot of similarities in the sounds as well.

Speaking of A/B’ing the first and most recent albums, Troy Gentry was challenged to choose his favorite song from each of the offerings; a task which was rather difficult, especially when it came to Folks Like Us.

The first album, I’d have to go with “Hillbilly Shoes” with it being our debut song, ’cause it made such an impact in the industry and with radio, and the listening base, fan base that was out there. It was just so impactful. On this record now, there’s a song on there, this album I think is loaded with a bunch of great songs, but one of the fun songs in there that kind of sticks out, and it’s hard to pick on this record. Hmmm. Well, it’s hard. The song I was gonna go to that has a similar feel to “Hillbilly Shoes” is . . . a song called “Hillbilly Hippies,” and it’s kind of got that same upbeat, groove type tempo, easy lyric to pick up to sing, and it just kind of reminds me a little bit of “Hillbilly Shoes.”

Interestingly, comparisons were able to be drawn between a 1999 album and a 2015 album, lending credence to Montgomery Gentry’s statement that the musical brotherhood has not compromised itself to fit a certain mold. Of particular note, something that absolutely has not changed over the span of Montgomery Gentry’s career is who Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry are as artists and individuals — self-proclaimed and undeniable folks like us.

[We] are just like everybody else. We have a passion for our music. We have a passion for our family. For our blue-collared workers out there. Our hard working Americans out there. Our military and patriotism. I want people to know we’re proud of all that and we’re part of all that. We’re part of that together. That’s what makes up “Folks Like Us.”

Folks Like Us is available now and can be downloaded below. Make sure to follow Montgomery Gentry on Twitter, Facebook, and the duo’s website to stay updated on new music and appearances by the award-winning members of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

Watch the video for the title track and lead single off Folks Like Us:

Montgomery Gentry Folks Like Us