Eddie Montgomery’s face lights up with a smile when he talks about his late bandmate, Troy Gentry.
Montgomery lovingly referred to him as “T” or “T-Roy” during our CMT.com Q&A to discuss the new Montgomery Gentry album, Here’s To You (available Feb. 2).
Over the course of the conversation, Montgomery recalled the hell they raised when they were a new Nashville band called Dukes. Back then, Gentry insisted on driving those long rides from Kentucky to Music City while Montgomery napped in the passenger seat. He talked about the random jokes Gentry would crack live in concert that only the band could hear over their talkback microphone.
“You can’t be together 35 years and not have a lot of memories,” Montgomery told CMT.com. “There are a lot of memories I’d like to tell you that would make you fall over laughing, but you can’t put them out. We lived a lot of life together.”
It’s an understatement to say the two friends have been through a lot in the time they’ve known one another. They’ve battled cancer twice (Montgomery is a cancer survivor, as is Gentry’s wife, Angie.). In 2009, they were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. And since the 1999 release of their debut, Tattoos and Scars, they’ve traveled the world bringing their music to adoring fans everywhere, won CMA and ACM awards, had albums go platinum and gold and charted over 20 singles, five of which have gone No. 1.
On January 19 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Montgomery will headline the first Montgomery Gentry concert as a solo act. He admits he’s lost sleep thinking about that first show.
“I’ve thought, ’Man, can I do this?’ Music is the only thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’m anxious to get into rehearsals because I think it’s all going to come together. I mean, there’s never going to be another T-Roy. He was so full of life. And I want to make sure nobody ever forgets Troy, and I want to make sure nobody ever forgets Montgomery Gentry.”
Montgomery revealed the decision to continue the band in the event one of them died was a decision they made together years ago. Monday (Jan. 8) marked the four-month anniversary of Gentry’s death in a helicopter crash. In the days leading up to the accident, they were putting the finishing touches on the new album.
“I always thought I was going to be first,” Montgomery said. “We talked about it because I like to live on the wild side — me and him both. I wanted to keep going because I know T-Roy would be right here going, ’I’m going to kick your ass if you don’t get out there and keep this going.’ I can’t wait to get out and play the music.”
CMT: What were those last sessions like for you guys?
Montgomery: We’re always cutting up, piddling around, and aggravating each other. Whether we’re in the studio or on the road, we always like to have a lot of fun. And of course, T-Roy, he loved living life just as much as anybody. He had a big wooden spoon because he liked to stir stuff up all the time. You never knew what T-Roy was going to do.
I’m very sorry for your loss.
It was a horrific accident. I can’t say a whole lot about it because it’s still under investigation. But man, there’s not a day that it doesn’t go through my mind and through my heart. Nobody needs to go through that. Nobody needs to see anything like that ever.
How do you keep his memory close? Do you hear his voice in your head when making business decisions?
All the time. It’s unreal man. A lot of it I can’t say on tape. You can’t be together 35 years and not have a lot of memories. There are a lot of memories I’d like to tell you that would make you fall over laughing, but you can’t put them out. We lived a lot of life together.
What can fans expect on the new tour?
Anything can happen, and usually, it does. I think we’ve never choreographed anything in our whole life. There will be a lot of moving like there always has, and of course, there’s going to be questions of, “Is this working or is this not working?” That’s the thing that we’ve got to figure out is to make sure we honor T’s name right. His soul was part of this band.
Do you have a plan for the Montgomery Gentry songs that you wrote together that didn’t make other albums?
Not yet. That’s something that will definitely be in the future. Right now, I just want to get this CD rocking and get the tour going, and then I’m sure there’s going to be a few things pop up.
We’ve got quite a few songs we’ve written together. Me and T, we were never the guys like, “We wrote it. It’s got to be on the CD.” A lot of times we take our songs into meetings, and we wouldn’t let anyone there know we wrote them because we wanted the best songs. And thank God it worked out because we’ve had 20 years of hits. I think it was right.
As a band, you’ve never compromised your sound or your point of view. Was there a specific goal going into making Here’s to You?
Listening to it, it reminds me so much of Tattoos and Scars with everything that’s on it. Even some of the stuff that’s a little bit outside the box that we put on there, I love.
Me and T know who we are, and we know what we want to sing. We know what we think fits, and I think it’s about our soul and our heart. We didn’t get into music for the money or to be a star. We got in it because we just loved it. When we cut music, it’s just who we are.