Montgomery Gentry's tour bus is barreling down the I-85 corridor between Greenville, S.C., and Atlanta when Eddie Montgomery calls in to chat about the duo's new album, You Do Your Thing, which arrives in record stores Tuesday (May 18).
You Do Your Thing is Montgomery Gentry's fourth album for Columbia Records. But it's the first one to have four producers -- plus an executive producer to tie it all together. "Of course, rock acts do it all the time," Montgomery observes. "But it's not very [common] in country for an act to use multiple producers. ... But Troy [Gentry] and I never played by the rules anyway." The producers are Blake Chancey, Joe Scaife, Rivers Rutherford and Jeffrey Steele. Sony/Columbia's head of artist and repertoire, Mark Wright, is the executive producer.
Chancey, who formerly held the post Wright now occupies at Sony, had already produced three cuts for the new album when the label underwent a management shakeup in May 2003. Out went president and CEO Allen Butler, plus several other top executives, including Chancey, and in came John Grady, who promptly dropped several acts. "Mr. Grady called us in and asked us what we wanted out of our music," Montgomery recalls, "and we just told him, 'We want to go to the moon.' He was definitely like, 'I'm the man who can get you there.' I tell you what: It's just been unbelievable [with] him and Mark Wright. It's just been great. We'd heard so much [about the executive changeover], but we kept rockin' right through it, just hunting for songs and trying to make our next album better than our last one."
Toward that end, they enlisted such hit songwriters as Bob DiPiero, Casey Beathard, Tom Shapiro, Craig Wiseman, Kelley Lovelace, Rutherford and Steele. True to form, all the songs they picked are about hard living and simple joys. "I call it 'working-class music,'" Montgomery says. "We're not just going to sing the 'I-love-yous' or whatever. We're going to sing about the good, the bad and the ugly -- and the party on the weekend also. I mean, life is very short, and we're going to live every minute of it. I would suggest that everybody do that."
Montgomery Gentry have been touring since February and will continue into September. "We've had so much fun touring and so much fun in the studio," Montgomery proclaims. "When you're having a ball, time really don't matter. That's the way we look at it. ... I just love [performing] so much. You've got people coming to see you, nowadays especially, who work 70 and 80 hours a week to get a paycheck, and half of it's already gone when they get it. When they go out and pay anywhere from $12 to $15 for a CD and anywhere from $20 to $30 to $35 for a ticket, when we get done, I want them to stand up and say, 'Man, I absolutely had a blast.'"
Working under broiling spotlights in his trademark black hat and long black coat, Montgomery would seem to be a prime candidate for heat exhaustion -- or worse. But he brushes that prospect aside. "I reckon I just don't think about it," he says. "When I hit the stage, I'm just into everybody out front and having a blast. There's been a couple of times -- like we were at a couple of places in Arizona where it was 115 [degrees] or something -- that by the end of the show, I knew I had the coat on. But I really don't pay that much attention to it because I just get so wrapped up in the playing and having a great time. The only thing that matters to me is the music." An ex-drummer, he says he got into the habit of brandishing and twirling his microphone stand simply to keep his hands busy.
With Jim Beam as the duo's tour sponsor for the past four years, it's no surprise that alcohol figures prominently in their music. On You Do Your Thing, it emerges as both a curse ("She Loved Me" and "Talkin' to My Angel") and a relief ("I Got Drunk"). That's the way life is, Montgomery asserts. "We're not just singing about ourselves. We're singing about people that we know and deal with every day. ... There are people who come to our parties who don't have a thing to drink, and there are people who come to our parties and like to get drunker than hell. We're just going to sing about all of it. Anything in your life that you have to deal with in everyday fashion, that's what we're going to sing about."
Earlier this year, Montgomery filmed a pilot for a situation comedy that's being considered for the ABC-TV fall lineup. It's called Rodney and stars comedian Rodney Carrington and singer-songwriter Mac Davis. "I'm definitely a musician, not an actor," Montgomery insists. "I'll have a recurring role in it. It's just kind of ironic that [my character] owns a bar."
Montgomery Gentry's next single is the title track from You Do Your Thing. They will open the Academy of Country Music awards show on CBS-TV May 26 with their current single, "If You Ever Stop Loving Me."