Just moments into Montgomery Gentry's new music video, "Where I Come From," viewers are thrust into the war zone.
"The whole idea of the video treatment was having our guys in combat, and one of them is wounded," explains Troy Gentry. "And to keep him awake and everything, one of his buddies was asking him about his hometown -- which goes back to 'Where I Come From.'"
The driving single leads the duo's latest project, Rebels on the Run, which marks their debut on the independent label, Average Joe's Entertainment. It's also their first release of new material in three years. In the downtime, Eddie Montgomery battled prostate cancer and endured a divorce, although he's proud to announce he's cancer-free today.
During a recent visit to CMT, Montgomery Gentry caught us up on their new music, their enduring bond with fans and their determination to stay true to their roots.
CMT: When you saw the final video for "Where I Come From," what was your response?
Montgomery: Oh, shoot, man, your heart comes up in your throat a little bit. It makes you think about our country and our American heroes overseas. Every day, they put their lives on the line, and that's why this is the greatest country in the world. We can say and be and dream as big as we want to.
What were you hoping to capture when you recorded the song, "Rebels on the Run"?
Montgomery: I know Troy's going to say the same thing, but it reminded us so much of all of us when we put the band together, I want to say a couple of years ago! (laughs) Back when we got out of high school. All of us were running around and spending more money on gas getting to a gig than we even made playing. And absolutely having a blast.
Gentry: Phil O'Donnell, who was a writer on the song, wrote it about his life experience growing up. And if you didn't know any better, you'd think that it was a song that Eddie and I wrote about our upbringing, if you knew the history of us and where we came from. As soon as we heard it, we knew it was definitely a hit and it was a Montgomery Gentry song, written for us.
For fans who are curious, how would you describe what's been going on the last few years?
Gentry: We've been worldwide! (laughs) We started this year with a USO tour in South Korea and Okinawa, Japan, and recently ended up coming back from Australia.
Montgomery: Of course, I can't thank everybody enough for all the cards and letters and prayers and emails that I've got. It surely works. I'm 100 percent cancer-free. I don't even have to have any treatments at all. We don't call anybody fans, we call them friends, and we've got a lot of friends who have had our back since day one. We appreciate that a lot. It's kept us working.
Eddie, how did you stay strong during that time?
Montgomery: When you find out, it's unbelievable. You kind of laugh at first, like, "There ain't no way this could be happening to me." And when you find out it's really true, you start thinking, "Well, how bad is it?" You've got to have every test run in the world in your body. Thank God, I've got friends and family, like T-Roy and John Boy [his brother John Michael Montgomery], and that helped me. They kept me going and helped me through every bit of it.
Troy, what was it like for you to see Eddie going through that rough patch?
Gentry: It was scary. Any time you have a family member or somebody close to you with any kind of illness or sickness, you always feel for them. You hate for anybody that close to suffer at all. And to find out he had prostate cancer was even more devastating. But like he said, with all the prayers and everything, we were fortunate that it was caught early and gotten rid of.
Despite everything, you guys didn't really miss many shows. Why is it important for you to stay on the road, even when you don't have a new single or album out?
Gentry: That's what Eddie and I love to do. We grew up in the music business, playing the clubs and nightclubs. That's something that's in our blood and something we enjoy doing. As long as people still want to be entertained by Montgomery Gentry, we'll still hit the road, entertaining.
Montgomery: We love being around people. That's what it's all about. All our friends out there, man, they work 70 or 80 hours a week, and when they get a paycheck, half of it is gone. So, if they want to see us, we want to be able to take them away from that for a little bit, and all of us have fun for a day or so.
Do you remember when you didn't have any hits, and you were just waiting for one?
Gentry: Yeah, we'd go out there and play five of our favorite songs off the first record, and the rest were cover songs for the next 45 minutes. (laughs)
So much has changed since you started, but what do you think has remained the same?
Gentry: I think our roots. We still try to stay true to who we are, especially when we're recording our music. We sing songs about the everyday people -- something they can embrace and get their hands on. They can say, "Hey, I've gone through myself" or "I know somebody who's gone through this." I think that's why Montgomery Gentry's music has remained popular for so many years. It's something tangible that people can reach out and grab a hold of. They say, "Man, I can feel that. I know they feel it, but I can feel it, too."
Montgomery: The easiest way to put it is, "We sing about the good and the bad and the party on the weekends!"