What else can be said about Jack Ingram? The talented Texas music torch bearer who is arguably the most influential of the modern Lone Star troubadours. With intelligent songwriting, acute business acumen, and a rocking live show Jack has taken country music by storm. He’s been to Nashville and come back just like Willie and Waylon did in the 70’s. Jack seems to get better and stronger with each release. It’s an honor and a helluva privilege for me and Galleywinter to bring you 20 Questions with Jack Ingram!
1. What’s new and exciting with Jack Ingram?
Just finishing up a studio record that should be out in early ’05. Other than that, I’m out touring with the band this fall and will head out on another “Acoustic Motel” tour in February.
2. Jack’s Tracks is your weekly radio program on 99.5 The Wolf in Dallas. The show is a very refreshing take on radio, in that it harkens back to radio’s golden age when the DJ played what he wanted. How did you get that gig?
Told the station my idea and they agreed to let me do it.
Are you left to your own devices to do whatever you want?
I play exactly what I want and it is a lot of fun. I play Willie, Wilco, Earle, Merle and everything in between.
3. Name association:
–Jerry Jeff Walker– Wise ol’ street singing, life living, gypsy rocking folker from way back
-Charlie Robison- The shorter, older brother. One of my favorites without question.
–Todd Snider- My good man, Todd Snider. Inspirational, he’s inspirational.
–Waylon Jennings– That groove. There’ll never be a country groove as wide as Waylon’s was.
–Bruce Robison– If I could write like Bruce… I wouldn’t have to talk so loud.
–Roger Creager– He’s got the guns.
–Chris Knight- Nicest mean guy I’ve ever met.
–Kevin Fowler- Nothing’s better than a man who’s not afraid to be himself. Kevin’s great.
–Randy Rogers– Got his cd the other day. It’s still in the car!
–Ray Wylie Hubbard– “This is a song by RAY WYLIE HUBBARD”.
–Joe Ely– Joe f*&%*()ing Ely.
–Billy Joe Shaver– You can’t become a diamond someday if you start out that way. He’s a diamond now and was when came in this world. I’m referencing “Old Chunk of Coal” for those that don’t know.
4. Pat Green has credited you with inspiring him to start a band to perform his own songs, saying that your early success spurred him to believe he could do it too. How do you feel about being such a huge influence on young songwriters/musicians?
I feel great about being respected by my peers. It’s flattering. Other artists have influenced what I do also. I think it’s a natural progression.
5. Steve Earle produced your 1997 release “Livin’ or Dyin’”. How’d you come to work with him?
I came to work with Steve and Ray Kennedy through my record company at the time. I was trying to figure out who I wanted to produce my major label debut and Ken Levitan, who ran the label, threw out Steve’s name. I was a fan of Steve but did not know that he was producing records. He agreed to do it with Ray Kennedy, his partner.
What was that experience like?
The experience was thrilling, eye opening and positive. I learned a lot about allowing yourself to be as emotional about music as you need to be to make the record you need to make as an artist.
Who haven’t you worked with yet that you would like to?
I don’t really make lists about people that I want to collaborate with. I am, however, very open to opportunities to work with other artists. It can be very inspirational and create a “1 + 1 = 3” type situation.
6. You’ve recently had kids. Can we be expecting any Barney or Shrek references in your songwriting?
I tried not to bring my kids into this but it’s impossible. They are such a huge part of my life and create other avenues for me to write about besides love and hate. Barney sucks. Shrek’s cool. I don’t think I’ll write about them but Little Mermaid’s kind of hot.
Also, with your psychology background, please break down what exactly’s going on with the Teletubbies.
The Teletubbies are great, especially the gay one.
7. Your live show is one of the most emotional and energetic experiences in music. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I like to have candles in my backstage, unscented. I listen to music that inspires me. Stuff that I think is better than what I do in a non-competitive kind of way (Tom Waits, Chet Baker, classic R&B, Wilco, The Band, etc).
Also, you have a wealth of songs to choose from, how do you pick which ones to put in the set?
I try and choose songs that I think we play great and fit the show we’re about to do. Some settings call for rocking the whole set and others call for more introspective stuff. I really do try and give people what I think they want to hear. I don’t pay $15 bucks to go see a concert so that the band can “test” me and I don’t expect my fans to either. I try to make my set lists as if I were a fan of my music, which I’m not.
You also play a wide variety of shows, everything from big festivals to intimate songwriter shows? Do you have a preference, and talk about the difference in settings.
Nothing beats playing music in front of people that are genuinely interested in what I’m doing. If that happens at a big festival with thousands of people or in a coffee house that seats 38 people I am going to be grateful for the opportunity to play music.
8. What are the 3 high points of your musical career?
1. Every time I finish writing a song.
2. The first time I sold out a show.
3. Every time I finish making a cd.
3 low points?
1. Rising Tide (record company for “Livin’ or Dyin’”) getting the plug pulled by Universal while I was making my 2nd record for them. I was on a roll!
2. Parting ways with a management company that I spent a long time with and had a very good relationship with. It was just time to move on.
3. A transmission in the van went out in some no name town in Alabama. We found a way to the show and got another transmission but I do remember being fairly bummed out that day.
There’s not a whole lot to bitch about when you get to do what you love for a living!
9. If an “artist” like Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts or Big & Rich wanted to cut one of your songs, would you be willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court to stop them?
Hell no, I’d take it to the bank. So would you unless you’re an idiot. There is no such thing as selling out. Anybody who thinks I don’t want as many people as possible to hear my music does not know me at all.
10. You founded your own music festival called “Jack Ingram’s Real American Music Festival”. What made you want to do that?
I thought it would be fun to put on a day of music and invite friends of mine down to play and also invite bands that I’m a fan of to play. Everybody always asks what kind of music we call this. I call it REAL.AMERICAN.MUSIC. That’s what I call every band that has been on the lineup at the festival.
Do you envision it as an annual thing?
What would be your dream line up?
So far, the lineup has been exactly what I want it to be both years. I’ll take it year by year and if every year, the lineup is the way I want it then I will call the festival a success. That and selling a bunch of tickets too!
11. Stories behind the following songs:
First off- I have a live cd called “Acoustic Motel” that explains where a lot of my songs come from. It’s available at my website. (www.jackingram.net) If you’d rather read what they’re about then proceed.
–Work This Out– Trying to work things out with a woman.
–Biloxi- My parents got divorced when I was in high school. My dad moved to Biloxi.
–Fool- This song’s about trying to fool yourself.
–Everybody– Everybody loves you. Everybody hates you. No they don’t. People don’t think enough about you, for the most part, to have such a strong opinion about you. Lighten up and move on. Nobody cares.
–Hey You– This one’s about the noise level that life can create. Trying to find some quiet space so you can get to the heart of the matter.
–Drive On– “The Last Picture Show”: rent the movie. This song was inspired by that movie.
–One Thing– This is a gushing love song. I wrote it during the first “dramatic rose ceremony” of “The Bachelor”. I thought it was nice to write about real love.
–I Would– *see Work This Out
–Picture On My Wall– I stayed in this motel room for a week when I was out opening shows for Todd Snider in 1996. I kept staring at the wall. This song is the result.
–A Little Bit- It’s nice hearing your song on the radio.
–Beat Up Ford– I wrote this when I was 21. I thought that driving an old truck and listening to country music could save the world. It saved mine; I’m still working on the rest of it.
12. Who are some of your favorite new artists and what are some of your favorite new albums?
I’ll just list some of my favorite artists that I’ve discovered over the past few years and some albums that I’m into right now: Hayes Carll/Flowers and Liquor, Bright Eyes, Wilco/A Ghost is Born, Tift Merritt/Tambourine, Keith Urban/Golden Road, Elvis Costello, Drive By Truckers, Todd Snider/East Nashville Skyline, Paul Westerberg/Folker.
13. Give an example of a perfect gig and a gig from hell. A perfect gig is when people come.
A gig from hell is when they don’t. Oh, and I’d like some towels, Sugar Free Red Bull and Bud Light backstage.
14. There are several websites dedicated to your music on the web, such as www.beatupfordgarage.com and our very own Galleywinter Jack Ingram forum. Do you ever read what the fans are saying?
I read what people have to say to me through emails and direct methods. I like for fans of my music to discuss things about my music and shows and anything else they want to on the forum sites without me being involved to muddy the waters. I enjoy the fact that a fan of my music might think a particular cd sucks or another one is great or a show was exceptional or not and so forth. If I read about it I would take it personally so I try to stay away from eavesdropping.
How important has the internet been in helping your career?
I think the internet is a vital part of what I do. I think it has become essential in this business. With the radio sticking to very tight play lists, not just country stations but all of radio, the internet and its wide range appeal has been a tremendous help to artists like me.
15. Favorite touring memory of the following towns/clubs:
–Dallas– It’s home.
–Ft. Worth- I played Willie’s picnic this year. That was a dream come true.
–Lubbock– Lubbock was the first town I played in where we sold out a show. It was the 19th St. Warehouse. That was unexpected and very nice.
–Houston– Rockefeller’s used to be the place to play. It was right next to The Satellite Lounge. Both of them closed down recently but they were awesome. I saw Guy Clark play Rockefeller’s and then I came back and played it also. It made me feel like I was on the right track.
–College Station– I jumped off the stage at Wolf Pen Creek and dove into the moat. It was during a show with a band called “Jackopierce”. I didn’t wash my jeans. I just hung them up to dry. Two weeks later there was basically nothing left of the jeans. I don’t think that water was very clean.
–Waco– Are you kidding? Waco? Come on. You’re funny. No, really, one time we played that dance hall (Melody Ranch) right by the circle and my name was on the marquee right above Ray Price the following night. That was cool.
–Gruene Hall- Just playing Gruene Hall is a favorite memory. My first time to play there was opening for Joe Ely. My second time to play there was opening for Merle Haggard. My third time to play there we sold it out. I love Gruene Hall.
–Adair’s– This was my first gig. I played every Tuesday at Adair’s for 3 ½ years. Someday I’ll refer to those years as “the good ol’ days”.
–Billy Bob’s- It is one of the finest honky tonks in the world. I just wish they’d forget about making everybody sit at those damn tables all night. Is it too much to ask for a fight to break out in a honky tonk every once in a while.
–Cheatham St. Warehouse– Kent Finlay is a great human being. That’s one helluva roadside sh*thole.
16. Pete Coatney has been with you a long time. He seems to be your spiritual center and band guru. Talk about your first impression of Pete and what he means to you and your band/music.
Pete’s been with me for over 10 years. He is a blessing. His musical taste and talents are a major part of what our sound is. My first impression of him was: “I think we could play some good music together”. I still feel that way and always will. His spirituality and dedication to his Christian beliefs should be a beacon to all those who claim to believe in Jesus.
17. Since parting with Sony, you’re released an onslaught of outstanding records including the amazing Acoustic Motel and Live at Gruene Hall.
Will you ever entertain offers from the major labels again?
Yes, I will entertain offers from major labels if they come.
Or are you more happy being your own boss?
I like being my own boss but I’ve always been my own boss concerning my music. Being your own boss and having a strong label to help sell records are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they complement each other. That being said, I will put out my music anyway I can. I will always look for the best option I have at the time to release my music.
18. Rapid fire:
Yes or no, has Jack Ingram:
–Been arrested? Yes
–Been recognized in an airport or grocery store? Yes
–Seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night? Yes
–Sang along to a Toby Keith song? Yes. Thanks a lot. Now it’s back in my head.
–Last of Jack Ingram:
–Last cd you purchased: Paul Westerberg/Folker
–Last movie you saw in a theater: I have a newborn. I can’t remember.
–Last book you read: A Million Little Pieces
–Last song you heard you wish you’d written: Whiskey Lullaby
19. Favorite George Strait song.
“The Chair”. I used to make out to that song with my high school girlfriend.
20. Compare/contrast the great music you’re making with a lot of the stuff produced by major labels and played on most country stations.
I think that music should be a genuine form of expression. When that is the focus for artists, good things happen. When that focus is lost, the opposite is true. I’ve heard people talk about the pros and cons of Texas vs. Nashville before. To be honest, I could care less about all that. I want to make music that I believe in. I want to listen to music that I believe in. There are two kinds of music: good and bad. I am only interested in the good stuff.