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Jack Ingram goes live, wherever you are

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2006

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Ingram says he was into "music like crazy" growing up in Houston.

"I was a fan who went to bed every night with headphones on and records playing. I can't tell you the times I woke up with that (he makes a whoosh sound), that was a needle on the record player. When I started writing at that point, (it) would be poetry I guess or thoughts or a journal, it all came together when I was about 18. I started learning to play guitar. I couldn't listen to music any more without playing it...As soon as I did, I began putting my words to music."

As a high school senior, Ingram was into acting.

"Once I realized I wasn't going to play sports any more on the kind of competitive thing, then I got into drama, and that replaced that void of that first kickoff, that intense kind of thing that happens. I found it in performing."

Ingram got into music for himself at Southern Methodist University where he studied psychology.

"It was all covering the same subject to me, songs, writing songs, learning about psychology. It was all coming from the same well. I think that songwriting is very close to...studying people's behavior, why we do the things we do. What makes people tick. How the things that we do have consequences. That's what I find in songs, and that's what you study in psychology."

Ingram learned a few songs, and "immediately" started hitting open mic nights at area clubs, playing songs like John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" and Willie Nelson's "Crazy."

"I started giving it a go and started playing every week. I started playing frat parties and college parties. I started thinking about making a demo."

Ingram got the idea for putting out a record. "I did some artwork on the computer and had a CD for sale. It was a glorified demo...the nature of a college kid, especially at SMU, they're from all over the country. So you put out a record, and they go all go home for spring break and Christmas. I put the booking number on the disc, and before you know it I had gigs all over the state."

"It was strange, man, but it was great," he says. "That's how I got started really."

But Ingram wasn't ready to quit college for music.

"I knew I was in a good opportunity, in school, studying something that I was truly interested in. My goal was I didn't want to freak anybody out. I wasn't like some rebellious kid trying to freak my parents. I love what I'm doing, if I can build up...maybe I'll be able to make a living doing it. Sure enough, that's how it worked out."

After three independent releases, Ingram landed at Rising Tide, which while not a big seller at least exposed him to a larger audience. Only the label didn't last very long.

Next stop was the Sony imprint, Lucky Dog, established as a cool, indie vibe type of label with artists not quite in the country mainstream.

But that never worked out either.

"I don't think I was real honest with myself or with them about what my expectations were at that point. I signed with Lucky Dog hoping to gain Sony proper attention. That's not what they signed me for. They wanted because they wanted a label where Charlie, Bruce (the Robison brothers) and Jack just did what they wanted and made some cool records for them and sold a few in Texas. It was frustrating because I thought it was a major label, 'come on let's sell a million records'."

Sony eventually shuttered Lucky Dog.

"I was making demos and talking to different labels, throwing my name in the hat. All the meanwhile, I was attempting to be very patient, to not get in another situation like Lucky Dog."

In stepped Big Machine Records, formed by industry vet Scott Borchetta, who is working together with Toby Keith's Showdog Nashville Records. Ingram was the first release for the label.

After two ill-fated attempts at major labels, one would think Ingram was snake bitten.

"Scott Borchetta has a vision for his label, and I know he sees my vision as an artist. He knows where I want to go and what I plan on doing. I think he has the business savvy to help me do that. I know he's not going to fail. I've known about Scott for a long time, and I've asked plenty of artists that work with him and throughout the business. Everybody says he's the best. He's been straight up with me, and we seem to have our ducks in a row."

Ingram thinks the music business will continue to change with indie labels so prevalent in other genres like hip hop eventually having the same effect in country.

"I know they want to go sell records, and they want to be a strong player in the country world. I know they want to kind of change the way it gets done a little bit, kind of take off some of the reins of the artists, and I think they chose me because of that. They know I have a strong identity about my vision and who I am."

"They know that my intention is not just be some cool country outsider. They know my intention is to have my music heard and have an impact and sell records."

Ingram thinks he might be able to do that with the catchy lead-off new studio track, "Wherever You Are."

"I'm way into the idea of full commitment, and that's what that song is about," he says.

Ingram closes with "Love You," written in part by Trent Summar. The humorous song substitutes "love" for another four-letter word in a strong delivery by Ingram.

Summar played Ingram the song. "I went 'oh my god, I got to cut that song'. I just love good solid humor like that one...It's just a good joke."

"I played it for Scott, and he just started cracking up, and he said, 'you want to cut that, right?'"

Ingram seems excited when talking the day after the disc came out.

"I'm not nervous," says Ingram. "I just know that there's a lot of work that's already been done and much more to do. A lot of people's going to be gravy train, and we're going to be stars. I just wanted to get in the game and have a long career and start making music that gets heard on another level than just underground. That's what I'm fighting for with this label and this record sounds cliché, but to take it to another level where people are going to know about them...I am hopeful."

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