"I'm a believer that if you think about it and say things out loud, no matter what the decision ends up being, it's a part of what's going to be done," he says with conviction. "At least put it out there as something to think about and then move on, which I think is the only way for me to do it. With my music, there isn't a whole lot of tricks...it is what it is. My whole career is based around writing about what I know and playing it the way I know how to play it."
Between the September 1999 release of "Hey You" and December 2001, when he began work on "Electric," Ingram figures that he and his Beat Up Ford Band had notched over 400 shows and countless thousands of miles taking his songs directly to the people he wants to reach. He recognizes that it may be the only way to present his music to his audience, both real and potential.
"There's a couple of things I figured out," says Ingram. "I think this stuff will get played on the radio, but if it's not being played on the radio, the other way to get to the people is to go out and tour and take it to them.
"That's how I've figured out how to stay alive out here. It's turning people onto your stuff, and that's what we're all trying to do."
One of the biggest differences between the material on "Electric" and the songs that have appeared on Ingram's previous albums was that the majority of the material was framed and fashioned in the studio.
In the past, Ingram has taken his new songs out with him on tour and road tested them, tweaking and fine tuning them until they sounded good live and then brought them into the harsh glare of the studio. He tried a different approach for a number of reasons.
"I kind of made a decision out there on the road this time around that I was going to play the songs that the people, who were coming to see me and paying money, knew," says Ingram. "It just started to work better for me that way. And I've done records where I took the stuff out and road tested it and saw what worked and had working arrangements when I went in the studio. I wanted to do it differently this time. I wanted to keep the live show a bit separate from what was coming out on the next record. I played one song on the record, the last song, "Goodnight Moon;" I started ending my shows with that song before I recorded the record, but that was the only one."
With no prior attachments to the majority of the songs on "Electric," Ingram was freer to experiment with structure without being locked into a specific course of action.
"It felt great, in an odd kind of way," says Ingram enthusiastically. "Because I play live so much, a lot of people know my by 'he plays great shows.' I've heard that said. And people have told me before, 'Man, if you could get what you do live in the studio, that'd be killer.' You know, everybody trying to help. But in an odd kind of way, not playing them out live gave me a little bit of that element in the studio."
With the release of "Electric" at hand, Ingram is preparing to once again for the road, a wearying task that never seems to cause him to grow weary. Although he confesses that he has any number of albums that he would love to pursue rolling around in his head, he tends to stay focused on the task at hand.
"Normally, I really get behind a record and just bleed it and then say what's next after that," he says with a laugh.
The only question that remains now is how the muscular new material on "Electric" will mesh with Ingram's existing catalog. His previous songs have not been so vastly different as to make the seams between them and "Electric" obvious or jarring, but there is always a transition, for artist and fan, between the old and the new. Ingram's been down this road plenty of times, and he doesn't worry about it much.
"That usually takes care of itself," he says. "That's one of the cool things about having a career like mine. You get your set list from your records, from your fans. I don't have to choose my set list by what was played on the radio or what the single was. People who bought the record and who know every word to it, they tell me what they want to hear. And I can tell when I play it that this one's a keeper, this one they dug. Over the six months or so, no matter what happens at radio - which I'm hoping is a lot; you always have high hopes - I know that I'm gonna know what the 'singles' are pretty shortly after the record comes out. My live show has gotten pretty electric
anyway, so I have a feeling it's going to translate."