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Is this it for Jack Ingram?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2007

After more than a decade in the music business, Jack Ingram finds himself in enviable, but very unfamiliar territory. He is about to release his 15th album, with the possibly prophetic title of "This Is It," with the big mo' going into it because of the success he enjoyed on his previous disc.

That is not something that the Texan has ever experienced before through stints on labels such as Rising Tide and Lucky Dog - both part of major labels - nor on his own, self-released discs.

But somehow, some way he started making a name for himself with "Wherever You Are," which came out in early January 2006 and contained his first ever number 1 single thanks to the title track. As if to prove that was not fluke, a second single from the disc, the catchy, humorous, somewhat mischievously sly, "Love You," also did well on the charts, proving that Ingram was not ready to join the One Hit Wonder club.

"I wasn't necessarily surprised," says Ingram in a cell phone interview from Nashville where he was busy with the annual Country Radio Seminar festivities. "I knew I was working with good people that knew what they were doing...I'm grateful that it worked."

After so many years, why the change in fortune? Ingram had only charted twice before - in 1997 with "Flutter," which hit number 51 on the Billboard chart and "How Many Days" 2 years later, which spent but a single week on the chart at a very dismal 64th.

Ingram thinks that is very much a function of being on the Big Machine record label, started by Nashville country music veteran Scott Borchetta. "I think the difference was the people I'm working with. Aside from a few production things that maybe an expert could point out," says Ingram. "What I'm doing is not that different musically, but the people I'm working with are completely different and were the missing element."

"I think they had the same beliefs that it could work on this level that I did," says Ingram. "Borchetta...and the promotion staff, everybody there. It's a small company. It's very focused. I'm a priority, and that makes all the difference in the world."

Ingram, 36, does not go negative at all in characterizing his time at Rising Tide and Lucky Dog, part of the MCA and Sony conglomerates respectively. Both long ago folded their tents. "I always like to be very clear that the relationships that I've had in the past at Rising Tide and Lucky Dog, I enjoyed those relationships and I enjoyed the people I was working with. Just different sets of circumstances didn't allow the right attention to be placed on my career at the time. I knew at the time especially with Lucky Dog situation, we weren't firing on all cylinders. I didn't know what to do about it. It's like being in a relationship that isn't working, but both of you want it to work, but it's just not working."

"I'm not bitter. It just didn't work."

Lucky Dog included artists such as Bruce and Charlie Robison. Matter of fact, Ingram released a live album with both of them. The label, started as a side venture for Sony, focusing on cool, non-commercial country, but never really generated any hit albums or developed artists. Eventually, Sony shuttered the imprint.

Nothing prepared Ingram for the breakthrough success of "Wherever You Are," another in a long list of live albums Ingram recorded with the two hit singles as studio tracks. "Knowing now, knowing a little more about what it takes to have a number 1 record, I heard songs that I just assumed would be number 1 hits...and I'd ask how they barely went top 10 (or) stopped at number 7. It makes me all the more amazed and again grateful that my song did go to number one because I know how fragile things are and how hard it is to put it over the top."

"Did I think it was a number one record when we recorded it? Hell no. I thought it was a good song, and we did a good job on it, and I was hoping for the best, and we got the best."

Joking, Ingram says with confidence, "I thought all my other records should have been number 1 hits too, but they didn't even hit top 40. My reference point is a little bit different."

"The art of promotion of record is much more calculated. There is a lot of work, a lot of moving parts have to go into play. I knew they were going for number one that week because I was a part of it...I was on a Midwest tour, and I was going to bed at 2 and getting up at 4 to do radio interviews. At the end of that week (when "Wherever..." went number one), I was actually done with the tour and on my way home. We dropped the band off in Dallas, and I was in the back of the bus, leaving the town where everything started for me (Dallas), and I was listening to the radio in Dallas...and Scott called me."

"It was Sunday night. I was desperately tired. He said, 'hey man, we got a number one record.' It was almost like a movie - at that moment, the song came on the radio. The moment was breathtaking for me. Sitting in the back of the bus, going down the highway, leaving Dallas, Texas, a few miles from the very first bar I ever played, hearing my song on the radio ' that's a number one song. I opened up a cold beer and took it all in."

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