Black Music Matters Festival

Is this it for Jack Ingram?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2007

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The former is about the birth of his daughter, now 4 1/2, the oldest of his 3 children. "It's my first reaction to my daughter. I sat there when she was born, and I looked at her, and that song was written 30 minutes later...It was one of those (songs) that was given to me."

Ingram says the CD's closing song, "All I Can Do" "is (about) how I'm enjoying the label and everything in it. It's a reaction to the situations I was in before and how it didn't work out and that feeling of turning a bad relationship in on yourself and finally coming to the realization 'that's all I can do.'...It's more a realization that this isn't going to work, so move on."

"It's just like anything else. You can't push it. You can't make yourself get to that place...It just takes patience being aware of the moments you're in. It's you're finally over that girl. You don't know how it happened and when. You just know that one day you wake up, and you're there."

Curiously, "This Is It" includes "Wherever You Are" and "Love You," the two hits from last year.

A cynical attempt to cash in on that success for record buyers who only heard the songs, but didn't buy the album and entice them again?

Not according to Ingram. He says, in fact, that those songs were really planned for an album project, not to be tacked onto a live project. "I just felt that with this studio record, this is my statement. I just felt with what's been going on the past year, they needed to be included. They are part of this record, always were meant to be. This was added to the other record as an introduction. This is the project."

Ingram was born in Houston to a non-musical family, though the music often wafted through the house thanks to records of Elvis, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and Don Williams. "Music was always a big part," says Ingram. "There was always a lot of music around the house."

He gravitated towards poetry, learned guitar in his teen years and started putting songs together.

Ingram went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas to study psychology and when he wasn't hitting the books, hit the clubs to perform at open mic nights and soon played colleges. Ingram compiled enough songs to put out his first CD, which he said was more akin to a demo as he did the graphics on his computer. With a telephone number for booking him for shows listed on the CD, he started booking gigs all over Texas.

He released "Jack Ingram" and "Lonesome Questions" on his own in 1995, eventually landing on the Rising Tide label, but the label didn't last very long. The positive was that he got his music out ("Live at Adairs," the Dallas club where he became popular, and "Livin' or Dyin' in 1997) to a wider audience.

He later inked with Lucky Dog ("Hey You," 1999; "Electric," 2002; and "Extra Volts," 2003), which didn't yield much better results.

Like many musicians in his home state, Ingram was able to make a go of it because of frequent touring in Texas. In fact, it enabled him to persevere. "I always had the live shows, and if you have the live show and you have a connection every night with a real audience - that has nothing to do with commercial success or radio success - you have a connection between you and somebody else revolving around music. That's a battery charger. That's how I do it man. It certainly gets frustrating, but you put your head down. Making a living, playing music. That's the goal."

While good for the pocketbook, it also left a bit of a void for Ingram in terms of a national presence, even despite a the Rising Tide and Lucky Dog releases.

Was Ingram afraid of being pigeon-holed as one of those Texas artists, perhaps limiting his ability to gain a national foothold? Ingram doesn't think so. "It can, but I never really worried too much about it. Sometimes it was frustrating. Sometimes being pigeon holed in general can be frustrating. It depends on what you have to offer. I certainly was from Texas and come from that line of Texas artists, which is long...I just kind of felt like at some point as long as I know where I was going with my music, I wouldn't allow myself to be pigeonholed that way."

"I don't think that held me back. I don't think having your name thrown around with the likes of Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen hurts you in any way. I understand commercially it might have had some other consequences, but I wouldn't take it back."

Now, Ingram is expanding into new territories, having played areas in the past few years he didn't used to play, especially opening for Crow and Brooks & Dunn. Starting at the end of April for four months, he'll be out with Brad Paisley on the Bonfires & Amplifiers tour hitting all regions of the U.S.

"It's a challenge. It's the idea of turning people on. It's like the first gig in Texas. The first time you're in front of people, you have a few minutes to get their attention. For me, it's like 'okay, man, let's go get them'. It's renewing. I relish it. There is nothing like turning people on for the first time."

For Ingram, music has always been a calling since his teen years. "I think it was just inside. I had things I wanted to say. It was more about writing."

"It was never a choice. It's just something I had to do."

"My road has led me to this moment," says Ingram in a follow-up interview from his Austin home after finishing the exhausting week in Nashville. "I'm not afraid to tell you that all the disappointments, the sour record deals, all the bad gigs, all the trials and tribulations...I just feel like this is it. This is what we've been waiting for. This is my time...I really feel this way."

"I know that I've made a record (that) I feel like every other time I've made a record - just as I've done my best, after that, you can't control how people perceive your work. I wanted to be commercially successful years ago, and I feel I have a much better chance this time."

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