After more than two decades of sharing the stage with his Montgomery Gentry partner, Eddie Montgomery is still finding his way as a solo performer following the unexpected death last fall of his musical partner, Troy Gentry.
“I’m so used to looking to my left and having T right there,” Eddie told Rare Country just days before embarking on his first Montgomery Gentry tour as a solo performer.
And while there are some songs that are just always going to be emotionally difficult for Eddie to sing, he says, “I can get [Troy] in my mind sometimes and my heart will kind of drop a little bit … and then I’ll see him smiling and, bam, it’s right back on. He loved to live life … If you ever met him you could never forget him,” he added with a laugh.
As previously reported, Eddie kicked off the “Here’s To You Tour” Jan. 19 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The tour is named for the duo’s new album, completed just before Troy’s death last September in a New Jersey helicopter crash. The album is set for release on Feb. 2, the same day Eddie will make his first solo appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, where he and Troy have been members since 2009. He’s billed on the show’s web site as “Montgomery Gentry featuring Eddie Montgomery.”
It’s sure to be an emotional return for Eddie. The Opry House was where the memorial service was held for Troy last September. And it was at that service that several Opry members — both publicly and privately — encouraged Eddie to stay close to his Opry family and continue to perform there.
“I hope you lean on this family,” Vince Gill told Eddie from the stage. “It’s a good one. And don’t disappear. Come out here and let this family love you.” Eddie tells Rare Country that among the other Opry members who offered the same kind of support were Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels and Brad Paisley.
“I can’t thank everybody enough on that,” Eddie tells us. “My Opry family is just going, like, ‘Hey, we want you on the Opry as soon as you get to feeling like it, and we do not want you to quit. You’ve got to keep going.’”
It took him a bit of time to really absorb that message. “At that moment, at the funeral, my mind was going a million miles away because I still … I swear I believe I was still in shock because I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I’d see a casket up there and be like, ‘Man, this ain’t happening.’ So when Vince was saying that, and Charlie and Trace, I was just like, ‘Man, I’ve got to keep doing this’ … It’s the only thing we’ve ever known.”
As he gets back into the swing of touring, Eddie isn’t wallowing in grief, but rather trying hard to focus on the many lighthearted moments he had on the road with Troy over the last two decades.
For example, he says, they utilized a “talkback mic” onstage at their shows, which enables the band and crew members to communicate directly into each other’s in-ear monitors without the audience hearing what they were saying.
“I might be singing ‘Lucky Man’ or [being] serious or something, talking, and [Troy would] go back there and say something in that microphone that’s just off the wall,” Eddie recalls. “We’d look around and all the band guys are going ‘What in the hell is he saying?’
“He kept that big, gigantic wooden spoon with him all the time because he was always stirring up stuff,” Eddie adds with a smile.