Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Country music performer and songwriter Jack Ingram has been poised for breakout success since recording several independent albums in 1995. Since then he has courted fame with such big labels as Warner Brothers' Rising Tide and the Sony imprint Lucky Dog. In 2006 he released his debut on country megastar Toby Keith's Big Machine label. Modeling his songwriting after artists of country music's Outlaw Movement such as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and such contemporary alternative country artists as Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett, Ingram has frequently addressed subject matter ordinarily deemed too complex for Nashville artists. Critics attribute his songwriting craft to his affinity for the musical explorations of the aforementioned artists, as well as his understanding of the human condition derived from his psychology studies at Southern Methodist University. According to a Lone Star Music website profile, Ingram said he believes that country music "talks about things that make you think … That's what it's about when I'm listening to music. I write songs to figure out why I feel the way that I do, and why things are going the way they are." Performed with his band Beat Up Ford, Ingram's songs blend a country perspective with a distinctly rock 'n' roll and honky tonk edge.
Ingram began playing guitar and songwriting as a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He put together the first incarnation of the Beat Up Ford Band and established himself as a weekly featured artist at the local music club Adair's. He recorded three independent albums on his own Crystal Clear Sound label, including one recorded live at Adair's, to increasing public and critical acclaim. On his debut, Jack Ingram, he covered Willie Nelson's "Pick Up the Tempo" and Robert Earl Keen's "Road Goes on Forever," and two original songs accompanied only by guitar and mandolin. On the album's eight other songs, including the Merle Haggard classic "Mama Tried," the Beat Up Ford Band provided full instrumentation. With his other two initial releases, Live at Adair's and Lone-some Question, Ingram racked up sales of more than 50,000. "I didn't do it with that goal in mind," he told Lone Star. "I was just thinking that if I could sell these, I could pay for them…. It just so happened that it struck a chord with people because it was real; it wasn't a demo but a record. So I started going out and selling them. And that led to another and then another."
Record company Rising Tide noted Ingram's home state popularity and signed him to a recording contract, recruiting country rebel Steve Earle to produce. Released in 1997, Livin' or Dyin', fared poorly, as Rising Tide went out of business before they could adequately promote the record. Disappointed but no less ambitious and optimistic, Ingram signed with Sony's Lucky Dog records, which released Hey You in 1999. All Music Guide critic William Ruhlman noted that Ingram's songs reflect "the difficulty of communications between lovers." While admiring these songs, Ruhlman also praised such songs as "Biloxi" and "Mustang Burn," commenting that "they're good enough that you wish Ingram's songs were all that good and wonder why they're not." Critics nationwide picked Ingram as one of country music's next big stars, leading to appearances in the films Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr., and Abilene.
For his follow-up to Hey You, Ingram traveled to Nashville, where he recruited backup singers Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller, and Patty Griffin, as well as members of Mark Knopfler's touring band. The musicians congregated in Nashville's Ocean Way Recording Studios under the production of Frank Liddell, and the resulting effort, Electric, released in 2002, prompted Austin Chronicle critic Jim Caligiuri to note that the album "finds [Ingram] stepping away a bit from the derivative sounds of his past, into a present that's meatier, much more personal, and definitely more interesting." Caligiuri also noted that the album is "a self-described song cycle that deals with the way we live our lives … [and] explores both the joys and sorrows that come with relationships, living with self-deception, and the possibilities of spiritual faith. Throughout, Ingram focuses on the contradictions we find in life and does so in a way that's refreshingly and startlingly honest." All Music Guide critic Lynne Bronstein shared Caligiuri's enthusiasm: "Ingram's songs mix a subtle background of country and folk with a hefty dose of roots rock." While courting commercial success, Ingram maintained critical credibility by sharing writing credits with such alt-country darlings as Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, and Bruce Robison.
Ingram traveled back to Texas to record the independently released Live at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth. According to All Music Guide critic Thom Jurek, the 2003 release is a success: "His delivery is honest, to the punch, and completely inside the lyrics. His writing, while far from elegant, nonetheless conveys the stories he sings with a rebel angel poet's grace." The album is noteworthy for featuring covers of Waylon Jennings's "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" and Joe Maphis's "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)."
In 2006 Ingram released his debut on the newly formed Big Machine label, Live Wherever You Are. Begun by Toby Keith and former DreamWorks/Universal Music Group executive Scott Borchetta, the label released the album's first single, "Wherever You Are," in the fall of 2005. In November of that year, Ingram and Keith performed alongside Billy Joe Shaver, Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne, and David Allan Coe on Country Music Television's Outlaws special, starred in Lee Ann Womack's video for her hit 2005 single, "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," and performed as a featured artist on the PBS series Austin City Limits. He also branched out as a radio broadcaster, hosting a country music program on XM Satellite Radio.
Jack Ingram, Crystal Clear Sound, 1995.
Live at Adairs, Crystal Clear Sound, 1995 (reissued on Warner Bros., 1995).
Lonesome Question, Crystal Clear Sound, 1995.
Livin' or Dyin', Rising Tide, 1997.
Hey You, Sony, 1999.
Electric, Lucky Dog, 2002.
Live at Billy Bob's Texas, Smith Music Group, 2003.
Live at Gruene Hall: Happy Happy, RAM, 2004.
Acoustic Motel, RAM, 2005.
Live Wherever You Are, Big Machine, 2006.
For the Record …
Born on November 17, 1970, in Houston, TX; studied music at Southern Methodist University; married; three children. Education: Attended Southern Methodist University, studied Psychology.
Released self-titled first album, 1995; released major label debut, Livin' or Dyin', 1997; appeared in film Hope Floats, 1998; released Hey You on Lucky Dog label, 1999; recorded Electric, 2002; released debut album on Big Machine label, Live Wherever You Are, 2006.
Addresses: Management—George Couri, Capitol Sports & Entertainment, 98 San Jacinto Blvd., Ste. 430, Austin, TX 78701, phone: (512) 478-7211, fax: (512) 476-0611, e-mail: [email protected] Publicist—Commotion PR, Kay Clary/Donica Christensen, e-mail: [email protected], [email protected], phone: (615) 467-6677.
Austin Chronicle, June 7, 2002.
Stars of Texas Magazine, January 2006.
"Jack Ingram," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 23, 2006).
"Jack Ingram," Lone Star Music, http://www.lonestarmusic.com/artists.asp?id=9# (January 21, 2006).
Jack Ingram Official Website, http://www.jackingram.net (January 21, 2006).
Sony Nashville, http://www.sonynashville.com/JackIngram (January 21, 2006).
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