"I'm a country artist," the Texas born and bred singer/songwriter told POLLSTAR. "The way that it's being labeled as alternative, it just sometimes blows my mind."
Though the buzz in the music industry acknowledges Ingram for doing something new and different, he refuses to take credit for reinventing the wheel. "Those people are acting like I'm doing something totally different and all I'm doing is taking music that influenced me and sending it through my brain and putting it out my way," Ingram said. "I'm not creating anything new besides the words that I say and how I say 'em. The actual form of the music has been done. It was done by Hank Williams, it was done by Ernest Tubb and then it was done by Lefty Frizzel and then it was done by Merle and Willie and Waylon."
Ingram said the Americana format has simply become an avenue to play traditional country music that isn't being played on commercial radio. "If they're gonna call something alternative, then for God's sake, look at country radio. Stare that in the face and you'll see some alternative to country music," Ingram said. "And that's not bad or good. That's just what they're calling country music and for as long as I can remember, that's not what country music sounded like to me."
Since before he can remember, Ingram was listening to the legends -- Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Jerry Jeff Walker. He first picked up a guitar at age 18 while going to college at Southern Methodist University. He said he never made a conscious effort to go for a music career; it just happened.
"I started playing at open mic gigs and things," Ingram said. "As soon as I'd write a new song, I'd go play it somewhere. And I just started gettin' gigs. It wasn't really a thought. I just started doing it."
Ingram surrounded himself with a first rate band and in true grassroots fashion, built a following on the Texas and Southeastern college circuit. When fans kept asking him for recorded music, Ingram decided he'd get into the record business. Between 1992 and 1995, he recorded three do-it-yourself CDs. After selling a whopping 30,000 records at gigs and out of his car, he landed a major label deal with Rising Tide.
Rising Tide president Ken Levitan used to manage Ingram. "He managed a bunch of acts that kind of have the same feelings about music as I do," Ingram said. "So when he got offered the job to be the president of Rising Tide, I was the first guy he signed."
Ingram said when people give him recognition for helping to pave the way for Americana artists, they should really be crediting his record company. "It's because Rising Tide, which is a major label, is willing to take some chances on some artists that are willing to take some chances on their art and not just trying to have the next hit line-dance single."
It was indeed considered a breakthrough for the label and Ingram when a single off his Rising Tide debut, Livin' Or Dyin', not only made the top 5 on Americana charts, but hit No. 46 on mainstream country charts. That's what the Ingram team is shooting for. "Country music should be played on country radio," he said.
Being that Ingram has always based his career on touring and selling one record at a time, he finds the current waning of Nashville's "formula" country music working to his advantage. "I think it's great because it's given people like me a chance because [country music is] in such a state of flux -- a state of like, 'Well that formula's run its course.' Now they're willing to take some chances on some acts that maybe a couple of years ago, they wouldn't have."
He said in this "weird" time in country music, not only does he get to record for a major label, but he gets to do it according to his own terms. "I get to go in, make a major label record and basically not get told what to do because I sold all those records on my own. It would be kind of an awkward situation for a record company to come in and say, 'Well, here's how you're gonna do it now.' I'd go, 'Yeah, right.'"
As usual, Ingram and his Beat Up Ford Band will spend most of their time on the road this year, stopping only to record a new album in February. Like their current record, the new one will probably exhibit that raw, unpolished, live-in-the-studio, human quality. And Ingram hopes that by the time it's released mid-year, the term "y'alternative" will be forgotten. The dream is: "It will be just good music being played on the radio. Boy, won't that be nice."