Eddie Montgomery on Moving Past Troy Gentry's Death: 'He's Going to Be in Our Hearts Forever'

Eddie Montgomery may be releasing new music under the Montgomery Gentry banner, but the void left when bandmate Troy Gentry died will never be filled

Eddie Montgomery may be releasing new music under the Montgomery Gentry banner, but the void left when bandmate Troy Gentry died on Sept. 8 from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash will never be filled.

He’s going to be in our hearts forever,” Montgomery, 54, told Billboard in an interview published Wednesday. “We’re going to keep T-Roy with us.”

Montgomery was by Gentry’s side in the hospital when the 50-year-old singer died in September. Just hours before the country duo was due onstage at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford, New Jersey, Gentry went for a preshow helicopter joyride, and the two-seater craft suffered engine failure and tumbled out of the sky.

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Kristin Barlowe

Having played music together for over a decade before they signed to Columbia Records, Gentry’s death wasn’t only the loss of a bandmate for Montgomery but also the loss of a family member.

“With me and T-Roy, Nashville didn’t put us together. We did,” Montgomery explained. “We were friends first. We had been together 35 years, and knew each other longer than we knew our wives. That was something that very few duos could say. We had been through a lot together over the years – hopefully there is video tape out there that nobody ever finds… We had a lot of fun.”

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Fans helped Montgomery cope with the loss, giving the Music City star the strength to move forward.

“We don’t call them fans — we call them friends, and I would hear from social media, or running into the store, and people would say, ‘I remember this time when T-Roy did this or that,’ talking about some of the crazy stuff, because he loved to live life,” Montgomery said. “One night at a gas station, a man came up and said, ‘Me and my best friend in the world — we’ve been friends for 35 years — we were riding motorcycles one day, and he lost control of his and got killed. I know what you’re going through.’ You hear stories of all kinds. It’s helped a lot.”

“We have always just been who we are, and to see all of the industry and all of our peers, I didn’t know that we had made a mark,” he continued. “We were blessed to have made a lot of friends — among the legends and superstars. They were calling on the phone, and showing up at the funeral. I can’t thank them enough. They have reached out to me, inviting me to be on shows with them, and that — along with all the letters and the cards — has been unbelievable.”

Eddie Montgomery, Troy Gentry
Ed Rode/AP

Now, he’s getting ready to release their last album together — Here’s to You, due out Feb. 2 — and head out on his first Montgomery Gentry tour without his best friend.

“There’s no way that we can even get on the bus without thinking about him,” Montgomery said in the emotional interview. “He used to carry this big wooden spoon all the time, and he’d always be stirring something up, and getting people fired up about something — just smiling. That’s what we’re going to take with us, this year…and forever. That’s the bottom line.”

“It’s going to be a little different this year, but that’s the way that T-Roy would want it,” Montgomery added. “The new music takes me back to when we cut [our debut album] Tattoos and Scars. … It reminds me a lot of that first CD.”

The album’s first single, “Better Me,” has Gentry on lead vocals — something the late singer insisted on.

“Troy said ‘I really love this song, and I really want to sing it. Any other song, I don’t care, but I really want to do this one,’ ” Montgomery recalled. “I didn’t have a problem with it. Of course, who would have ever known [what was going to happen]. He had just gotten done with that song a couple of days before the accident.”

Montgomery said Here’s to You will be a fond farewell to the group’s legacy.

“We were blessed and lucky enough that all of our friends had our back — and radio also,” Montgomery said. “When we came to Nashville, we knew who we were. We didn’t need anyone from Nashville telling us who we were. Sometimes the label heads try to tell us who we are, but we knew the style of music that we wanted to do, and what we wanted to sing about. Everybody had our back, and we’ve had a great run over the past 20 years.

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