Memphis-based rock trio Ingram Hill would probably love to have it look as if their latest album, â€œLook Your Best,â€ was as easy-breezy to create as the lyrics suggest, but lead singer/guitarist Justin Moore says it was made with a great deal of hard work, determination, and grit. â€œI think it felt like we were in a place in our career where we really were going through a stressful time,â€ says Moore of the period after parting ways with their former major label home, Hollywood Records. â€œWe were trying to get our stuff together, and we spent a lot of time and effort trying to make this as great as possible. Itâ€™s not like we havenâ€™t done that with all of our records, but this one felt like there was a lot more weight on it, on the process of making it. We gave it everything we had. It seemed like an appropriate title. We were putting on our best for our audience, for our fans.â€
Going into the studio with producer Rick Beato (Billionaire, Michelle Malone, Flickerstick, Shinedown) at his Stone Mountain, Georgia, studio was a bit of a no-brainer, as the band had worked with him on their first full-length, 2004â€™s â€œJuneâ€™s Picture Show,â€ which was the album that got them signed to Hollywood in the first place and boasted two Billboard Top 25-charting Hot AC radio hits (â€œWill I Ever Make It Homeâ€ and â€œAlmost Perfectâ€). Returning to a place of comfort and familiarity, making a record where they could call the shots completely, made sense. Says Moore: â€œIt was kind of awesome and scary at the same time. With our previous experience with a label [making â€œCold In Californiaâ€], there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. And that can just make for a diluted record. And there are just so many opinions and it takes forever. So, this time it was left to us and Rick.â€
Prior to entering the studio, Moore and guitarist Phil Bogard, the two songwriters of the group, set a deadline for themselves. Even though they already had some songs kicking around in the Ingram Hill universe that made sense to record, they gave themselves a month to write at least 20 more. Says Moore: â€œMost of the songs on the record are from that month of writing. Weâ€™re a good deadline band. So we busted our tails.â€ Bogard adds: â€œThe writing process was definitely more natural. Basically it was Justin and me working at our own houses, then weâ€™d get together and collaborate. Iâ€™d be calling him every day going, â€˜Iâ€™ve got a song for you.â€™ And heâ€™d call me and say, â€˜Well Iâ€™ve got one for you, too.â€™ I feel closer to this record than any of them that weâ€™ve done.â€
Toward the end of the writing month, Moore came up with what will be the albumâ€™s first single, the pop-rock gem â€œAs Long As Iâ€™m With You.â€ â€œI wrote that one,â€ Moore says, â€œand when I played it for Phil, he went, â€˜Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been waiting for out of you.â€™ Iâ€™ve known Phil for the majority of my life, so it takes a lot to get a compliment out of each other. To hear that after weâ€™d put together so many songs in three weeks, it made me feel good.â€ Moore goes on to explain the genesis of the song even further: â€œThis song is for that person or the people who really kind of hold it together for you. When seemingly everything around you is falling apart, itï¿½s nice to know that itï¿½s going to be okay because someoneï¿½s got your back. It doesnï¿½t always have to be the same person, either. Sometimes it can be your best friend or significant other, and sometimes it can be a group of fans in the front row, smiling, dancing, and singing the words to your songs.â€
Bogardâ€™s favorite track on the album, â€œLady Gray,â€ a driving rocker, is also his favorite song heâ€™s written to date. That song, along with some others, were road-tested with fans before they even recorded them. â€œWe made demos of everything before we went into the studio, of course, but we wanted to gauge things on songs that we kind of had in the works for a while,â€ says Moore. â€œSo we could see what would be fresh and exciting for the fans. Some songs got fantastic reactions and we went, â€˜Okay, we have to put that on the record.â€™â€
One such song was â€œHey Girl,â€ a slow-burner of a ballad, which Moore says got great feedback every single time it was played live, especially from the plethora of females sure to be in every audience at Ingram Hill shows. â€œItï¿½s pretty much an argument against the constant self-consciousness of almost every woman I know,â€ says Moore. â€œItï¿½s not always the most popular and supposed-to-be-hot girl that does it for guys, and even the flaws you see in yourself might be just the thing thatï¿½s attractive to us.â€.
Moore and Bogard have known each other since kindergarten and have played in bands together since they were both students at the University of Memphis. A stint in a cover band that toured SEC schools and played frat parties was followed by the birth of Ingram Hill 10 years ago. Says Moore, â€œOur original drummer, Matt Chambless, was my college roommate, and Shea Sowell, our original bass player, went to elementary school with us. Shea left the band in â€™07 [right before the bandâ€™s second full-length, â€œCold In California,â€ was released by Hollywood Records] and then Zach Kirk joined us on bass in â€™08. Matt left the band right after we finished â€˜Look Your Bestâ€™. Since Matt left, weâ€™ve had a few different friends join us on drums.â€
Ingram Hill has toured extensively with bands such as Hootie and the Blowfish, Johnny Lang, Maroon 5, Guster, Better Than Ezra, and Hanson. Says Bogard of their live vibe: â€œItâ€™s a feel-good, good time show. The goal is a good, old-fashioned, rock â€˜nâ€™ roll show.â€ While they count bands as diverse as Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley, Elton John, and Aerosmith as personal influences, the bandâ€™s sound is much more current. Rock Ridge Music signed the band to a label and management deal earlier in 2010, with plans to release â€œLook Your Bestâ€ in September 2010.
â€œI feel like we hit our stride with this record,â€ Bogard says. And Moore concurs. â€œI think weâ€™re really proud of this record and the effort we put into it. We feel good about it. We really do look our best.â€