By Eric Butler, Freedom Correspondent
Whether it be by word of mouth from his in-laws, through the support of local radio stations or extensive stage appearances in the area, Jack Ingram has always managed to keep a consistent presence in the Clovis area.
Lately, however, Ingram’s fan base has been growing all around the country.
On the Billboard country music singles chart, Ingram’s song “Wherever You Are” is now a top 10 hit — just what the doctor ordered for a guy that has struggled for years to get this kind of breakthrough.
“It was released on Halloween, which I thought was going to bode bad luck, but actually it’s turned out really well,” says Ingram of the song that has been on the charts for almost 30 weeks. “I was ecstatic when it hit top 40, and every week since I’ve been pleased.”
Ingram’s wife, Amy, is the daughter of Fred and Linda Hensley in Clovis. Jack and Amy Ingram, who now have a daughter Ava (3 years old) and a son Eli (2), met while both were students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
When not on the road performing, Ingram is often in Eastern New Mexico visiting.
“We spend holidays there. We’re probably in Clovis two or three times a year,” Ingram says.
While in college, Ingram first took up the guitar and songwriting. It didn’t take long before he would embark upon a journey that would last the next dozen years — trying to make it as a country music performer.
“I put my first independent CD out when I was in college. And that was in 1993,” Ingram says. “They say it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.”
Ingram, who said he would visit “any building with an antenna on it” to promote his music, stopped by Clovis radio stations as early as the mid-1990s.
“The first time I met him, he came in because he heard his stuff on our station. He came by to say thanks and say hi,” says KKYC program director Joe Daniels.
Daniels’ station, more friendly to independent labels than most, now plays more than 30 of Ingram’s songs — second only to George Strait and Garth Brooks.
For Ingram, however, national success was fleeting. One song, “Flutter,” spent ten weeks on the country charts in 1997, but only peaked at No. 51. Two years later, “How Many Days,” appeared on the singles chart for a mere week.
Some major muscle from one of country’s top current stars gave “Wherever You Are,” Ingram’s current single, a big push when it was released.
“I was signed to Big Machine, and Toby (Keith)’s an investor in Big Machine and he has his own label (Show Dog) as well,” Ingram says.
Toby Keith may be a co-owner of Big Machine, but Ingram says the label is still considered an independent.
“Oh yeah, it’s an independent. It was from the start. That’s the beauty of the company, as far as I’m concerned,” Ingram says. “Independent record companies, I feel, are able to move fast and change direction. They can move fast, but they’re playing the game as if they were a major.”
For now, it appears that Ingram’s days of pulling into every radio station he comes to may be at an end. Not that he won’t do it some more, just out of habit.
“I’m sure he’s been frustrated. Personally, it’s been frustrating for me to see him put out good albums and have them not get played just because the state of corporate radio,” Daniels says. “He’s busted his butt, built a grass-roots following through live performances. I’m definitely happy for him, because he deserves it.”
Ingram says that his future concert dates include opening for Sheryl Crowe and Brooks & Dunn, among others. And, of course, the smaller, local shows will go on as well.
“I think we’re coming out in May to play in Clovis,” Ingram says. “I’ve got to go show my in-laws that I actually have a job. Sometimes I think they question.”