It almost had to happen.
Jack Ingram was playing his song "Barbie Doll" (RealAudio excerpt), a new twist on country music's classic hardhearted woman tale, at a club in San Antonio.
"People started throwing Barbie dolls on the stage," Ingram recalled. "That was a trip."
Though he's been singing the tune on tour for about a year, it was the first time he'd been pelted with the dolls. "It has happened a few times since," said Ingram. "The song seemed like a good idea at the time, but…" His voice trailed off in laughter.
Ingram put the tune on his 1999 release, Hey You, and offered a live version on September's Unleashed Live!, which also features cuts as from Charlie and Bruce Robison. Now, acknowledging the popularity of the song, Ingram has named his current road trip the "Barbie Doll Tour."
Unleashed Live! gives a snapshot of what his current tour is like. "Charlie, Bruce, and I went on tour together last year," Ingram explained. "The last night of the tour we recorded the show. I'm not so sure we thought of it as a record at the time, we just wanted to get it down on tape."
The release was recorded at historic Gruene Hall, in Gruene, Texas, considered by many to be the quintessential Texas Hill country honky-tonk, and the scene of shows by Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and other roots music legends.
On Unleashed, Bruce Robison leads off with a modern twist on the cry-in-your-beer motif, "The Good Life," and includes a soulful "Angry All the Time" (recently recorded by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill), with harmonies by Robison's wife Kelly Willis.
Big brother Charlie Robison had no trouble making the folks at Gruene Hall dance, either, with his sassy and irreverent "Sunset Boulevard" and the dryly humorous country rocker, "Barlight."
Keeping up the dance beat, Ingram moved into darker territory with "Mustang Burn" (RealAudio excerpt), a surreal tale of burning cars and sexual tension on a Texas back road.
"For this record, I picked what was happening for me live at that time to focus on," Ingram said. "I feel like these songs become different animals when we do them live. And the song 'Travis County' was on the soundtrack to [the Sandra Bullock/ Harry Connick, Jr. film] 'Hope Floats,' but it never made it on to the soundtrack record, so I really wanted to get that out there too."
Rounding out Ingram's four tracks on Unleashed is a wistful love song he penned with Nashville tunesmith Jim Lauderdale, "Work This Out" (RealAudio excerpt).
"There are two ways songwriting works for me," Ingram said. "One and this is the way I usually do it is that something brews for a long time. I just kinda have an idea I've been thinking about and it all of a sudden just comes out. Those songs don't usually don't take that long to write, they've been stirred up in my brain so long.
"The other way is to sit down and write a song the same way you would build a table. I enjoy doing that too, but for me the two tend to happen separately. I think Guy Clark has figured out how to combine the two ways of writing pretty seamlessly, but for me they are usually two different things."
Ingram began writing songs when he was in college in Dallas. "There was this joint called Adair's, and my brother and I would go down almost every week to listen," Ingram said, "and that's when I got the idea, man! I just wanted to play."
He got a regular Tuesday night gig at Adair's, and "the first gig I played, I did one of my own songs. I never envisioned myself as a cover act," he said, "so I just whittled down my cover material as new songs of mine would pop up, until eventually it became my own."
Gradually, the music took over. Ingram finished his degree in psychology at Southern Methodist University, "although I barely skated through once I got into music," he recalled.
He doesn't feel he missed anything academically, though. "To me psychology was more of an extension of songwriting than anything else," Ingram said, "and I think I was interested in psychology for the same reason I was into songwriting. They're both about how people tick, and why we do the things we do, and the consequences."
Upcoming Jack Ingram Texas tour dates:
12/7 San Marcos, Texas; Gordo's
12/8 Houston, Texas; Sam Houston Race Track
12/9 Bandera, Texas; Cabaret
12/13 San Antonio, Texas; Far West Rodeo
12/14 Corpus Christi, Texas; Executive Surf Club
12/15 Alpine, Texas; Railroad Blues (with Rosie Flores)
12/16 San Angelo, Texas; Blaine's Pub
12/20 Houston, Texas; Continental Club Houston
12/21 Austin, Texas; Continental Club
12/22 Dallas, Texas; Gypsy Tea Room
12/23 Fort Worth, Texas; Billy Bob's Texas
12/31 Plano, Texas; Studio Movie Grill