Less than a year after the unexpected death of his musical partner for decades, Troy Gentry, country star and one-half of the duo Montgomery Gentry Eddie Montgomery embarked on his first tour without his bandmate by his side. In an interview at the 2018 Taste of Country Music Festival, the country star told The Boot that the reality of being onstage without Gentry is still one he struggles to face.

"We were together about 33 years, so I was used to always looking to my left," Montgomery admits. "So I'm still looking to my left, and I miss him every day. We knew each other longer than we've known our wives."

However, it didn't take long for Montgomery to realize that even though Gentry wasn't with him onstage, he wasn't alone. "Our band guys have been with us for 27 years," Montgomery points out. "We've been through a lot of stuff together on the bus: bus fires, personal stuff. We grew up together, all of us."

Although Montgomery initially planned to sing both his and Gentry's vocal parts during the band's live sets, he decided to distribute Gentry's lines among the band members sharing the stage with him. "I was like, 'You know what? I think we oughta spread this out, because we all miss him,'" Montgomery adds. "We were all brothers. I figured it was the best way to do it, and what T would have wanted."

Instead of grieving Gentry alone, Montgomery is part of a musical community that worked with Gentry closely during his life: a community that shares the pain of losing him, but also holds onto the memories of their time together.

"T-Roy, he had that big wooden spoon that he carried with him all the time because he was always stirring s--t up," Montgomery recalls. "That's what we loved about him, man. He was always full of life. Life is very short, and he loved living every second of it."

Though touring without Gentry is still very painful, Montgomery says the experience has provided plenty of happy moments, too: "It's been awesome. It's been unbelievable," he adds. Montgomery has often said that his musical partner would have been furious had Montgomery stopped putting out music after his death, and bringing the new music live to fans feels like a fulfillment of what Gentry would have wanted for the album.

"What me and T set out to do, man, it's always been about the music anyway," Montgomery explains.

As someone whose personal life has seen more than its share of tragedy -- including the death of his son and a battle with cancer -- Montgomery approaches life and music with an impressive sense of optimism and gratitude. "You know, the man upstairs," he responds, when asked how he manages to keep positive. "I've never questioned him. I figure, in the end, he'll explain everything if he wants to, and if he don't, then he don't. I wanna live life.

"At the end, you always hear that saying where everybody's like, 'Man, I wish I'd done that,' or, 'I wish I'd tried that.' I want to be, [at the end of my life, saying], 'You know, maybe I shouldn't have done that one. Maybe I shouldn't have tried that one,'" Montgomery continues with a laugh.

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