After dinner, after he signs his name for Royal China's music-loving owner, Ingram heads across the street to Borders Books and Music. There, the latest issue of Texas Monthly sits in the magazine racks, just arrived that day. Ingram wants to read the cover story about Pat Green--"a friend of mine," he insists, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
A couple of years ago, Ingram says, he might have been bitter about that cover going to somebody else. Hell, he's never even been profiled in the magazine, not even in brief; forget about top billing. But all that's past him now, beyond discussion. When he says all that matters is the work, writing and performing the songs he wants to hear and playing them to people who actually listen, you believe him. You have to, because he could have been somebody else--Pat Green, nah; Steve Earle, maybe one day; Robert Earl Keen, whatever--and instead decided to be Jack Ingram, for better or worse.
"On your palm you've got a lifeline," he begins, holding out his hand. "There's a solid line, and I'm walking it. I'm not running it. If you come up and push a guy who's running, he's going to go off course. If you come up and push a guy who's walking, he's in a stable position, you know? That's how I get to sleep sometimes. Just think, man, I'm all right. I don't have to be on the cover of Texas Monthly this week, 'cause when I am on the cover of some magazine, it's going to mean more to the people who read it. It's not going to be, like you said, a phenomenon--and that's nothing against my man, he's a friend of mine. But my music is made, and when 15,000 or 100,000 gather around to see what I do and pay good money to do it, we have a party. People drink beer, they have a ball. I have a ball. But it's not because it's a party. It's because we're celebrating something, a like-mindedness. So, yeah, let's have a party, but let's do it for a reason."