Eddie Montgomery went back to work because he knew it's what Troy Gentry would want, and because he doesn't really know how to do anything else.

"I always make a joke about it," the 54-year-old Montgomery Gentry star tells Taste of Country, "but hell, my mom was a drummer, my dad was a guitar player and the bartenders were our babysitters!"

"And of course T-Roy's dad owned a bar. It's the only thing we've ever known," he adds, smiling. Yes, Eddie Montgomery is smiling again, and laughing! Talking about his late bandmate, a man he called a brother for nearly 35 years, is therapy, he says. Sharing the old stories, playing the old music and revealing the new music (Montgomery Gentry's Here's to You album drops Feb. 2) is part of the healing after seeing Gentry die in a helicopter crash last September.

"Hell, you can't think about T and not laugh," Montgomery insists. "He kept that big spoon with him all the time. A big wooden spoon, because he liked stirring stuff up, boys!"

During live shows the band kept a talk-back microphone onstage so they could communicate with each other without the crowd being wise to it. Montgomery recalls many times he'd be singing one of the duo's more poignant hits like "Lucky Man" and Gentry would say something unrepeatable into the secret microphone.

"You're trying to be all serious and going, 'What in the hell is he talking about?'" Montgomery says.

During Part 1 of this two-part interview, Montgomery talked about the emotional devastation of the crash and how he very much doubted his band's future until he recalled a conversation he and Gentry had years ago, and both men had insisted the other keep moving forward should something happen. When he takes the stage with his band this spring and summer, that's what Montgomery will do. The band and crowd will help him fill Gentry's shoes, but there will always be a microphone up there for his friend, his brother.

"Hell, sometimes I'll be out there singing a song and go 'You know what, I'm sure he'd be going, 'Eddie, you missed that,'" he says, letting loose with one of those big, tumbling grizzly bear laughs. It's heartwarming to hear after all he's been through. Divorce, cancer, the death of a son and now the death of his bandmate — Montgomery's Twitter handle is @LuckyManEddie, which as the years pass becomes more and more ironic.

"I never question the man upstairs in my life and I’m not gonna start now," he says when asked about it all.

One song, one show and one interview at a time, Montgomery is moving forward with his a nationwide Montgomery Gentry family. The truth is that the smiles outnumber the tears caused by one single tragedy. That's the message he'll preach in the coming weeks and months.

Watch Eddie Montgomery Talks About the Crash That Killed Troy Gentry