Dolly Parton

Country Spotlight: Randy Montana

July 26, 2011 at 11:33 am , by

resizedmontanaIt’s rare when a new artist’s debut CD leaves you immediately counting down the days to his next. That being said, Randy Montana’s self-titled first album already has me staring down my calendar. You can pick out bits of his childhood influences (Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen) throughout his music, which definitely leans toward the rockier side of country. But it’s his sharper than average songwriting skills that really draw you in from the first track to the last. Take his methodically paced ode to the working class in “Assembly Line,” written by Montana and Natalie Hemby:

“All day long in steel-toed boots / vacation days that I’ll never use / there’s a rumor going round that’s got nothing to do with me / Charlie swears he’s gonna quit / put his two weeks in and that’s it / he’s been talking that way since the summer of ’93.”

The footwear might differ from your own, but the workplace politics and the emotional drain of a daily routine make this song universal. On the equally powerful “Last Horse,” on which he’s joined by Emmylou Harris, Montana exposes the fears of a man sizing up a relationship that’s headed south. He cowrote the song with Rodney Clawson and his father, Billy Montana, an accomplished songwriter himself (Jo Dee Messina’s “Bring on the Rain”, Garth Brooks’ “More Than a Memory”), and it’s definitely a standout number.

Born in Albany, New York, but raised in Nashville, music was as much a staple in Montana’s house as dinner on the table and he’s been feeding his musical hunger since the age of 10. Fifteen years later, his debut CD is hitting stores today. I chatted with Montana a few weeks ago about the album, what female country icon he recently blasted in his car, what he’s learned from former tour mate Taylor Swift, and his approach to songwriting and the music industry itself.

Your dad, Billy Montana, is an accomplished songwriter. In the nature vs. nurture argument, do you feel you were born with an ability to write great songs, or is it a skill you learned from studying him and other songwriters in the field?
I definitely feel it is passed down. And I’ve always felt like you either got it or you don’t, in a sense. But you never start off writing good songs. Somebody told me you gotta write 100 bad ones before you can write a good one, and I truly believe that. [laughs] So that goes against the whole genetic passing thing. I just grew up around it. [My dad] was always playing new songs, new demos. There was music around my house all the time and when you grow up like that, you take it for granted because it’s always there. It’s just your way of life.

What’s your favorite song of his?
He wrote one about our family called “House of a Thousand Dreams” [recorded by Martina McBride]. Yeah, that’s my favorite song of his that he’s ever written. It’s really about us and what’s cool about it is that each verse is from a different perspective. The first verse is from the perspective of the man. He’s like, “I’m just a man. I work with my hands, and lately no work has been around. I wish I could put more on the table and provide the life I’m sure my family dreams about.” And then he just starts describing the house and he’s like, “There’s cracks on all the walls and all the windows, and the flies they find their way in through the screen. But I’ll keep praying, hope will go on living, in this house of a thousand dreams.” And then it goes to the wife and she kind of has that same outlook. She looks at her husband and she’s saying, you know, he works hard and I know it’s tough, so I’m gonna do what I can. And then it comes to the kid, and the kid says he loves the way the wind blows through the screens. He loves it and he sees nothing wrong with it. And it’s just kind of how I grew up.

Read more