Randy Montana’s Debut Album Is a Family Affair
Randy Montana has been raised in country music. His father, songwriter Billy Montana, has a laundry list of hits under his belt including three No. 1s: Garth Brooks' 'More Than a Memory,' Sara Evans' 'Suds in the Bucket' and Jo Dee Messina's 'Bring on the Rain.' Now the time has come for the younger Montana to find his own place in the business.
We sat down with the 25-year-old to chat about events leading up to the July 26 release of his self-titled debut album, on which he co-wrote nine of the 11 tracks. We also talk about a legendary lady who lends her vocals to the project, plus what happens when Randy's lady at home hears the cheating songs he writes. The singer also dishes a little dirt on his recent tour with Sugarland, and how he held his own when it came to pranks on the trek.
Your album has been finished for a while now. Has the long wait for its release been frustrating?
I've been playing the same songs for almost two years now, and it can be frustrating, but everything takes time. You don't put something out and everybody knows every song. You're definitely working toward something, but you get to a point -- and I'm starting to get there -- where you're like, "OK, I want to record some new stuff." You just want to keep moving on as an artist, too. I've written new songs since then.
You recently went on a writing retreat to Canada. What was that like?
We were up there with four writers. We wrote some great songs while we were up there. It puts you in a different head space, as opposed to going and sitting in a room with no windows on Music Row and trying to create something. You definitely are inspired by being in a place that remote. There were five camps on the entire lake and 84 miles of shoreline. There was nobody else in the other camps, either. Me and my dad were always the last ones to come off the lake from fishing. We got a lot of work done.
Is it easy to work with your dad?
As I've gotten older, me and my dad have become better friends than a father-son. I grew listening to the things that he listened to. It was always Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and things like that. I grew up loving the same songs that he loved, for the most part. When you have that idea in your head of what a good song should sound like, it makes it easier to work together, with anybody.
Although, he is my dad. We've done plenty of butting heads as I was growing up. We're just at a different place now. I'm 25 and married, and he looks at me and treats me like a man and my own person. He doesn't try to get involved where he doesn't feel he needs to be. I was writing my thank you's for the album and my thank you to my dad was, "Thank you for all the guidance you've given me, but also thank you for letting me try to figure this out on my own." That's how my dad's always been, hands-off. He's never been over my shoulder saying, "I don't think I would have written that line." He was always there for me, but he always let me figure it out on my own.
Are there any topics that are off-limits when you write together?
When sex does come up in a writing session, that can be a little uncomfortable on both our parts. We steer clear of that for the most part. [laughs]
You co-wrote all but two tracks on the album. Was it important to you to have that heavy a hand in its writing?
It was important for me, because I've always been a fan of singer-songwriters and that's what I've always wanted to be. I wanted to sing songs that I wrote and have people sing them back to me. I was really fortunate in that when we were getting ready to record that album, the label thought that my songs were legit enough that we could build an entire project around them. That right there is a dream come true. It's important because I've got things to say. My wife always laughs at me because I write about it. I may not talk about it, but I seem to write about it.
How did you pick the songs that you didn't write?
For both of those songs, you say, "God, I wish I had written that." Especially with 'Like a Cowboy.' 'Goodbye Rain,' which Jonathan Singleton wrote, I remember listening to that one when I was driving to Knoxville. That's when you know a song is right for you. It's that instant reaction.
Which song is your pick for a future single?
I would love 'Last Horse' to be a single. Emmylou Harris sang on that one. All those songs feel like my babies in way. You feel like every single one of them should see the light of day, but that one really sticks out to me. Also 'Assembly Line' and 'Back of My Heart.' Those are my three that if I'm fortunate to put out some more singles, I would like to see those.
How did working with Emmylou come about?
We'd already recorded the song and put a background vocal on it. It was done. Then we got to talking about maybe putting a female voice on it. I was thinking maybe Miranda Lambert, maybe Lee Ann Womack, somebody established that it would be cool to do a duet-type thing with. Jay Joyce, who did my record, he brought up Emmylou. It was one of those, "It would be a cool try." I really didn't think it was going to happen. She heard the song and emailed right back, "I would love to do it." Three days later, she was in the studio singing the song. She's one of the nicest people and was very complimentary of the song. She said at the end that mine and her "vowels" sound good together. I took that has a compliment, and I'll always remember that.
You also co-wrote an unconventional cheating song on the record, 'Burn These Matches.' What was the inspiration behind those lyrics?
The book of matches thing happened to a friend of one of the writers. They were talking about a girl's number on a match book and ran with it. They were talking about it in a joking manner, it wasn't a big deal. It's a cool take on a cheating song, because the people in the song never actually get together. It's that whole teetering that line idea that I think a lot of people go through. I love that song.
How do you take a tune like that home to your wife, Montgomery?
There's definitely songs that you know when you play them at home it's going to be like, "Well, where'd you get the idea for that one?" You got to skirt around it. [laughs]
During the making of the video for your current single '1,000 Faces,' didn't you literally stop traffic?
We picked a not busy time of day. It was a Saturday morning at 4th and Church [Streets] in Nashville. It was cool to block the street off. It looked cool, the pictures, with all the lighting and stuff. Some of the shots are from way up high, looking down on the band. Deaton Flanigan did the video. I think they did an awesome job and had a great take on the idea. When we started thinking of doing the song, it was like, "There are, literally, a thousand different ways we could do this video. What's going to be the best way?" Portraying it as that busy city street where it is with people flashing was a really great way to do it. I love the way the color is grayish.
[Watch the '1,000 Faces' video below.]
Tell us about touring with Sugarland. That had to be a great time.
They were so nice. Everybody in their camp from the stage manager to stage hands to sound guys. The tour pranks were funny. I was on it for the last six weeks and Little Big Town got me. My intro every night was recorded, where the voice would say, "And ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mercury recording artist Randy Montana." Little Big Town switched the tape and made it something like, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have an urgent announcement." I'm standing off stage, about to go on and I'm thinking, "Oh, God. This is it." [laughs] And it continued on, "He's not the son of Joe, brother of Hannah, he's not even from the state of Montana." It was really funny. Then Kristian came out, they'd gotten a baby picture of me, playing a guitar. They blew it up to like 4x6 and ran around the arena with it. It was goofy. I laughed.
Did you get Little Big Town back?
Well, Jimi is a big Alabama fan, and I dressed his son Elijah up in a UT onesie and then took him out front and waved at everybody. Then the Sugarland tour prank was we all went out on stage. It was when that "Hide your kids, hide your wife," video was out, so we all went out on stage with afros.
What's your favorite tour memory so far?
Every night, hands down, the crowd always loved '1,000 Faces.' The song wasn't out yet. It wasn't a single yet, but every night the response to that song always seemed a little bit more intense than the others. It was cool getting to test a single in front of that many people before you put it out. It gave me hope.