Article from the Laughlin Entertainer - Nevada
John Michael Montgomery is proof there is life after labels for country music artists. Despite the fact he had a successful history as an established artist in Nashville in the ‘90’s, with more hits in his back pocket than many of his contemporaries, the musical climate changed and record deals were difficult to come by. But Montgomery didn’t fade away by any means.
He refused to let labels relegate his career to the back of the bus and power balladed on to the point that this coming year is his 25th anniversary in country music.
He attributes his longevity to his ability to choose songs that have a longer shelf life than a few weeks on the music charts as hits - selecting instead songs people can relate to, serve as inspiration, and in some cases get married to - like his monster hit “I Swear”.
He recorded 15 No. 1 singles and racked up sales of 16 million records with hits like “Life’s A Dance”, “I Swear”, “Be My Baby Tonight”, “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)” and “I Can Love You Like That”.
Because he has established a strong fan base, Montgomery continues to tour the country, performing at about 70 venues a year.
We caught up with John Michael Montgomery via a phone interview last week. Here’s his take on…
Your 25th anniversary in country music is coming up next year. Anything special planned to celebrate?
Montgomery: Yes, I’m gonna be doing a Greatest Hits re-do with two or three new songs added to it. Possibly one singing with my brother Eddie of Montgomery Gentry.It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since “Life’s A Dance” came out. But that’s what I wanted. One of the things I was scared to death of was being a flash in a pan with just one or two albums and that’s it. My ultimate goal was to try to be an artist that’s cutting music that sticks with you for a while - timeless stuff - so it’s all worked out great.
Enjoying a resurgence in popularity of ‘90’s country music…
Montgomery: It’s been fun now that the ‘90’s artists have been added to the classic stations. I’m startin’ to get a lot more attention. I’m getting new fans that are coming to the shows. Plus the older fans are still coming out. So I tell you, I’ve been blessed.
Montgomery: Even when I was playing the nightclubs before I got my record deal, I loved to sing power ballads. My two largest influences were Lionel Richie and George Strait. Lionel absolutely had some of the most beautiful love songs, and of course, George was no slouch in the love song department either. But I didn’t want to get painted in a corner as a power ballad-love song singer. I wanted to be able to show other sides of me - a more funny side with songs like “Sold” and “Be My Baby Tonight”, in addition to the serious side of me with “This Little Girl” and “Letters From Home”. I was able to have successes with all three of those categories and when people listen to my albums, they’re going to get a little bit of everything. But there’s no doubt about it - “I Swear”, “I Love The Way You Love Me”, “I Can Love You Like That” and “Rope The Moon” are definitely the staples in my career. But if I don’t sing “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)”, people want their money back. It’s a really popular song in the karaoke world so that makes it even more popular because karaoke singers want to see who this guy is that sings that song they sing nightly. The thing about that song was the producer of the music video was trying to find a stockyard to film it. HE called me up and asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know where a good stockyard is?” I said, “Yeah, I used to walk by one every day from school to the grocery store where my mom worked and where I bagged groceries.” He said, “Well is it concrete or wood?” I told him, “It’s all wood.” He said, “Perfect.” So he ended up getting the dancers from Broadway in New York City to be the Amish dancers and the Irish clogger girl. It was definitely a fun video to do - and of course, it complimented the song greatly.
Favorite recording session…
Montgomery: In 2000, I had moved over to Warner Bros. from Atlantic Records and I was cutting my first album with them. I was in the studio when my producer, who knew I was a fan of Lionel Richie says, “You’re not gonna believe who’s next door on the other side of the studio.” It was Lionel Richie, so we got to meet and I was excited about that. Another good session was when I was producing my Christmas album. I always wanted to do a mixture of big band, swing, jazz and country because I loved Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and old Christmas classic big band stuff. I also enjoyed Bob Wills swing stuff. So in 2003, I produced an album called Mr. Snowman and it’s got a mixture of all that plus some originals. I just did a live “12 Days of Christmas” show for XM radio so I got a chance to let people hear that album. I probably had some of my most fun time in the studio doing that.
Any Christmas songs in your Laughlin show?
Montgomery: I haven’t fully committed to it yet. But you know, I’m thinking about throwing one or two into the show. It’s that time of year and it’ll give me an opportunity to talk and tell stories about the album with the people.
Montgomery: Every artist dreams of having that signature song that people remember them by. For my first song I came out with, “Life’s A Dance” and everybody said, “That’s gonna be your signature song.” Then I did, “I Love The Way You Love Me”, and they said, “Well, maybe that’s gonna be your signature song.” Then the same with “I Swear” and “Sold” and “Letters From Home”...so I was lucky to have more than one signature song that people remember me by. I really didn’t expect that to happen. I was gonna be happy if I got one signature song. There’s no doubt about it, I had a lot of “pinch me” moments in my career. I started having a lot of throat surgeries after I overdid everything. There were times I had to take off. And there’s a lot of politics in music. So I pretty much experienced the top, the bottom and everything in between.
Montgomery: There’s something I like about Laughlin - the “laid-backness” to it. I’m a laid-back guy, I’m not a Vegas guy, so Laughlin fits my personality. I’ve always enjoyed coming out, especially in the wintertime. I can usually get my own last round of golf of the year in Laughlin - and it’s usually the last shows of the year for me too, so it’s a wind down time.