Talk music: Monte Montgomery talks style, guitar, Jam Fest

April 17, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.
Updated April 16, 2013 at 11:17 p.m.

Monte Montgomery

Monte Montgomery

Anyone who compares guitars to fine wine is OK in our book.

Defying the laws of speed and sound, Monte Montgomery is ranked one of the top 50 guitarists by Guitar Player Magazine.

Montgomery, a protege who dropped out of school after seventh grade to pursue a music career, says playing is the only thing he knows how to do.

With a new album out - called Tethered and available on his website - Montgomery caught up with Get Out before his show Saturday at Jam Fest to talk about his style, writing for TV and the mythical celebrity of breaking two guitar necks.

Tell me about your style of guitar playing.

I'm self taught. My guitar style is a combination of everybody that I like and all types of music that I like: everything from country to blues, folk to rock, pop, reggae. I have a lot of different influences, that's where it comes from.

I play everything on acoustic guitar, but I play a lot of electric on acoustic - that's what makes it unique. You're not used to hearing someone play that style on acoustic guitar.

You're more than just a good guitarist, you're also a great singer. How do you balance the two?

I've always enjoyed singing. I was singing with my mother - she's a musician, too - before I played guitar. Over the years, I've become a better singer just by the fact that I sing so much.

I want to be good at what I do. The guitar just came easy and quick.

As I matured over the years, vocally, it just became part of what I do.

I've never been one of these guys who wanted to be just an instrumentalist. It's one more thing that sets me apart from the "acoustic playing guitarist." It's just as much a part of what I do as the guitar playing. It's definitely half and half. You're not going to come to a show and just hear guitar playing.

Some people may not realize how your signature guitar came about. What happened the first time you broke a guitar neck?

The first time I was playing outdoors. It was in my guitar stand, and the wind blew it over. I played with a severely cracked neck for years. It's crazy to think that I did that. I had problems with tuning constantly and strings breaking.

Another time I broke the guitar neck was when I had finished some song. I was playing in Lafayette. It was the last song of the night, I was doing some Hendrix style stuff and standing really close to the amp. I let the guitar fall up against the amp as I walked up stage and left the guitar screaming. Moments later, my guitar tech brought it back with the neck cracked.

It's become almost mythical at this point. I am an aggressive guitar player, and I get physical with it.

I've taken my guitar and thrown it on the ground - but those moments are few and far between these days.

You've likened your guitar to Willie Nelson's Trigger. What makes this one so special?

I'm talking strictly on appearances. He's put a hole through his over the years playing. Mine would have ended up the same way had I not put a stronger piece of wood over the section - I was going to eat through the top eventually. I put a piece of maple over the top.

I've been playing that guitar since 1988. I got it brand new without a scratch on it. It's got very soft wood on it so it ages a lot quicker than a guitar with a sheet of lacquer on top of it.

It looked like a raw piece of furniture. It picks up nicks, cuts and stains really easily, but it also helps age that guitar.

I equate it to a wine. Obviously, it settles after a while and becomes better. That's what happens with acoustic guitars: The more the top vibrates and resonates, the more the wood settles in and takes on its character, like a wine.

Guitar Player Magazine ranks you as one of the top 50 greatest of all time. Who are your greats?

I just have a respect for good guitar players. I'm inspired by so many people.

In the early stages of guitar playing, I really drew on and learned a lot from people like Lindsey Buckingham. I was fascinated that he did a lot without a pick. Michael Hedges - he's another acoustic genius. He passed away a while back.

I like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, Clapton, Joe Satriani, Jimmy Page. I like anybody that's good on guitar, no matter the genre.

How has social media - Facebook and YouTube - boosted your career?

I first noticed the effect of YouTube when I started touring in Europe. Everyone would come to see my shows over there based on this version of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" that I was covering. I got well over a million hits on that.

I've definitely seen the evidence of the importance of the Internet. It's a great tool for promoting yourself, especially for musicians who travel a lot.

You're getting some TV action too?

Tim Allen has this show on ABC called "Last Man Standing." I do all the music for that. It's really fun.

They brought me on board to do what I do. My guitar playing is what they were interested in. I do little music cues; they just go in and out of the scenes. You just convey the vibe of the scene musically anywhere from two to five second spans.

It's kind of a challenge, but it's tailor-made for me. I have a vast knowledge of guitar licks, but this show forces me to do things on guitar I wouldn't normally do. It's just another creative outlet that I enjoy.

The third season will be in the fall.

Are you where you set out to be?

It's where I imagined I'd be. I always wanted to do this for a living. I'm real comfortable doing exactly what I'm doing.

I never wanted to be mega- huge superstar guy. I wanted to make a good living and excel in my craft. I wanted to be the best I could be.

I make a living doing what I love to do, which I can't say about everyone. I've been doing this since I was 14. I'm 46 now.

I didn't go to high school. I was clearly meant to do what I do, and it's worked out just fine. I completed the seventh grade. I was traveling with my mom, going to her gigs, then I started playing music with her. I've never done anything else. It's a rare story.

That doesn't mean I didn't play my dues. I played some crappy gigs.



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