Tell me about your musical background. What kind of music could have been heard in your family when you were growing up?
"Gospel music. I grew up singing with my daddy and sister. We sang a lot of old gospel stuff, we sang some country stuff, but mostly it was sitting around the table like this with guitar and singing some gospel songs."
Who were your first musical heroes?
"Charley Pride, Hank Sr., these guys had big influences on me. I used to come home from school when I was little and I remember my grandmother had a stereo player. I run up there and put Charley Pride's Greatest Hits on, you know, 'Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger' and 'All I Have To Offer You Is Me' and 'The Snakes Crawl At Night'. 'Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger' was one of the first things I did in public. Yeah, he was a big influence on me. I have listened to all kinds of music since then, but the earliest influence was Hank Sr. and Charley Pride. I got to do something with Porter Wagoner before Porter passed away. I was in the dressing room with Porter, doctor Ralph Stanley comes walking in and Charley Pride comes walking in, and I'm sitting there. I was doing a song with Porter and Kristy Lee and we started singing and Charley Pride was right there standing in a group singing and I just couldn't believe it. He was a big hero of mine and was standing right beside me and singing. That was pretty cool."
Have you been making a living out of music from the very beginning or did you have another job?
"Before I moved here, I was a parole agent in South Carolina. I was still doing music, gospel music with my dad and my sister, we sang, traveled around. And I was a parole agent and did that for about 5 years. Then I got a call to move here and I did. I worked a little bit here at a boot store for a few months and then I got signed as a writer at EMI and I started singing for other people, doing demos, background vocals, and that's pretty much all I've done since. I worked a little part time but then I was just blessed to stay busy singing for other people. I'm thankful for every song I got to do."
When did you move to Nashville?
"1993 or 1994, I don't know how long it is. It fells like home now."
Did you sing demos of any future major hits?
"I did a song that was on a Diamond Rio album. It was off that big watermelon album, you remember that?"
"Yes, that's exactly right. The song on there 'Start All Over Again'. I did a demo on that and when I heard it, it was just like the demo, which was pretty cool. When it was presented to me, Annie Roboff and Will Jennings did it, it was just piano and mandolin and then I had to kind of take and interpret from that. I had done a song, it was a Keith Urban and Rodney Crowell song, 'Making Memories Of Us.' When I did it, I don't think there was a bridge, but Rodney wrote a bridge. I did that for Sony and long after that I heard Urban doing that and I was like 'wait a minute, I did that song a long ago.' And it was pretty close. Of course he did a great job. It's kind of cool when you get to hear songs that you did first."
Beside singing demos you've been busy as a studio vocalist. What albums could you be heard on?
"A lot of independent artists I've worked for. Like I said I've mostly done work for writers. A lot of them were very successful, Grammy winners, and even beginners. It's funny when you've been working for some of these guys and all of a sudden you see they have like two or three #1's. Everybody is just 3 minutes away. I worked with Dolly Parton, which was great. I worked on the 'What I Do' record for Alan and I think he really is the best singer/songwriter of my generation. He's been great to me and I have a wonderful job."
OK, my next question. What the heck is this? [I'm pulling out a weird looking album called 'She Left Me For Randolph' by a group named Xmas Balls, which features Monty's lead vocal on most songs]
"Oh, where did you get that? This started the whole thing with this company. I was hired to sing demo of a bunch of songs. And one of the producers called and said hey I've got ten or twelve songs I want you to do. I'd go in and sang all of these just really fast, each song just once or twice, just moved right through. I finished them and we did all the background stuff and I was home before 5 o'clock. These guys said it was gonna be an anonymous record of a fictitious band, that was the whole deal. And what happened was that once it was cut, the video director, Lemeul Muniz, was there. They said they wanted to do a video and said 'would you be in it,' and I said 'oh sure.' They paid me and I'd come home and I thought it was done. We did the Soldier and Angel video, we shot them both in two three days. And once I got in there, I said 'well, once you're gonna feature me, we need to change this.' I didn't like the cover, that's not my style,' but they did it anyway. But from that point they said 'hey, we'll do a country record and if you want, we'll produce it.' That's what happened. And actually the Soldier video charted on Billboard like #69. We were a small company, we didn't put anything hardly behind it. It was like, wow, if some money would have really been put in here, it may have done really well. And it did do well for us. A tiny company no one's heard of and we charted. I'm thankful I did the Christmas record, because it got me to do my debut country record. I think the Soldier song is great, they also did a military version, which is really cool. I think sentimentally and fundamentally it's a good stuff."
Do you get a lot of responses for the song?
"Yeah, I sure do. When I went to Iraq to a lot of the bases, they were buying these things, they were showing the Soldier video on big screens. That's why I included it on this record. And I did it in a different way, with mandolin and guitar."
Did you record this album on your own?
"No, Moon & Stars Nashville, which is an independent label, they funded everything and I had some great guys playing on it."
Yeah, Brent Mason, Glen Duncan, Paul Franklin and even Brad Paisley. How did you get to work with Brad?
"I've known Brad for a long time and I think he's just incredible. I think he's the best guitar player here, just phenomenal. I've known him for a long time from my days at EMI. And the producer Bruce Bouton and Lemeul Muniz, who is quite a character, he was there at a barbecue place eating and Brad was there as well as Lemeul from West Virginia. So they started talking football and Brad said 'what are you doing here in town?' And he said 'I'm working with Monty Lane Allen' and he said 'oh man, I love Monty' and he was very complimentary 'cause one of my buddies, Robert, that I do a lot of cowriting with used to play with Brad. And Robert and I are from the same town and that's why Brad always associates one with the other. And Brad turned to Bruce and said 'Bruce, if there is a spot on that album for me to play guitar, just say the word and I'm there'. And Bruce called me was sort of worried that I may say no and I said to him to make a spot. I had what I thought was a perfect song for him to play and of course he did, he came in and he's such a pro. He was just wonderful. He came in and was so gracious. Always as busy as he was and after he did his part, he sat in there and we talked for 30 or 40 minutes, just me, him, Robert and Bruce and I'll never forget that. It was pretty nice, it was something that's unforgettable. And everybody was trying to tell me to put that out first as a single. But you've got what you've got and what you think is right. You know, at People Magazine, they loved the Falling Water song, but some people in country radio didn't care for it too much, maybe it should have been a pop single, I don't know. They sure loved it at the People Magazine and when we were at People and they put me in there as one of the nine new artists worth of listen to. I thought it was very humbling and it was pretty exciting, too. They just heard it and said 'hey, we're gonna put him in.' It was pretty nice."
Do you play solo gigs besides touring with Alan?
"Yes. I'm play at a Baptist Church where I grew up and I've got deep stuff in between,'cause Alan only does like 50 shows, which is great for me. If he does more, that's wonderful, too. But it's still not nearly below that some people do. It gives me that opportunity to do stuff, which is awesome and I love that."
Why doesn't he tour as much as he used to?
"Well, that's what he's been doing the last few years, from 45 to 55 shows a year. It's a good deal. He's a family man and so am I, so are other people. It works out good."
Who brought you to the Strayhorns?
"God did. It was nothing else. I was recommended to one of the Strayhorns by two different people. Two different people recommended me to the same guy. And I went over and met with the road manager at the time. We talked and I said 'you can call John Wesley Ryles,' he always sang on Alan's records, he's my favorite singer in town. And I said you know I've worked with John and said 'would you call him and whatever he says I agree with'. And he gave me a really great recommendation and I went in and we just talked for about 10 or 15 minutes and the tour manager said 'well, are you gonna go with us?' And I said absolutely! I signed that and they gave me a stack of CD's and said 'OK, go learn these, he may do this, he may do that.' So I learned all these songs. I remember that first time we were in Moline, Illinois and we had rehearsed that day with him and I was trying to look at the sheets and watch him and the rehearsal went fun. But during the show, I've never been before that kind of crowd ever. They were standing everywhere and screaming and he comes walking out and he walked right by me and I was like 'wow, I'm playing with Alan Jackson.' He invited me over on his bus and he said 'what are you thinking' and I said 'you know what, I called my daddy today and I said daddy, other than getting to see the birth of my two children, this is probably the best things that ever happened to me.' And I told Alan that and he said 'that's alright.' That's true how I feel. I love the Strayhorns, they welcomed me and everybody's got their space, you respect that. They are just my family out there. They make it so bearable when you are out on the road because you got your wife and still you have to go tour and that's not really work to me. I pinch myself, I can't believe that's what I get to do for a living. I'm just so thankful for that, I really am. And the cool thing about him is, that after all the awards he's won and he's won a ton of them, you'll never hear him come up 'man you did great tonight!' I mean it's not that he doesn't do that, but if you mess up, you'll never hear him say anything either. That's pretty awesome. Whether you do good or bad, he knows it and in music things like this can happen. I try to keep it tight as the rest of the guys. We feel horrible when we mess up and we do, we mess up and we got to keep going."
Yeah, there is a cute moment at the Carnegie Hall show, where you played 'Chattahoochee', Danny made a mistake and you could see everybody shaking shoulders from laughter. It was so cute.
"Sure, I mean that's what happens, man. Mark was talking and laughing the whole time in Carnegie Hall. Just cutting up. And the other guys I looked at during the show, you know Scott Coney, Bruce the drummer, a lot of times we have an eye contact, we kind of raise our eyebrows and blink and I get tickled and that's just what families do. We get out and take your business. Man, it's fun, too. I'm sitting there and we're talking. Hey, can you believe we're at Carnegie Hall. And that was pretty awesome. And he was great as he always is. Just slowly walks up there and takes care of business. And that's what I call him, I call him 'slow walker'. You remember Jim Brown, the football player, and when he got hit and knocked down, everytime he got up real slow and walked back, real slow to the hall and everybody thought he was hurt. And then he came out and they handed a ball off to him, he hit it and and broke it for 60 yards. And he did that, he messed with people. And to me, Alan is like Jim Brown, he just always moves real slow, walks real slow. And then he'll come out with 'Southern Man' or he'll come out with 'Good Time' or he'll come out with 'Country Boy' or my favorite song from this new record, 'Sissy's Song'. I mean the first time I heard it, it made me cry."
Did you know the lady in person?
"No, I did not. I think everybody has a loved one, everybody has a Sissy if you will, or you can remember your uncle or your aunt, or your grandparent. And it offered so much hope. That's the thing I love about that song. It offers courage and it offers hope. I think it's really wonderful and it's one of the best things he's written. 'Drive' is my favorite song that he's ever written. I told him I don't think he can write another song better than 'Drive'. I really did and he's got to prove me wrong, that Sissy's Song really moved me. It's really something."
When exactly did you join the band?
"Six years ago, in 2002."
So your first music video with Alan was 'It's Five O'Clock Somewhere'?
"That's right, the first one I was in. I joined when we did the Drive tour."
In the 'It's Five O'Clock Somewhere' video you had a light green shirt, very short hair...
"Yeah, scared to death, didn't know what I was doing. That was even before any of this stuff." [pointing out at the Christmas album]. "I joined the Drive tour and we did that for a couple of years and then 'Five O'Clock' came out, which was huge. And Jimmy Buffett was wonderful, too. I got to meet him when we did the CMA show. I was sitting there playing, everybody was in their own little space and this guy comes walking up and says 'you got another man out here with you', just like that, I never looked up. And then I looked up and he said 'I'm Jimmy Buffett.' And I said 'I'm Monty Lane and I know who you are.' He was so nice, man. And his bodyguard, everytime he sees me, he hollers at me. He was really nice to me, it was really cool. Montyyy! A big dude and asks what did I do and yeah, he's pretty cool."
Tell me something about life on the road. Do all the Strayhorns travel on one bus?
"Yes. Alan has his own bus. He usually flies in. He's got his own bus that picks him up and gets him there probably two three hours before the show, something like that. And life on the road is, you know, we have a beautiful bus. It's got all the comfort, we've got satellite, we've got everything on the bus."
How do you kill time between shows?
"Yeah, it's funny. Every morning I get up and go run. Sometimes I go early, sometimes a little bit later. I do from 4 miles to 10. I mean it just depends. I do that and I do a little work out and then I jump in a shower at the venue. Then we grab something to eat, we do the soundcheck at about 3.30 and after that I usually go to a mall, me and two three others. You know, Bass Pro Shop, we go to a mall and spend a dollar or two buying stuff. If I sit around too much, I'll get sleepy and I don't like to go to sleep on those kind of days. It's pretty painless actually. It's fun to get to go everywhere in America, which is beautiful. I didn't realize a lot of towns are really small. Some of them are like the town where I grew up, old country towns. And then we go to big cities, we park the bus right in the middle of them. Like in Boston, we've been right there at the garden."
What do you do on the bus?
"We watch just a ton of movies. I'm a big movie buff. And we've got individual DVD players on the bus and we've got headphones and stuff. Some of the guys tricked their bunks out. I mean, like our bass player, he's got speakers sitting behind his ears. He's got the McDaddy of bunks. I think he put shelves back there and our piano player does that, too. He's got everything hung up. We all just watch movies. And the football season is coming over, which I love, I can't wait for that and we will be watching a lot of the World Series. We've been playing a show, somebody would be off stage and speak in microphone, speak to my ears like 'Yankees are losing 5-4' or whatever. Anytime during play offs, 'Yankees just won it!' And I'm on stage the 'YES!!' And the Dallas Cowboys, that's my favorite football team and has been since I was a kid."
Did you play the show with George Strait and Jimmy Buffett in Dalllas?
"I sure did. Dallas was the home. That was a fun time, especially for me. I was at home, I was at the Texas Stadium, no kidding. I looked around there and saw a lot of things. Yeah, I love the Cowboys."
Alright, thank you so much for the interview.
Monty Lane Allen - "Great Big World"
Monty Lane Allen - "All I Want For Christmas (Is A Soldier Coming Home)"
A greeting from Monty Lane Allen
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