Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Billy Montana’s talent for tapping into powerful emotions in the songs he writes has led to a string of hits and awards for him and some of country music’s biggest stars. Montana’s “Number 1” credits include Garth Brooks’ record-breaking single “More Than A Memory,” Sara Evans’ smash “Suds in the Bucket,” the Grammy-nominated “Bring On the Rain,” recorded by Jo Dee Messina with Tim McGraw, and his most recent chart topper “Hard To Love,” the title cut from Curb recording artist Lee Brice’s 2012 CD.
Country radio is not the only place you’ll hear Montana’s compositions. ABC’s hit television series “Nashville” picked up “What If I Was Willing,” a song Montana wrote with his son, Randy, and country rocker Brian Davis. The song played a major role in the script for the 2013-14 season, was performed by both Sam Palladio (Gunnar) and Chris Carmack (Will), and appears on the Music of Nashville (Original Cast) soundtrack for Season 2.
Once an agriculture major at Cornell University who dreamed of owning and operating a farm in upstate New York, Montana elected to sow seeds of a different sort: melodies and lyrics. The result has been a diverse crop of artists who’ve had great success with Montana-penned songs, including Garth Brooks, Sara Evans, Jo Dee Messina, Lee Brice, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, David Nail, Sister Hazel, Lee Ann Womack, Kellie Pickler, Trace Adkins, BlackHawk, Kenny Rogers, Pat Green, Bill Anderson, Randy Montana, Guy Penrod and many others.
As a recording artist, Montana’s 1995 Magnatone Records album No Yesterday garnered special recognition from USA Today, which characterized him as “a wonderful songwriter.” Country Weekly described his music as “a common man’s wisdom voiced in an uncommon manner.” Montana draws heavily from his rural background for inspiration, resulting in music that is refreshingly eloquent, simple and honest. Montana fronted a group that was signed to Warner Bros. Records Nashville in the mid-1980s, but Billy Montana and the Long Shots’ singles deal only yielded moderate success, and a full album was never released. So, in 1989, Montana moved from upstate New York to Nashville to persue a career in songwriting. He got his first big break when Jo Dee Messina recorded “Bring On The Rain” in 2000. The song, however, was released as a single on September 10, 2001, and the very next day, the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. For Montana, like most Americans, priorities dramatically shifted, and having a song on the radio became the very least of his concerns. A stunned and reeling America turned its focus from being entertained to the more important issues of national security and reaching out to those who had lost so much. Music radio, for a few days, was replaced with news, information and talk. But the message of encouragement that speaks through “Bring On The Rain” seemed to resonate with a country in need of healing and strength, and so the song began to serve in that capacity. “The first time I heard ‘Rain’ on the radio was a couple of days after the 9/11,” says Montana. “I was pulling up into our driveway under our American flag. Someone had taken the song and interwoven it with sound bites: news feeds from Ground Zero, rescue worker interviews, President Bush addressing the nation, expressing the need for all of us to keep faith and persevere through the terrible tragedy. To hear the song used in that context was completely overwhelming to me. I just broke down.” “Bring On the Rain” went on to become both a country and AC hit, peaking at #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the fall of 2002. It was also the title of one of the popular “Touched By An Angel” episodes that aired on CBS television. Says performer Jo Dee Messina, “It’s one of my favorite songs…with hope hidden under layers of trouble…these guys [Montana and Helen Darling] put their guts on a piece of paper and it just hit home for so many people.”
Montana scored his second #1 with Sara Evans’ smash “Suds in the Bucket”, the most performed song by a female artist in 2004. “My co-writer, Jenai, and I were looking to write an up-tempo, fun, traditional sounding story song. The title sort of fell out of the sky,” says Montana. “One of my favorite things about ‘Suds’ is that we really got inside the heads of our characters. I think we really captured their thoughts and their language.” Montana continued to showcase his writing skills with Garth Brooks’ record breaking single “More Than a Memory”, which he wrote with Lee Brice and Kyle Jacobs. The song entered the Billboard and R&R country singles charts at #1, the only time in history that has occurred. “I don’t think in my lifetime, I will ever be part of something like that again,” Montana says as he shakes his head and grins. “Everything had to work just perfectly for that to happen.” Lee Brice recorded Montana’s fourth #1 single, “Hard To Love,” written with Ben Glover and John Ozier. “Lee already had the songs picked for his sophomore project, but he wanted a few of us to go on a writing retreat to make sure he had the strongest songs possible,” Montana explains. “Ben, John and I were in the living room writing while Lee and Kyle [Jacobs] (Brice’s co-producer) were outside. They came in and asked us to play what we’d been working on. As soon as they heard ‘Hard To Love’ they knew it was right for Lee. The 2nd verse is one of my favorites of any song I’ve been a part of writing.”