When Walker Montgomery first stepped out onstage at the County Fair in Nicholasville, Kentucky, a town that had already given birth to not one, but TWO country stars, his father John Michael Montgomery and his uncle Eddie, he knew he had some pretty darn big shoes to fill. And the warm welcome and overwhelming love and support he received that night inspired him so much that he went home and wrote an anthem to them that would become his first single, “Simple Town.”
The song has quickly become a local radio favorite, and is a tribute to the area he and his family have always called home and one that helped shape the young man he has become. Fond memories of small town squares, dates down by the creek, fun at the county fair and flags flying proudly above it all, paint a perfect picture of small town U.S.A. where Walker reminds us Jesus and Jones often still reign. For him, the song encapsulates everything he loves about the place his roots are deeply planted and where he built his wings. And boy… is he ready to fly.
Montgomery was exposed to the music business from an early age, and his dad put a Baby Taylor in his hands by the time he was five years old and taught him the basics, but was wise enough to let his son find his own way musically, offering plenty of support but also healthy space to create his own path.
“My dad and momma never pushed music on me,” recalls Montgomery. “They surrounded me with sports, acting, and music. School and sports really dominated my life until about the 8th grade. I started listening to Big Band music, and lots more old country from the legends, and that’s when I started singing and realized ‘I’m not terrible at this.’ I performed the National Anthem at some basketball and football games at my school, and then other songs at school assemblies.”
Wanting her son to possess a well-rounded musical background, Walker’s mom made sure he was just as familiar with Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin as he was with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and the Big Band sounds left an indelible impression on the teen that no doubt influences his music today.
“My mom exposed me to that kind of music growing up and I really liked it. It wasn’t the most popular with my friends in high school,” admits Walker, laughing, “but I loved all that stuff and started diving deeper into it and discovered Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller, and my love for Big Band goes all the way back to the Roaring 20’s really. I guess I’m an old soul, and even though I love my jeans and boots, I love to dress it up too and go out on the town and act like it’s still 1940. I always say I was born in the wrong decade!”
On his guitar, Walker loved playing Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Memphis Blues. “I learned a lot of ‘Elvis’ on my Les Paul and learned a lot of Blues licks too, which have influenced my guitar playing. It’s got so much soul, those sounds, and I saw BB King play live one time, and he made four notes sound like a thousand – it’s crazy how when that kind of music is played you can just tell they are saying how they feel through every note on the guitar,” says Montgomery.
It’s no surprise that along with his dad, Walker cites his two main musical influences as Randy Travis and Luke Bryan. Evident in his writing as well as his vocals, his love for the old and the new combined demonstrates a deep, abiding appreciation for both country’s rich heritage as well as its contemporary sounds and vibe.
“My favorite artist of all time is Randy Travis,” says Montgomery. “All of his songs just hit me the right way, and I love his vocal movements, and I love Luke Bryan as well. Listening to those artists have really influenced the way that I sing. I’m a sucker for love songs, so I love my dad’s music too. Nineties love songs, it just doesn’t get any better than that!”
Walker began playing local gigs with his band, and others, around age sixteen. He started writing songs and soon found himself in the studio with Noah Gordon and Colt Ford years later in Nashville, TN laying down his first recording, “Simple Town,” and a few other tracks which would become the basis of his new EP. The collection is an impressive debut from a promising young artist with an instinct for getting to the heart of a song vocally and a knack for recognizing and crafting an intelligent, thoughtful lyric.
The songs on his new EP, SIMPLE TOWN, run the gamut of emotion, from the homespun charm of the title track, to the hard-hitting truth of his current single “Just Say When,” written by Ross Lipsey, Houston Phillips, Taylor Phillips and Matt Roy. It is a song that immediately drew Walker in. “The lyrics really hit you right in the heart. It has a message that everyone can relate to because most people have been in that situation at one time or another. That feeling when you know something is bad for you but you still can’t resist it,” says Walker.
The romantic rush of “You Heard It Here First,” which was penned by Kyle Fishman, Devin Dawson and Jordan Walker, offers the young artist the ability to stretch his vocals. “I had never done a ballad before,” admits Walker. “Jordan sent that song to me and when I heard it I knew I had to record it! It’s a beautifully-written song, and I’ve been at a party where I’ve seen a girl and felt that rush before.”
An early fan favorite is “Just A Truck,” a song Walker was inspired to record because of his priceless memories of growing up and driving around in an old pickup truck. “I grew up on a farm,” says Walker, “Daddy always had a truck we could run around in, and get hurt in, and do everything in the world in that Momma didn’t know about. So when I heard that song it hit me, because that’s the way I was raised. I drive a truck now, and it’s true…when you’ve got a truck like that, your whole life is in it, it even seems like I live out of it sometimes, and it’s not just a truck. It gets you from Point A to Point B, but it’s more than just that, it’s your life.”
For Walker, the fun-filled party crowd songs hold just as much weight as the heart wrenching ballads do – as long as the songs are believable and relatable. “This is country music, and we sing songs about real life,” says Walker. “If you can tap into somebody’s heart…chances are they’ll like your music. I want my songs to have honest lyrics, and when I feel like a message hits me and is relatable to me, that’s what I’m looking for, something that hits you right in the heart.”
The young artist is eager and ready to take those songs to fans across the country, and has spent the past year playing shows and building fans around his home state of Kentucky and across the Southeast. Watching him perform it’s easy to see shades of his idols, “Luke Bryan,” in his rocking live show, and his “dad” in the way he connects and emotes through a tender ballad. For Walker, connecting to each and every person and taking them along for the musical ride is the ultimate goal.
“When I get on stage, every audience is different, and I want to be able to interact and build a relationship with every person. And when you go to a Walker Montgomery show, you’re gonna have a good time, ‘cause I’m all over the place,” he admits, laughing. “But I want them to go away feeling like they know who I am and that I’m a guy they could hang out with. I’m really excited to get out there and share my music with everyone and hopefully make some new friends and fans along the way.”