Walker Montgomery’s ‘Work to Do’ Is His Sonic Sweet Spot: ‘We Finally Figured It Out’ [Listen]
For anyone who has followed Walker Montgomery's career thus far, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the singer's tastes trend towards traditional country. The son of '90s country chart regular John Michael Montgomery and nephew of Montgomery Gentry bandmate Eddie Montgomery, he grew up immersed in the music of the '90s, raised in one of its geographic centers: The state of Kentucky.
With early singles like "Simple Town," Montgomery came out of the gate flying the flag for traditional-minded music, and he's stayed consistent since. His 2022 EP, Rust, was produced by '90s country star Rhett Akins and legendary industry figure Dallas Davidson, and the project's track list includes writing credits from like-minded modern artists like Jameson Rodgers, Michael Ray and Morgan Wallen.
But Montgomery's not done yet. The singer says his next project is his stone-cold countriest to date, and that all starts with his new single, "Work to Do."
One of two tracks he co-wrote for his upcoming batch of songs, "Work to Do" is an introduction to a sound that Montgomery says he's finally perfected. "It's the perfect way to say, 'Hey, we finally figured it out.' This is the direction we're going," the singer explained to Taste of Country in March, as he was putting the finishing touches on his new project.
"Every project [that I've put out in my career to date], it just seems like it's getting more traditional, more traditional, more traditional," he continues. "These next songs, I'm not gonna say I'm there, but I feel like I've really figured out what I wanna do. The sound I wanna make. The songs I wanna cut. The songs I wanna write."
"Obviously, I wanna continue growing as an artist," Montgomery clarifies, "... but I've had some years under my belt, some ups and downs, and it's just good for me to finally see the vision."
There were several different factors that helped him bring that vision into focus. The most obvious one was the simple sweat equity he put into his craft, logging studio time and booking the sharpest musicians in the game to help him bring his songs to life. But inspiration comes from surprising places, and part of Montgomery's growth has come from an unexpected, and not directly musical, place: His Whiskey Wednesday video series, which started out as an Instagram Live series and moved to being filmed more formally in a bar owned by a friend of Montgomery's in his home state.
"It was something where I could talk about music — I could have dad and Eddie [Montgomery]. I could have my future brother-in-law, Travis Denning on," Montgomery notes. "But I can also have people from the horse industry, the bourbon industry, or whatever it might be."
Before this series, the singer says, he knew about the horse industry — one of Kentucky's signature industries — "just enough to be dangerous," but the conversations he has had as part of his Whiskey Wednesdays series has deepened his love for and connection to the place he comes from. That love of home is a common touch point for any traditional-leaning country act, and all the more so for a performer like Montgomery, who opened his career with a hometown song, "Simple Town." Montgomery doesn't feel compelled to make sure there's a hometown track on every project he puts out, though he's never opposed to the idea.
"Kentucky's where my heart is, always will be," he acknowledges.
In the meantime, he's walking a delicate balance between reverence for old music and momentum and innovation in his own music. Even though he's keeping traditional country music at his foundation, he's always working to improve his vocals, and to take on songs with more emotional nuance and weight. To that end, he points to a new song called "Tired of You," which he says he would have never had the guts to sing when he was a fresh-faced teen just starting his career.
"I couldn't pull off some of the licks or rolls, everything I can do now, when I was first starting out. It just wouldn't have happened," Montgomery reflects, explaining that "Tired of You" was an outside cut that landed in his lap in the eleventh hour as he went into the studio.
"We were looking for a strong ballad, and as soon as I heard it — it's written in a way I had never heard of," he relates. "... And it was almost written in a bluegrass sense. We didn't do it in a bluegrass sense, but it's still got some hints of that."
As he continues to roll out new music, Montgomery says he's excited to be able to present fans with a sonic identity that he hopes will be his calling card for a very long time. "It's gonna be country, I can tell you that," he says with a laugh. "It's gonna be good. I finally figured out what I wanna do."
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