Monte Montgomery at Antone’s – Interview (2010)

Articles · March 19, 2010

Monte Montgomery’s buoyant self-titled 2008 collection emboldens confessional storytelling (“Be Still”) with flashy fretwork (“Little Wing”). The Austin-based acoustic guitarist expects to highlight both at his 44th birthday show Saturday at Antone’s (10 p.m.; $14.50).

“It’ll be a flurry of guests,” Montgomery says. “That’s my night to do what I want, and I’ll have people coming up to join me. Whoever comes in and catches my eye is probably going to end up onstage.”

American-Statesman: How did you approach the last album stylistically?
Monte Montgomery: I’d put out a couple live things, but that was my first studio record in a number of years. I geared that toward being a little more raw and rocking than my previous (albums). It was a conscious effort to put more powerful stuff down. I was also going through a divorce, so you get a couple delicate moments on there as well.

What advantage do you find in playing acoustic guitar instead of electric?
It’s a more versatile and percussive instrument. I find that what I do on acoustic just fits my style better. I learned on acoustic. Of course, I spent years playing electric early on, but I’d always go back to the acoustic. It wasn’t a career decision or anything more complex than that. It’s what I enjoy doing.

How did you originally go about interpreting (Jimi Hendrix’s) ‘Little Wing’?
That’s a song I’ve been doing so long that it’s become its own song. At this point, it’s very loosely based on (the original) “Little Wing,” because I’ve taken it to such extreme directions. Obviously, I didn’t sit down and meticulously cop a lot of what other people had done.

When did you start playing it live?
I don’t even remember. It’s probably something that somebody called out from the crowd one night, and I just figured I could fake it enough to do it. It’s the song I can stretch out on and showcase my guitar playing.

Were you mindful of Stevie Ray (Vaughan’s) cover as yours evolved?
I took a page from Stevie Ray, leaving the lyrics out and letting the guitar carry the song. That’s the way I hear and feel that song. Playing it is a lot of fun, but I’m always in the moment and never play it the same twice.

Did that make it difficult to settle on a studio take?
In an effort to capture that song live, our goal before going in was to cut “Little Wing” at the end of every day. On day two, we came in and did that version and stopped there. Everybody in the control room was freaking out. We just put our instruments down and said, “That’s a great take. Leave it at that.”

The 20th anniversary of Stevie Ray’s death is coming up (Vaughan died on Aug. 27, 1990). How much has he influenced you?
I was inspired by his passion. I’m not a blues guy, and I don’t follow the history of the blues, but Stevie Ray made it interesting to me because he was such a brilliant player and played with such fire. I spent a lot of time listening to his dynamics. I love the guy and was deeply saddened and affected when he died.

You might not be a blues guy, but the album comes up under ‘blues’ on iTunes.
I don’t know why that happens. I think people assume that I’m blues because I’m a guitar player from Austin, Texas (laughs).

By Brian T. Atkinson