Tim Montana remembers the exact moment that rock and roll changed his life.
“I found a cassette tape that had ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ on one side and ‘Mr. Brownstone,'” Montana recalled to Chuck Armstrong on Loudwire Nights Wednesday night (Aug. 30). “I was like five when I heard the intro to ‘Welcome’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ That was a pivotal moment. The next thing, I was singing into spoons and banging on pans. Then my mom finally got me a guitar.”
Montana grew up without electricity in a single-wide trailer outside of Butte, Mont., and so music became a significant part of his life, partly because it allowed him to imagine being away from Butte and experiencing the world.
“I was very influenced by Seattle and ended up going to Musicians Institute in Hollywood,” he told Chuck. “I met a bunch of folks down there—I went from off the grid in Montana to living on Hollywood Boulevard. That was the first time I had electricity. Everyone was like, ‘Are you a caveman?’ I’ve never had a microwave before. I’m microwaving forks and shit.”
It didn’t take long for Montana to hone his skills in California; a few years later, he ended up moving to Nashville where he began learning what it meant to write a song that connected with people. As he put it, “I got my butt whooped in the room for so many years by wordsmiths and poets.”
Now he finds himself living back in Montana, which is a true full circle moment for him as he is bringing the hard rock influence of his childhood, the experiences of Los Angeles and the storytelling chops he built up in Nashville all together for a new rock album.
The first taste of what’s to come is his new song, “Devil You Know,” which came out the same day he joined Loudwire Nights.
“I think I can bring the songwriting educating I’ve got—the school of hard knocks songwriting—into this rock market and make it a thing.”
Meeting David Letterman, Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons
Montana’s journey, so far, isn’t merely about his own music, but it’s about the music of others he’s encountered. More often than not, what felt like chance encounters have turned into legitimate friendships.
“David Letterman found me in 2008 and had me on the Late Show,” Montana said. “That was bizarre because I didn’t have a manager. I had no idea what I was doing. I was like 23 years old and I went and played the Ed Sullivan Theater.”
He paused for a split second as he recalled another surprise encounter that he’s still pinching himself over.
“I was barbecuing and met this dude named Dave Grohl, who kind of took me under his wing,” Montana said. “That night he jammed with me. It was awesome. I’m sitting there playing and I had this feeling, I knew he was there. I told my drummer, ‘I bet he shows up and I bet we become friends.'”
His drummer didn’t push back because he knew Montana had a special gift for manifesting his destiny.
And he wasn’t wrong.
“Dave came up to me and we played. He goes, ‘Can I jam with you on that cajon drum?’ I was playing acoustic and I’m like, wait—I about fainted when he asked.”
As Montana told it to Chuck, he shoved his drummer off of the cajon and when Grohl asked him what they should play, his answer wasn’t met with much enthusiasm.
“I said, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and he told me to go F myself,” he said. “I’m like, got it. Immediately I said, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ by The Animals,’ and he was like, let’s do it. So we played it and then he grabbed me by the arm and we walked down to the river and he said, ‘Tell me your life story.'”
Over the next couple of years, Montana and Grohl became friends. Montana still can’t believe some of the things that have happened, like winding up on a private jet with Grohl, flying to the Sonic Temple festival. Grohl kept bringing him around to shows and even invited him out to Madison Square Garden.
“I haven’t gotten to open for him yet, but I got a good feeling. I got a good feeling.”
Along with Grohl, another legendary rock star entered Grohl’s life with a red SG and changed everything for him.
“I had this dumb idea called ‘This Beard Came Here to Party’ and a friend of a friend got it to a guy with this little band from Texas called ZZ Top,” Montana told Chuck about his first meeting with Billy Gibbons. “I got the call that Billy Gibbons is in town. He rolled in and said, ‘I like this song,’ so he came in the studio and we finished it.”
As the story goes, the song eventually became the anthem of sorts for the 2013 Boston Red Sox—the World Series champions. Montana and Gibbons ended up on the cover of USA Today because of it.
“He’s become like my rock and roll dad I never had. He’s seen it all, done it all. Every other rock star that I’ve met, they’re like, ‘Do you really know Billy Gibbons?’ Even Dave [Grohl] said it’s wild.”
Tim Montana Hopes He Inspires Others
As Montana looks back on all that he’s already experienced in his life, it’s not lost on him how fortunate he has been. It’s also clear that his success is not about luck but about his passion and work ethic.
“I used to get bullied a little when I was a kid because I was always like, ‘I want to be a rock star, I want to be a rock star, I want to be a rock star,'” he told the Loudwire Nights audience. “The principal of my high school in Butte, he was my wrestling coach and my math teacher. He told my daughter the other day, ‘Your dad was like 13 and he’d be on the wrestling bus going to a match and telling all the guys that were bullying him and trying to beat him up, ‘I’m going to be a rock star someday. You’ll see.’ He told my daughter he’s never met a kid that had the same goal through his entire life. I’m either too dumb to quit or I’m a driven SOB.”
The drive isn’t captured just in Montana’s music. He also drives his own tour bus—something his team around him has urged him not to do.
“I’m just a weirdo,” he admitted, laughing. “Growing up the way I did in Montana, I’m a fan of doing everything. I want to live, eat and breathe this rock and roll lifestyle as much as I can, so I keep going and building.”
Montana’s forging ahead not only for his own sake, but for the sake of those watching and listening, too.
“I hope to inspire some kids out there. I grew up poor. What are the odds of a kid who grew up poor making it this far? It’s slim to none. I’m grateful for every day and every moment that I get to go out on the stage and travel the world and meet my heroes and meet all these awesome fans and just send it every day.”
What Else Did Tim Montana Discuss on Loudwire Nights?
- Why he bought a tour bus from Charlie Sheen: “If you Google ‘Charlie Sheen tour bus,’ there are some wild news articles out there.”
- The story behind the creation of “Devil You Know” and what’s on the horizon for Montana now that the song is officially out
- Who his dream collaboration is: “Billy Gibbons is like, ‘I’ve got their cell phone numbers.’ I’m like, Billy, you have everyone’s cell phone number. I’ll wait and do that correctly.”
Listen to the Full Interview in the Podcast Player Below
Tim Montana joined Loudwire Nights on Wednesday, Aug. 30; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station and listen to interviews on-demand. Stream “Devil You Know” at this location and then check out Tim Montana’s full tour schedule.
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