It was a natural question to pose to a young Kentucky country artist who just happens to have two major home-state stars as elders. The query was posed to Walker Montgomery, the 18-year-old son of Nicholasville country star John Michael Montgomery and nephew to Eddie Montgomery.
The question? What was the best advice your family gave you about establishing a career in country music? Without hesitation, Walker Montgomery cited encouraging words from his dad, built around the title of a single and an album that established a hit-making career more than 25 years ago: “Life’s a Dance.”
“This is going to sound cheesy, but he just says. ‘life’s a dance,’” Walker Montgomery said. “I’ve heard that all my life. You know, problems with a band or crew member or just with any kind of financial stuff. … that’s a lot for an 18-year-old to handle. My dad just says, ‘Life’s a dance.’ He’s just a great supporter.
“He comes and watches my shows. Then afterward, we’ll talk. I’ll be like, ‘What can I do better? What did I do that I probably shouldn’t do the next time?’ That’s really helpful, because he’s been through it all. He’s done exactly what I’m trying to do right now.”
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I have influences from my dad and uncle and their music. But what we’re going to do is take a little country, put with it my influences and see if it will take off.
Growing up as part of a new country music generation doesn’t mean that Walker limits his influences to the artists he hopes to soon share company with, who are currently holding court on the radio.
“I love all kinds of music, from Frank Sinatra to Coldplay to Luke Bryan. I grew up listening to Randy Travis, but my favorite now is Luke, on account of what a great guy he is. Obviously, I have influences from my dad and uncle and their music. But what we’re going to do is take a little country, put with it my influences and see if it will take off.”
The first big step in that ignition process is a single called “Simple Town,” ahomey-sounding single he penned that has slipped onto Lexington country stations. There also has been considerable visibility through festival and club performances in recent years, including the annual Acoustic Jam program at the Lexington Opera House, benefiting the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Last year, Walker — and his father — played the event, a series of round-robin performances by groups of artists performing with minimal acoustic accompaniment. Walker will be the lone Montgomery on hand for this year’s Acoustic Jam.
“Acoustic Jam is really huge,” he said. “Last year, for me, it was just the best thing ever. I was still a senior in high school, and it was amazing to be able to go do that show. The main goal, of course, is just to raise money for the kids. If I can help do that in any way, I’m happy. But being able to do it a second year is just a special thing. Last year, kind of being the small man on campus, a little high school boy, .... I was kind of nervous. Now we’re ready to roll.”
Walker also had several major dates this fall to showcase himself, including a set for the Kentucky State BBQ Festival in Danville and a pre-game performance ahead of the University of Kentucky’s first home football game. Both dates fell on the same September weekend but gained considerable weight and importance after the plane crash a few days earlier that killed singer Troy Gentry, his uncle’s longtime partner in Montgomery Gentry.
If I were to have canceled some of those shows, Troy, if he were still here, would have come over and kicked my butt.
“Obviously when something like that happens, when somebody you’ve grown up with and known your whole life, passes away, it’s hard. But if I were to have canceled some of those shows, Troy, if he were still here, would have come over and kicked my butt.
“What I’m getting at is he wasn’t one to cancel shows. Nobody loved music more than Troy Gentry. Troy loved everybody and everything in the world, but if I would have canceled those shows, he wouldn’t have been too happy with me. So we did those shows for Troy and in honor of Troy.”
After a semester of studying integrated strategic communications at the University of Kentucky, Walker plans to place school on hold next semester as he furthers his music career in Nashville. His initial goal is set in stone: Get a record contract. That might seem a mighty task for such a young artist, but his father and uncle will provide a solid support team.
“The support system comes from letting my dad and uncle help guide me through this. I’ve always got somebody to go to if stuff goes awry or there is something I don’t really know how to handle. They’re teaching me how to handle things the proper way, because (they’ve) probably been through these same things about 10 times.”
If you go
Acoustic Jam 2017
Performing: Lee Brice, Gary Allan, Big & Rich, Easton Corbin, Midland, Tyler Farr, Lanco, Morgan Wallen, Devin Dawson, Delta Rae, Walker Montgomery and Ben Rue
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.