John Michael Montgomery Biography
Last updated: 11/30/2011 11:00:00 AM
As hard as it may be to believe when you see John Michael Montgomery on stage in the spotlight, singing any one of his many hit songs, the truth is that he's just a regular guy. Sure, he has the talent, drive, and charisma that has enabled him to sell millions of albums and play hundreds of sold-out concerts. But for all his success, John Michael is really no different than he was when Atlantic Records discovered him singing in the Austin City Saloon in Lexington, Kentucky back in 1991.
"Pretty much what you see is what you get with me," he explains. "I'm too boring to make any headlines in the Enquirer. My life is simple. I don't get in trouble. I have good morals and values. I consider myself a good family man, and I love to make good country music. There's not a lot of surprises in my life."
In fact, the biggest surprise in his life was probably his immediate success on the release of his first album, Life's A Dance, in 1992. "1 didn't expect my first single 'Life's A Dance,' to go to number four," he recalls. "And then my very second single went to number one for four weeks. I was expected to be on a prop plane, and found myself on a jet," he recalls.
But even after scoring 14 number one singles, selling over 14 million albums and receiving numerous industry and fan-voted awards, including the Country Music Association's prestigious Horizon Award in 1994, John Michael remains the good ole Kentucky boy who grew up playing guitar and singing in his parent's country music band. "1 always wanted to just get on stage and sing and make music, and entertain people," he says. "Everybody who does that would like to be able to make hit records and be on radio. But music still provided me a way of life even when I was in the nightclubs."
"Of course, if you get successful at it and become a country music star, life gets even better. But my number one goal is still to make music, and get on stage and see those crowds pile in there to see me sing. I try not to get wrapped up in the hype and the money and all that stuff. It's easy to be consumed by that. But I try to stay focused on the music, and the people out there who are buying my records and coming to my concerts."
John Michael's focus on great songs that are sure to satisfy his fans is refined even further on his seventh album, Home To You, which finds him working with legendary Nashville producer Garth Fundis. "I've always wanted him to produce an album for me, but he always had other obligations. I've listened to his productions for years, because he did a lot of Don Williams' records in the '70s, and Keith Whitley's in the '80s, and I always thought his productions were absolutely fabulous."
The result of the union is an album rich with both John Michael's heartwarming romantic balladry and his crowd pleasing, rocking country rave-ups. "1 take pride in finding good songs for myself. And Garth's a really good song person too. So between the two of us, we came up with some great songs for the album. Our tastes were pretty close in the kind of songs we liked."
As always, John Michael offers a collection of songs that capture the ear of his fans by succinctly expressing real-Iife emotions and experiences. He does it by keeping himself grounded in the same sort of shoes his listeners live in every day. "When I listen to songs, I try to get in my pick-up truck and drive around. The general public doesn't get to listen to a song on big nice speakers the first time through," he notes. "The first time they hear these songs is usually on the radio in their cars."
"So I try to put myself in that situation. When I'm driving my truck and put a tape in, that song has one chance over those truck speakers to make me like it. It's kind of an instinctive thing. A song has to touch me as soon as it comes on, and grab me and pull me into it. If that happens, there's a good chance it's gonna be one of the songs I'm probably gonna cut."
"I just try to do songs that fans can relate to," he explains. "This country is built on blue-collar, hard-working folks. It's what this country stands on."
One big reason why John Michael has been so successful at capturing the imagination of everyday folks is that, for the most part, he lives his life much like the rest of us do. "I only do 60­ 70 dates a year in the summer, and then have the winter months to do my albums, and spend time with my family, and go hunting and fishing, and do all the things I like to do when I'm not work­ing."
"Those six months that I'm not on the road, I'm not a country music star. I'm just a regular guy. You'll see me at Kroger, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and Winn-Dixie. You'll see me at the barber shop downtown. I especially like to go grocery shopping."
Unlike so many other country stars who make Nashville home, John Michael still lives outside of Lexington, where he was raised, spending quality time with his wife Crystal, daughter Madison Caroline, and recently-born son Walker Carl. It's a life that keeps his feet on the solid ground of reality. "I like it around here, and I grew up around here, and I know every little crack in the road and fence row," he notes. "I drive by some places, and I remember helping tear the fences down and putting 'em up. I get to reminisce a lot about back when I was young, and I was building swimming pools and cutting tobacco, all kinds of stuff. A lot of times I'll just get in my vehicle and drive around and see some of the places that haven't changed. They're the same way as when I was a kid."
"I'm a very grounded person, very level headed. I'm not the kind of person who wants to be a superstar," explains John Michael. "I don't have that kind of personality. I like making records and staying in the Top 40, and having my core of fans I've built up over the last few years who come to my shows. All I wanted to do was what I needed to become an established artist."
By keeping the home fires burning brightly, John Michael stays in touch not only with his working-class roots, but also those of his fans. And it's also a way of life that enables him to appre­ciate even further how lucky he is to have scaled the pinnacle of country music success.
"There's times that I'll go for days, and I'll forget what I do for a living," he says with a chuckle. "I'm over in the garage messing with my remote-control airplanes, or out on the golf course, or I'm in the woods hunting, and then all of the sudden, I'll just stop and go, wow -all those things that I can do, and the things I have are because of everything that's happened to me. And when I'm back in the house, and I'm eating dinner with my wife and kids, I think about how that's really what It's all about. So I wake up every day just humbled that I have life so good," he concludes. "I work very hard to try to keep my life balanced and level, and make it the same way for my family. I never forget where I came from, and what I have will never go unappreciated.