Big Sound, Big Ambitions for Outspoken Musical Artist Tim Montana
Rank-and-file workers don’t always get enough credit, so Tim Montana thought it would be a good idea to salute them in a song. They may be different kinds of people with different backgrounds, goes the theme, but an “American Thread” ties them all together.
“It’s the fabric of America—people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty or their feet wet or drive a little further to get that load there on time,” he says. “‘American Thread’ is everybody.”
The patriotic anthem has become something of a signature song for Montana, who was a bit surprised at how warmly and widely it was embraced. “I really didn’t know what we had until we had it,” Montana says, “and it became this big rallying cry. I think we struck a chord there.”
With his own strong work ethic, this modern mountain man fits right in with the farmers, truck drivers, soldiers, and cops he sings about. He braved a rough and rugged childhood in Montana before his musical ambitions called him away. His first stop was sunny Los Angeles, where a chance encounter with country artist Johnny Hiland guided him instead to Nashville. Just over a dozen years after arriving in Music City, Montana’s perseverance seems to have paid off. Having just turned 36, he has a record deal with a major label, a faithful fan base, and an expanding range of outside pursuits.
Besides songwriting and performing, Montana has a few commercial enterprises, including a line of cigars and a hot sauce company. He also uses his influence to promote other companies, too, such as Velocity Outdoor, Traeger Grills, Polaris, Snap-On Tools, Weather Guard, and Black Rifle Coffee Company.
Montana’s muscular sound combines heavy rock with country, and he doesn’t mind at all that he’s sometimes compared to Kid Rock. Those thick, distorted guitar tones can be traced to his teen-aged obsession with Nirvana. But in a business sense, he looks up to singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who capitalized on his music biz success with specialty foods and beer plus restaurants and casinos. “I’m trying to build a little empire,” says Montana. “Music is always going to be number one, but I just love the entrepreneurial spirit. I think a lot of musicians miss the mark on that.”
Montana grew up poor in the bitterly cold mountain town of Elk Park, just north of Butte. He started hunting early on, partly to help put food on the table. “We were off the grid, we didn’t have electricity,” he recalls. “People would say, ‘Oh, are you guys going green? And I would say, ‘No, it’s called poverty.’”
He has come to appreciate his backwoods heritage. “Even though we get called rock or Southern rock, my lyrics are a direct reflection on who I am and how I grew up,” Montana says. “I hid from my redneck background for a while, but now I look back and think, ‘Well, that was a pretty cool way to grow up.’”
Like a lot of teens, Montana had posters of his music idols on the walls of his bedroom. A few of his have come to life. His talents and likability have led to a series of encounters with established stars that have quickly led to solid friendships. Kid Rock is a pal, for instance, and so is Dave Grohl. He had an early brush with fame thanks to David Letterman, and he makes music and hot sauces with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
Their association came about through their beards. Montana had a funny song he was working on, and the ZZ Top leader got wind of it from a friend-of-a-friend and showed up at a studio to help finish it and play guitar on it. This was back in 2013, and “The Beard Came Here to Party” quickly grew a life of its own as a theme song for the famously hairy Boston Red Sox during their historic World Series run.
It was an explosive career boost for Montana. He looks back and shakes his head at how quickly it came about. Someone played Gibbons a rough mix of a song that wasn’t even finished, “and then a few weeks later we were on the cover of USA Today together,” Montana recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, that went from zero to a thousand pretty fast!’”
Their friendship seems to be here to stay, just like Montana’s beard. “I always wanted facial hair, but I was never allowed to grow my hair out. I had to have a military cut growing up,” he says. “I shaved it off once, and I was miserable.” His wife, Danielle, didn’t like the look, either. She asked him to please never do that again.
Montana’s tribute to the working class was the title track of his album that came out in early 2020. And now, after years as a successful independent artist, he has a new EP, Cars on Blocks, on a subsidiary label for BBR Music Group. It was produced on a bigger budget than he was used to by in-demand producer Michael Knox, who is known for his work with Jason Aldean and other top Nashville acts. “It’s polished up a bit, but not too much,” he says. “It still has that rocking edge.”
He is also excited about his involvement with Velocity Outdoor and his online series called Tim Montana’s Wild Side, which features Montana and a rotation of well-known hunting buddies showing off their passion for the outdoors. Montana says he hopes the easy camaraderie they capture on camera will help attract younger generations to hunting.
Another new venture for him is acting. He makes his on-screen debut as a bartender in a new film called The Last Son of Isaac LeMay, which stars Sam Worthington and Heather Graham. It’s a small part, he admits, but maybe it’ll lead to something bigger, like things have done for him his entire career. “I’ve always wanted to be in a Western movie,” he says. “I think I was born in the wrong century.”
The movie was filmed back home in Montana, a place that means so much to him that he made it his last name. “I love going back here,” he says. “I love the scenery and the lifestyle and the people. I want to be on a snowmobile on a mountaintop somewhere.”