Mike Montrey

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Composer;Instrumentalist;Performer;Songwriter;Vocalist

Adult Contemporary;American Roots;Rock

Guitar, Acoustic;Piano

Dec 9, 2019

Mike Montrey

IC-US-NJ-Central

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Fans hear it so often it’s almost become  cliché, their favorite artists paying lip service to the idea that their  music, like life itself, is a journey rather than a specific  destination. Singer/songwriter Mike Montrey, whose dynamic fusion of  Americana, neo-soul and rock and roll has been lighting up New Jersey,  and far beyond for over a decade, didn’t specifically set out to  chronicle this experience when he was creating songs for Mike Montrey  Band’s latest album. Yet over the course of seven tracks, from the  longing, heart-searing first lead single, “I Can’t Wait Any Longer”,  through the reflective, acoustic-driven “Searching for the Sun”, he and  his veteran crew perfectly embody the reality that, some two decades  after starting this journey, Montrey is still in the process of Searching for My Soul.


“Sometimes when I’m in the process of  creating music and lyrics at the moment, it’s not readily apparent what  the overall intent of the project or its possible theme and aesthetic  will be,” says Montrey, who prior to launching a brief solo career, and  then MMB, was a touring member of the veteran epic rock band, The  Samples from 2007-12. “The title of the album really says a lot about  the songs we recorded here. It’s what they and my journey, be it through  the lens of past, present or potential future, are about. Never settled  in my mind and for a while in my body. It’s a beautiful thing, but it  can sometimes be difficult to navigate daily. These tunes are about  those physical and emotional journeys, whether it’s my narrative or a  narrative told from another’s perspective.”

On the musical and sonic side, the  intense, edgy voiced singer/guitarist’s desire to bring a fresh  perspective and take MMB’s vibe to a whole new level prompted him to tap  two-time Grammy winner Marc Swersky to produce Searching For My Soul.  Renowned for “Trust in Me,” his co-write recorded by Joe Cocker,  Swersky has long been a champion of developing indie artists. Montrey  first worked with him when the singer sang a duet with Helen O’Shea on  the well-received Swersky-produced contemporary Americana version of The  Pogues’ holiday classic “Fairytale of New York” in 2020. In addition to  mainstays Montrey, vocalist Jen Augustine and bassist Anthony Duca, the  MMB lineup on the new album include John Ginty (keys), Jack Stanton  (pedal steel guitar), and Brian Prokop (drums). The album is mixed by  Seth von Paulus (Smashing Pumpkins, Christina Aguilera).


“I was flattered that Marc became a fan of  my singing,” says Montrey. “I originally thought of working with him on  three songs, but I loved the ideas he had and the unique direction he  took those songs in, so it made sense to have him produce the whole  project. He’s more hands-on and detail-oriented than most of the  producers I’ve worked with, and I was excited in tapping into a whole  different creative process with him. The band did a few run-throughs of  the songs before Marc rolled in, and a few of them changed significantly  because of the amazing ideas he had.


“Working with his fresh ears was a bit of  an adjustment for me since, with a few exceptions, I had generally been a  self-contained songwriter, producer, and bandleader,” he adds. “As a  singer-guitarist, I have a tendency to sometimes overplay the instrument  and feel an obligation to fill every space – and then fit the band into  that. That can work well sometimes, but Marc wisely created a lot of  space in these songs, with ‘Reno’ being a great example of how he opens  more space for my singing voice.”

Truly representational of the collection’s  soul-searching theme, many of the songs feature specific references to  locales Montrey has traveled to and/or performed in, often presented in  fictional or impressionistic ways. The adventure starts with the  passionate, mid-tempo story song (and second lead single “Reno” (where  he sings, “Heading out of Reno/Heading out chasin’ the sun”) and  continues on through “So Long City of Angels,” a vibrant, high energy  pop/rock duet by Montrey and Augustine (and third lead single) that  name-checks some classic L.A. landmarks. Specific geography also plays a  prominent role in the fiery, anthem-like “Listen to Me Roar” (which  takes us from Colorado and San Francisco to Tuscaloosa) and the  acoustic-driven “Searching for the Sun,” which includes travels to  Mexico, Louisiana and Syracuse. Along those lines, the passionate,  nostalgic ballad “Held on to You” mentions “a beat down old Chevrolet”  and in the optimistic “Blue Skies Again,” Montrey sings: “The life we’re  living is a one-way ticket on a big jet plane/I wanna let it fly.”


Rather than rest on his indie laurels and  bona fides, Montrey’s ongoing commitment to his creative evolution a  decade on is all the more impressive, because the Mike Montrey Band has  enjoyed quite a bit of success with their albums and live performances.  Released three years after the singer/guitarist’s lone solo album A Perfect Reality, MMB’s 2011 debut album Weaving The Basket  earned high praise from Aquarian Weekly, which crowed, “(It) rocks, it  is spontaneous and dynamic. The songs are true works of art, gems in the  rough that have been presented to the listener for their own individual  interpretation of value.”


Their 2014 follow-up Song by Song By Song – which reached the Top Ten on the Relix Radio Charts – was produced,  incredibly, in six different studios across three states with the help  of Grammy-winning engineer Carter William Humphrey (Rod Stewart, Dr.  Dre), and Grammy-winning producer Hod David (Maxwell). For John Street (2018), Montrey reached out to another Grammy winner, L.A.-based  producer Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty, Tedeschi Trucks Band). In addition  to a sea of critical praise from Aquarian Weekly (“The choruses click  like magic”), NJ Stage (“A masterpiece”), and Relix (“Introspective,  uplifting choruses), the album led to MMB touring the country for two  years in the pre-pandemic era, hitting SXSW, L.A., Denver, Nashville and  beyond.


Mike Montrey Band’s discography also includes the 2020 EP In the Middle of Hope – “Soaring guitar work, and blissful harmonies take expert songwriting to new heights.”  – Indie Band Guru (penned  and produced, ironically enough, pre-pandemic, but offering a  much-needed hopeful message during an anxious time) and the live album Live Cal Series, Vol. 1, recorded in 2019 at the Highland Brewing Co. in Asheville, NC.


“The last song on the new album ‘Searching  for the Sun’ offers the perfect description of the troubadour, never  settled, never wants to be settled,” Montrey says. “Looking back on this  20-year journey from my first band ….water… through my years playing  with The Samples through this wild ride with MMB, it’s really been an  incredible, constantly inspiring ride. I truly was this person, I’ve  been to these places, maybe I still am and will always be this person.”

Mike Montrey

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