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A Kentucky farm boy at heart, John Michael Montgomery has seen what few Kentucky farm boys ever see, the pinnacle of the country music mountain. After learning the country music ropes with the family band, Montgomery attracted millions of fans in late 1992 and early 1993 when his first hit, "Life's A Dance," went Top 10, and his debut album of the same name, was certified quadruple-platinum.
His country-to-the-core voice is equally at home on up-tempo honky-tonkers like "Be My Baby Tonight" and "Sold" as it is on unforgettable ballads like "I Swear" and "I Love The Way You Love Me."
This has contributed to eleven number 1 singles, 15 million albums sold, and numerous national awards, including the CMA Horizon Award and ACM Top New Male Vocalist. As he collected song of the year awards for consecutive years, he racked up Billboard Music Awards and more ACM's and CMA's.
John Michael Montgomery is now enjoying a fulfilling life in his Georgian colonial home on his farm outside Lexington, Kentucky. He has limited his touring schedule to 50-60 summertime concerts so that he can spend as much time as possible with his family. You might occasionally find John Michael on his tractor bouncing around his property or on the golf course trying to improve his nine handicap.
But singing and touring are the passions that have brought John Michael Montgomery from Kentucky honky-tonks to the forefront of country music. John Michael confesses, "I feel blessed, excited and motivated! It's like a new beginning!"
"The only person I've ever wanted to vindicate was my father," he says simply. "I wanted to prove that we were more than just a bunch of poor people who had this pipedream of making it in country music. I wanted to prove that we could not only make it here, but sustain it over time.
"When I was a kid, finding out about love and getting my heart broken at 16, I wasn't so much into that - because I'd spend my time practicing the guitar more. My Dad was so good, I always wondered if I could be as good as he was… and he used to tell me he was a decent singer and guitar player, so he really wanted to think about entertaining people, connecting with them. As this career has happened, I've never forgotten that."
While John Michael Montgomery is known primarily as a balladeer, he's actually a searing guitarist - known for closing his shows with an extended jam on Stevie Ray Vaughan's good-timing juke-joint romper "If The House Is Rockin'."
For the quiet-spoken man treating people right - whether it's his family, fans or business associates - is a defining way to live. Maintaining perspective, years into a career that's shattered every expectation, re-created the sense of what's possible comes down to a few simple truths: the music, the performances and the balance. Know your audience, don't forget where you come from, stick to the things you know.
"Singing country songs, if they're great, can really touch on emotion's centers. That's what we're all made of, and that's what music sets free in us all. The best country songs really reach down inside, pull things out, touch us and make us FEEL something.
"You try to be honest - and you try to be real. And then you have to really hard on the songs. You have to make sure everything you cut is as good as everything that's come before it. As lucky as I've been to find great songs, it makes the song search that much harder, but the publishers and songwriters have always been very generous about letting me hear their best stuff."
Understanding that quality can beget quantity, he's keeping his eyes on the songs and the stage - looking for new challenges, but never losing site of the things that defined his dream in the first place.
"You get started and you just wanna have a place," he admits shyly. "Then time passes, you have some success and you almost don't believe it, except you know you're cutting music you relate to, and you're hoping people will relate to you the way your friends do. I'm a very big hearted person and I love people, you know, the human race is a pretty unbelievable thing: where they come from, how they got here."
"If you start there, you've got a good foundation. Whenever I meet somebody new, I shake their hand and think, 'This could be the beginning of a great friendship.' I've been let down some, but you don't want to let that take over your life or your heart. The music has given me a lot more friends, because these songs are like shaking people's hands, letting 'em know you understand.
"Beyond that, you know the red carpets aren't gonna last forever, so you think about what you want the songs to mean beyond where they are on the charts. When it's all said and done, I'd love to be considered a classic singer. You know the ones - the people who are thought of as stylists, whether you're into Frank Sinatra or Willie Nelson or Lionel Richie. Those people all have distinct voices, but they also have a way of singing every song from a true place, a true moment - and people can't help but respond to that."
For John Michael Montgomery, who can talk about The Manhattans as easily as Merle Haggard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Commodores and Waylon Jennings, it's music that makes a connection. "Look, there are lots of ways to have hits," he allows, "and I think they're all okay. I love that 'Sold' is one of my biggest records, because it makes people laugh. I love that people get married to a lot of the songs I've been lucky enough to have."
"Being part of someone's life is what makes this circle complete. I'd do it (make music) for me, don't doubt it. But you do it to bring people together. When people tell you their stories, you feel like it meant something even more than just capturing a moment in your life. When you do that, when you've got songs that are timeless and work for people in their 40s and their 60s and teens, then you know you're really getting somewhere."
Notable awards include --
Hit songs include --
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