The line to enter the Aebersold Recreation Center reached the street in front of the Union by 6 p.m. Sunday night in anticipation for the Brantley Gilbert concert. By 6:15, the doors were opened and the fans began crowding in to get their places near the front of the stage. Though the crowd was clearly excited for Brantley Gilbert, some could be heard chanting “Randy,” which came as a humbling surprise to the opening act, Randy Montana.
Backstage, Montana was calm and soft-spoken, saving his energy for the stage.
Montana, who has toured with big names such as Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, said that his main influence to be a country music performer was his father, singer and songwriter Billy Montana, whose songs have been recorded by Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina.
“Growing up, music was always in the house,” Montana said. “Dad was always writing songs, getting record deals. So I just kind of grew up around it. When I went to college, I started a band and we started doing fraternity parties and that was my first time getting into playing live.”
At age 26, Montana said that he enjoys playing colleges because he can still relate to the college scene.
“I love doing the college thing,” he said. “It’s so much fun. This whole run has been nothing but colleges. I love playing for college kids, just because I’m not far removed from that scene, and that was my favorite time to go to concerts.”
After taking the stage, Montana warmed up the crowd for the evening’s headliner with original music, including his single “1,000 Faces,” and covers of iconic artists. His own vocals were practically drowned out by the enthusiastic crowd singing along to Charlie Daniels’s “Long Haired Country Boy” and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Turn the Page.”
While Montana said that country is the only style he has ever been interested in performing, some of his biggest influences are from the classic rock era.
“I’m kind of old school when it comes to actual influences,” he said. “I was a big fan of the Eagles and Tom Petty, that California country rock kind of thing. I’ve always liked my country and rock.”
Montana said that touring and playing live shows are his favorite things about life in the music business. As for complaints, he has only one.
“Honestly, it’s the rest, the sleep, I don’t get a lot of it,” he said. “It’s a lot of late nights and early mornings, and that’s the only thing I can ever complain about when it comes to playing music.”
Emphasizing the passion for his music, Montana said that he never saw himself doing anything else.
“I don’t know what else I would do if it wasn’t for this,” he said. “Right before I signed a publishing deal, I was like, I’m going to go for this and I’m going hard. I had to make some money, so I went to fireman school. That was kind of my back up plan.”
The Antioch, Tenn. native reflected on playing in front of a variety of crowds and on his visit to Slippery Rock.
“I love a bar crowd, which is a little bit different, but you wind up playing for whatever crowd there is,” Montana said. “This is a really pretty campus, and this is a great building to be playing in.”
As for his own favorite artists, Montana said that he loves Miranda Lambert, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and old country-western music.
“I love the Waylon Jennings stuff, that kind of old country,” he said. “It was always country, because country’s always what I grew up with, with my dad always writing songs.
Like most artists, Montana and his band have a pre-show ritual, though he was unable to indulge in it on a dry campus.
“We usually do a group shot of our favorite brown liquor,” Montana said. “Man, it’s usually Jack Daniels, unless we don’t get our hands on some of that. A little pre-show shot, a couple of good go-get-em’s, and we’re off to the races.”