Local musician Siddney Montana is a man of many talents: He’s a poet, songwriter, musician, record producer and book publisher, but at the core of it all, Montana is a street performer.
During the midst of an oil boom in the fields of North Dakota back in 2010 is when Montana began writing, developing his skills on the acoustic guitar and putting his lyrics to music. Since then he has produced over 150 songs, performed across the Mountain West and has been featured on Wyoming Public Radio’s “Morning Music” show.
Currently finalizing an album of new material, Montana joined us recently in the KHOL studios to discuss his late start in music, the connection between music and poetry and his endless love of travel.
Listen above for more and check out a transcript of the interview below. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KnewJack: So, Siddney, I’m very curious: You started your music career rather late in your life. What spurred you to pick up the guitar in the first place?
Siddney Montana: Well, in high school, you know, I was involved in sports but the second thing that I was involved in was the student choir. And then I never pursued any musical hobby or career. But then in 2010, kind of in the depths of the Great Recession, you know, I left this area and traveled to the oil fields up in North Dakota and went from broke to an extremely high income just in a matter of 750 miles, but for that work, we had to live in rough conditions in man camps and, you know, long winters, [a] cold environment, that kind of thing. And I just picked up the guitar and was strumming along, trying to sing some Fleetwood Mac [and] Johnny Cash songs, that kind of thing. And then I just realized I was taking a long time to memorize all these other artists’ songs. So, I just started writing and that was the beginning of it.
KnewJack: Can you touch a little bit more on how the experiences performing in the street to your coworkers at the oil fields — how did that shape your style over the years?
Montana: My involvement in the music industry hasn’t been typical. Or maybe it has for a street musician, but I think it was a good learning process that enables me to go out on the street and have a venue for performance, you know, rather than relying on or getting accepted into a bar venue or a commercial venue. And it allows me to practice my music and keep writing. So, I’ve developed just a tremendous volume of work. In that sense, it gave me a venue.
KnewJack: So, as I mentioned in the intro, you’re also a poet. How do you see the connection between music and poetry? Are most of your song lyrics pulled directly from your poetry?
Montana: Well, the poetry books that I’ve published are a compilation of all my musical lyrics and poetry book form, so I don’t know if there’s a distinct separation of the two. You know, the music is poetry, and the poetry is music. And I guess I hold myself out as a troubadour, a poet that sets his lyrics to music. I mean, that’s at least one of the definitions of troubadour that I’ve found. It’s not necessarily a person that travels around and plays, it’s just one that sets their poetry to musical lyrics. And so I think it’s just all one. Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody or some musical chords and then set the words to it. And then a lot of times, recently for this new project that I just completed yesterday, I would get up early in the morning and write the lyrics and then put it to music. So, it’s been a combination of both, sometimes the poetry then the music, sometimes the music and then the poetry.
KnewJack: So, you have some pretty deep lyrics with lyrics like, ‘Just keep on moving, Don’t rest too long’ and ‘You’re cursed, don’t fight it. You’re a traveling man.’ Your songs seem to deal with an overall theme of keeping an eye on the future rather than reflecting too much on the past. Can you elaborate on that for us?
Montana: I’ve got kind of a mobile lifestyle. And I guess where I feel safest is in the Rocky Mountains, but I like to travel and I like to travel from Jackson to North Dakota if I find the need to go up there. And I certainly like traveling to Moab, Utah, which I’ve just returned [from] after a three-week stay down there at a performance gig in one of the local venues. I’ve got a bit of an itch to travel and so I’m always looking forward and I’m looking at the next project or the next adventure, the next accomplishment or goals. So, saying that a lot of my musical lyrics, you know, definitely draw from past experiences.
KnewJack: You can hear music from Siddney Montana right here on KHOL during our local music hour that airs weekdays from 3 to 4 p.m., as well as on Saturday at the same time. I’m Jack Catlin and this is KHOL Jackson.