Hit songwriter Randy Montana has been known in the Nashville music scene for a full decade. In 2010, he was an artist signed with Mercury Records Nashville and he released two singles that became Top 40 hits. Then after he decided to focus on a career as a pro songwriter, he co-wrote a hit and had several cuts.
Notwithstanding his earlier credits, in the past two years Montana has reached a whole new level of success. He has co-written four big hits, and he currently has two singles in the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. He co-wrote Luke Combs’ latest hit “Better Together,” and Parker McCollum’s debut hit, “Pretty Heart.”
These two hits are just a part of Montana’s recent success. Last year, he co-wrote with Combs the #1 hit “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” which became one of the biggest, most iconic country songs of the past two years. In addition, Montana had another #1 hit, co-writing “I Hope You’re Happy Now” for Carly Pearce & Lee Brice.
On top of this, Montana has two more singles that will likely move up the charts soon. He co-wrote Justin Moore’s new single “We Didn’t Have Much” and Riley Green’s new single, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks.”
Montana, who has been signed with Warner Chappell Music Publishing since 2017, is a lifelong Nashville resident whose father, Billy Montana, is a successful country artist & songwriter. He learned to play guitar early on, and he started writing songs when he was a teenager.
After attending Middle Tennessee State University, Montana decided to leave school and focus on getting a music publishing deal, and he subsequently secured a record label deal. He eventually signed as an artist with Mercury Nashville Records (owned by Universal), and he released two singles that became Top 40 hits: “Ain’t Much Left of Lovin’ You” (in 2010) and “1,000 Faces” (in 2011).
Also during this period (2011), Montana co-wrote a hit called “Didn’t I” for another artist, James Wesley. Then when his artist career started to fade, Montana realized he could build a new career as a pro songwriter who would write songs for other artists.
Here’s the video of Luke Combs’ hit “Beer Never Broke My
Heart,” which was co-written by Randy Montana.
Over the next few years, Montana landed some cuts with Montgomery Gentry, Justin Moore and other artists. But his big break came around 2016, when he met a promising new artist named Luke Combs who had yet to have hit success. He struck up a collaboration and friendship with Combs, and some of the songs they wrote together became hits.
Montana’s first successful co-write with Combs was “Houston, We Got A Problem,” which appeared on the deluxe edition of Combs’ debut album, This One’s for You. Then in 2019, Montana co-wrote Combs’ #1 hit “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” which was certified platinum.
For Combs’ second album What You See Is What You Get, Montana continued his collaboration with Combs, and they wrote the hit “Better Together” and two more songs on this album.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Randy Montana. He tells how he got started in the music business, and he discusses the four hits he’s co-written in the past two years.
DK: I read that your father, Billy Montana, is a hit songwriter & artist. So how did you get started with music and writing songs?
Randy Montana: Having a father who was in the music business was awesome for starting out. We grew up listening to music all the time, and there were always instruments in the house. And I knew that the music business was his job, so I understood what went into it. I knew my dad worked a lot.
DK: When did you start playing guitar and writing songs?
Montana: I picked up a guitar when I was around 10, and I learned some basic chords. Then when I was 16, I remember writing my first song.
DK: So how did you go from being a 16-year-old writing your first song, to signing with Mercury Records and releasing an album?
Montana: Well, I remember starting to write songs and loving the process. When I was 18, I graduated from high school and put together a band. Then when we got to college (at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro), we started playing songs in a basement of an apartment building. I knew some guys who had pledged at fraternities, so we began playing at frat parties. Then we started to play bars and clubs in the region. We mainly played shows in Tennessee and Alabama.
Here’s the video of Parker McCollum’s hit “Pretty Heart,” which
was co-written by Randy Montana.
DK: How did you get your first music publishing deal and record deal?
Montana: I dropped out of school and gave myself a year to get a publishing deal. I had a job that I was working nights and so I could write during the day. I also thought about going to fireman’s school if I didn’t get a publishing deal. But I wound up getting a publishing deal not long after that.
My dad had introduced me to a couple publishers and I played them songs, although nothing really came of it. Then I met Clay Bradley, who was Head of A&R at Sony Records at the time. He heard a demo that I was singing of a song I wrote, and he just cold-called me. He says, “Where are you right now?” I said, “Man, I’m getting married.” I was in North Carolina getting married. And he says, “Well, as soon as you get back from your honeymoon, give me a call.” So I got married, went on a honeymoon, and then I came home and met up with Clay. He helped me get a publishing deal at Sony/ATV Music. Then I started writing songs there, with the intention of getting a record deal at some point. Then a year later, Joe Fisher (A&R exec at Universal) called me. Joe had heard some of my songs and demos. We started hanging out, and (music exec) Luke Lewis was running Universal at the time, so Joe and Luke signed me to my first record deal there.
DK: At the time, you had a couple singles on the charts as an artist, and then you co-wrote the hit “Didn’t I” for James Wesley. So how did you evolve from being an artist, to writing songs for other artists?
Montana: I made a record on Universal Records with (producer) Jay Joyce and put out two singles. But things didn’t work for whatever reason. In the middle of that, I had written “Didn’t I,” which was pretty cool. It was me, Kyle Jacobs and Ben Glover who wrote “Didn’t I” and a song called “My Montgomery” in the same day. And then James Wesley cut “Didn’t I” and Ben Parmalee cut “My Montgomery.”
“Didn’t I” was my first single as a writer (for another artist). When that happened, I remembered that I had all my eggs in the artist basket, and that was the first time I thought that maybe I could do this as a songwriter as well, if the artist thing didn’t work out. My artist thing hadn’t totally fallen apart yet, but little did I know it was unraveling. Then when the artist thing came to an end, I started writing songs for other artists, and I learned that trying to get cuts on other artists was is a completely different ballgame. It felt daunting at the time.
Here’s the video of Carly Pearce & Lee Brice’s hit “I Hope You’re
Happy Now,” which was co-written by Randy Montana.
DK: After your hit with “Didn’t I,” it was about seven years before you had a hit in 2018 with Luke Combs. So what happened during this period, leading up to your hit with Luke?
Montana: It was during those seven years that I started writing a lot. There was definitely that gap between between those hits (laughs). I did get a few cuts with Justin Moore and Montgomery Gentry.
But the turning point was when I started writing songs with Luke Combs. With Luke, things were starting to work. We were getting cuts with Luke and we were writing the singles.
DK: How did you connect with Luke and become one of his main writers?
Montana: I met Luke right when he moved to town. He was a little familiar with me because I had recently put out an EP. And I remembered (singer/songwriter) Channing Wilson telling me about him. Then Luke and I started hanging out and we went hunting one day, and then we started writing songs. “Houston We Got a Problem” was the second song I wrote with Luke. It’s always worked with Luke…we’re on the same page writing-wise. And that writing relationship is where we found magic. Luke changed the course of my career, hands down.
DK: I like your big hit with Luke Combs, “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” How did you, Luke and Jonathan Singleton write that song?
Montana: Luke had that title. He said, “I got two titles that I want to write—one is called “Hell or High Water” and one is called “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” So we wrote “Hell or High Water” first. It was a deeper song, more artistic. Then we said, “Well alright, let’s right the beer song now” (laughs). So we wrote “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” and that was one of those songs where it just fell out, once that ball got rolling. We said, “Hey, let’s just list a bunch of things that have broken our heart.” So that’s what we did. We wrote that melody and that vibe. And from the little demo that we made on the bus that day, to what the record turned into, it was like night and day. That record went from a 5 to an absolute 10 as far as intensity. It just sounded like a big ‘ol smash. So that was a fun day.
DK: Currently, you have another hit with Luke Combs, called “Better Together.” And I noticed that the production is very simple with just Luke’s voice and piano. How did you write that song with Luke?
Here’s the lyric video of Luke Combs’ hit “Better Together,”
which was co-written by Randy Montana.
Montana: Sometimes, Luke will do a writing retreat. He’ll hole up in a cabin, or maybe at the beach somewhere, and for two or three days you just write songs. What’s fun about doing that, is that you’re not leaving or going anywhere…you’re there to write. We were in North Carolina…it was me, Luke and Dan Isbell and Luke were there. I remember having an idea on my phone. I had the line, “we got together like good ‘ol boys and beer.” And that’s not a very romantic sentiment if you end on that (laughs), but that’s what kind of started it. And the title “Better Together” fell out while we were writing it. I love that song…it’s a bunch of images of things that go together, and things that are just meant for each other. I think it’s an interesting way of saying that we’re meant to be. And I love that it wound up being a piano/vocal recording; it’s very powerful.
That day in the studio, the whole band was there, tracking songs. And I remember (producer) Scott Moffatt saying, “Let’s try this with just piano.” Then Luke went into a vocal booth, and they played it two or three times and it just felt great.
DK: Earlier this year, you had a #1 hit with “I Hope You’re Happy Now” for Carly Pearce & Lee Brice. How did this song come together?
Montana: With “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Luke and Jonathan (Singleton) had started that idea with Carly Pearce, and they needed to finish it. Luke said to me and Jonathan, “Hey man, lets finish that song that we started with Carly.” I think they had the verse and the title, and then I think we wrote the male parts (sung by Lee Brice) and the male chorus. The thing I love about that song, is that it’s saying to someone, “I hope you’re happy now.” It’s really two totally different tones. The guy…he’s angry about it. And the girl is genuinely like, “You know, I’m sorry, I hope you’re happy.’ And the guy is like, “I can’t believe you did this to me. I hope you’re happy. Look what you’ve done.“ I love that song.
DK: You also wrote the hit “Pretty Heart” with Parker McCollum. How did you and Parker write this song?
Montana: We wrote “Pretty Heart” the day that we met. Parker came to town, and we had been set up to write a song. I love first writes, because you’re just getting to know somebody. You shoot the breeze for the first 20 minutes and then you go, “Well, let’s write a song,” because that’s what we’re here to do.
It’s funny, because we’ve become good friends now. Parker had the line, “What does that say about me?” which he sang to me. He had that melody and that line. It was like, “What does that say about me, that I did this to you?” It’s like your questioning yourself. So that’s where that title “Pretty Heart” sprung from…it was one of those ideas that fell out as we wrote the song. I love that song from a personal standpoint. I think it’s cool because it’s left of center. And man, (producer) Jon Randall cut such a great record, and Parker’s vocal is stellar.