The Grand Ole Opry
Walker Montgomery was born into country music. The son of "Life's A Dance" singer John Michael Montgomery and nephew of Montgomery Gentry's Eddie Montgomery, Walker Montgomery grew up watching his dad and uncle wow crowds at the Grand Ole Opry. Friday night, he got the opportunity to sing in the Opry's sacred circle himself.
His dad and uncle introduced him.
"I'm sure that every artist uses the term surreal for their Grand Ole Opry debut, and I'm no different," said the 24-year-old country singer. "It's a surreal moment in your life, and my whole family was there."
Montgomery's parents, sister and grandparents watched him perform the title track from his new EP "Work To Do" and his song "Tired Of You" from side stage. He chose those tracks because he specifically wanted to sing something he wrote, and he penned "Work To Do" in 2021. "Tired Of You" is a fan-favorite.
"'Tired Of You' is my favorite song that I've ever cut and recorded, and it's just a beautifully written song," Montgomery said. "I think it's great live, and I think it's a song that needs to be heard as well. It's my favorite of the songs I've cut, and it's just a beautifully written song."
An artist's Grand Ole Opry debut is predictably an emotional experience and often the pinnacle of his or her career up until that time. While Montgomery's family has a long history with the Opry, he knew his experience would be the same as any other new artist - but also different because of his dad and uncle's history playing historic radio show.
"It's a very special thing, and I wouldn't trade it for the world," he said. "I've been to the Opry a lot. I've been backstage. I've been in the crowd watching the show and seen all the ins and outs. But it's a totally different experience when you're stepping into the circle yourself. You definitely get the magnitude of the venue when you're doing that, and it's a very sobering, sobering moment."
Montgomery has yearned to play The Grand Ole Opry since he moved to Nashville from his native Kentucky at 19 years old. He didn't have a two-year plan to make it into the circle, but it's been a long-held dream. He said he "wanted it to happen when it was supposed to happen." And when the call came, it wasn't at the bidding of his famous family. His publicist, industry veteran Vanessa Davis, called and asked what he was doing on December 1.
"I was songwriting with a couple of buddies of mine," he said. "She said, 'Do you have time to play the Grand Ole Opry?' And so let's just say I couldn't focus on the write after that. I was only thinking about one thing."
He said the timing of the invitation couldn't have been better. Montgomery feels like he was finally ready.
"I think I just had some experience under my belt when I first moved to town, but I didn't know anything," he said. "I didn't know how to write a song. I just had a crazy, crazy pipe dream of wanting to be in country music industry. But being on the road for a few years now and writing bus songs and putting out songs, you learn to appreciate things more, like the Opry and the history of it. That's something that most 18-year-olds probably don't appreciate, but I'll tell you ... even when I was nine years old and Uncle Eddie was getting inducted, I could tell there was a different thing about that building. It's country music holy ground."
Montgomery was determined not to cry during the performance -- and he didn't. But as he was walking off stage, he caught sight of his grandmother, and his tears started falling.
"They were all very, very emotional, and they were extremely happy," Montgomery said of his family. "I know for Dad and Eddie, it's like a full circle moment for them. All around, it was just an awesome night."
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