While Tim Montana was growing up in an off-the-grid trailer in an isolated part of Elk Park, the Butte native spent his days teaching himself guitar and listening to the likes of Kid Rock, wondering what it might be like to see the artist perform in person.

Growing up poor, Montana says, he was drawn to Rock’s multi-genre blend and no-holds-barred attitude, which seemed to capture perfectly the teenage angst he was feeling at the time.

“He said stuff that everyone wanted to say but didn’t have the balls to say,” said Montana by phone.

Montana has come a long way from his Elk Park days.

Today not only does the Butte native regularly watch Rock take the stage live, but he also gets to co-write and perform with the genre-bending artist.

This year Montana has been on the road with Rock, in addition to ZZ Top, Florida Georgia Line and Hank Williams, Jr., and holds co-writing credits on Rock’s Top 10 song “Tennessee Mountain Top” and the single “Greatest Show on Earth,” which reached No. 16 on Billboard’s Main Stream Rock Songs chart this year.

“It was a pretty special day,” said Montana of the day he heard about the song’s position, noting that he “teared up” when he told his mother the news.

In addition to recent collaborations with Rock and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons (who co-wrote Montana’s song “This Beard Came Here to Party,” which became an anthem for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and the Nashville Predators during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs and finals) Montana has come out with a new single of his own, “Hillbilly Rich.”

According to a news release for the musical artist, the song came about after Montana and his producer and co-writer David Fanning were having a late-night breakfast and met a waitress who said her previous customer had only given her a 1-cent tip.

“Being the holiday season and a really fun night out, we felt especially generous so we emptied our wallets when we left her the tip. It was over 100 bucks,” said Montana. “The next day we got together for a co-write and started reminiscing about the waitress, so it became the inspiration and opening line of the song.”

Rolling Stone — which named Montana as among “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in 2016 — described the song as “rowdy” and “an ode to fantasies about telling off your boss, making it rain and having everything all at once.”

The song’s official music video was released Sept. 19 on Country Music Television and contains several shoutouts to the state of Montana, including appearances by Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill and Evel Knievel Days daredevil “Streetbike Tommy.”

“I rocked an UPTOP shirt,” said Montana, noting there are several Montana references in the video. “It’s all kind-of paying homage to Montana even though we’re in Florida (where the video was filmed).”

Montana’s work covers a variety of themes, ranging from party anthems and working man’s blues to patriotic tunes, which he sees as a way to “serve those that served us.” And like many of Montana’s songs, “Hillbilly Rich” contains both rock and country elements.

For Montana, country music is all about telling authentic stories about working people.

“It’s from the heart, it’s real,” said Montana. “You live that country lifestyle, but you’re rich in other ways,”

Although he lives in Nashville now, where the elk don’t bugle, Montana said, Butte will always be a part of him.

“It was a tough town, but I think it gave me a never-quit attitude,” said Montana, who in 2008 performed his song “Butte America” on the Late Show with David Letterman.

At the time of the Late Show performance Montana was relatively unknown. Letterman asked him to come on the show personally, Montana said, after seeing him perform at a rodeo in Choteau.

In hindsight, the Late Show was one of Montana’s first big breaks. But at the time, Montana said, he was just enjoying the ride, unsure of where the appearance would take him.

“If this is the only time I get to be in the spotlight, I’m going to showcase Butte,” said Montana, when asked why he decided to perform the song.

But it’s not just the Late Show that Montana credits with exposing him to a wider audience. Being featured on Butte’s 92.5 KAAR FM was also a memorable moment, Montana said, adding that Tom O’Neill, brother to Rob O’Neill, was the DJ who put him on the air.

“They were the first people to play me, right there in Butte,” said Montana.

Montana said he’s learned a lot since the early days of his career about songwriting, performing and putting together a band. The music lifestyle never gets old and he tries to live each day as though it were his last, he said.

When asked what he wants his music to do in the world, Montana said he hopes his music can show there’s light at the end of the tunnel, especially for young people in Butte, where a series of teen suicides stunned the community in recent years.

“I just want to inspire people to dream big and follow their dreams,” Montana said.

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Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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