Yes, at first glance, singer-songwriter Holly Montgomery seems like quite the giver. But little did we know she was taking from all of those experiences as well, collecting inspiration for a songwriting career that began in Los Angeles and now continues in Falls Church. But on Sunday, Jan. 16 she’ll be back in her usual role, endowing music fans with her latest album, Uncanny Valley, with a release show at Jammin’ Java.
For years singer-songwriter Holly Montgomery has devoted her time to others. Working with various charitable organizations she’s provided aid to hurricane victims and helped feed the hungry. As a mother she adopted and raised three teenagers from Kazakhstan.
Yes, at first glance, Montgomery seems like quite the giver. But little did we know she was taking from all of those experiences as well, collecting inspiration for a songwriting career that began in Los Angeles and now continues in Falls Church. But on Sunday, Jan. 16 she’ll be back in her usual role, endowing music fans with her latest album, Uncanny Valley, with a release show at Jammin’ Java.
Before she could take the stage, we sat her down to get her take on the extraordinary overlap between her life of service and her craft.
Mike Hume: When were you first drawn to community service?
Holly Montgomery: I was still in Los Angeles and I felt it was a good balance from the egocentric realities of the music business. I was a teacher at a Hebrew school there and took my classes on frequent outings to do community work, such as serving dinner in homeless shelters, or cleaning the public parks, or helping stock local food pantries. I saw how good it made them feel about themselves and also their figuring out that they could not take their own good fortune for granted.
MH: What do you find so moving about these causes from an artistic standpoint?
HM: The power of the arts and music to move people’s hearts can’t be overstated. I tend to see the world in terms of songs and melodies, for example, this-or-that person is like a folk song in a minor key. So when I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write songs for charities, I tend to search out the individual people involved in the work – both the recipients and the providers – and find out their stories and write the song and melody that fits them. That’s where the magic happens. For example there’s the story of Bill Conway. Every day going to and from his business concerns, he passed homeless, indigent people asking for a handout. One day, he made a connection with one of those people he usually passed by, and in an epiphany, he realized that he could never look the other way again. He began carrying muffins in his coat and going out and handing them out. He carried on the work for years without expectation of praise. That story was very powerful to me, and I wrote a song about it called “Looking For The Road,” that So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) is using for fundraising.
MH: What has that experience of adopting and raising teens taught you and how has if affected you as an artist?
HM: Adopting and raising those kids was the hardest but best thing I ever did and the thing that I am most proud of in my entire life. So many parents expect their kids to be mini-versions of themselves. It was obvious that I didn’t have that luxury as my kids don’t look like me and have very different backgrounds and goals. A great life lesson I learned was that I knew that I had to take the kids for who they were and not try to mould them. After taking time off from music to raise them I am back performing and recording again and every moment of music I make is miraculous to me. This realization has put my musical endeavors into a perspective I don’t think I would have had otherwise, as my values and priorities have totally changed.
MH: It seems like you dabble in a number of genres. What attracts you to all those varied approaches?
HM: I have never cared at all about genres, I just like what I like. I was a huge Frank Zappa fan in my teens, at the same time I loved folk music. I guess overall I prefer the sonic characteristics of rock, even sometimes harder rock for my band, but want a heavy dose of singer-songwriter lyrics and melodies in my songs. As a result, I end up crossing genres without paying attention.