Interview with Shadow & the Thrill's Tony Montana

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Tony! Welcome to TheCosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
Tony Montana: Thanks for having me on!

CV: Shadow & the Thrill describe their music as "songs of salvation that soothe the soul." Can you elaborate on that description? How does it translate to fan appreciation and connection to the band's music?
TM: Well, I flat out stole that line from “O Brother Where Art Thou”, one of my favorite movies of all time.  It seemed to fit where we were going… We were recording the album of Blues oriented, guitar oriented Rock there in the South where the movie was set…so it just seemed to fit. It certainly soothes my soul…I hope others listen and have a similar experience.

CV: The new album "Sugarbowl" is built around a theme which centers on relationships and their unfortunate breakdown. What lead you to that choice in song theme and content? Was it personal… motivation to do some form of therapy or healing?
TM: Making this music feels like it is healing me.  Lots of bumps and bruises over the past 10 years…I certainly got my lesson in the Blues.  It is cathartic.
I have had some definite troubles in my personal relationships, and romantic issues… Some songs relate to other close personal relationship issues as well.  There’s a good line from an 80’s movie that “only a woman can teach you the blues.”  I’m living proof, man. 

CV: Do you find music to have healing qualities for both artist and listener?
TM: Most definitely.

CV: Tony, has music healed you in some way?
TM: I think so, but it has also helped me relate to others through shared musical experiences.  Playing live is the ultimate cathartic healing experience for me.  I feel like I’m on another planet when it’s happening.

CV: Between Brentt Arcement and yourself, you have performed with a number of noteworthy artists including Slash, Bulletboys, Great White and Fiona Apple to name a few. What does that kind of high level experience bring to the table when a band like Shadow & the Thrill get together to write for an album? Is there any concern that egos may get in the way of good songwriting?
TM: Brentt and I have been fortunate to play with some great artists, and some phenomenal players along the way.  We are both of a mind to create a musical experience…or a vibe…or atmosphere as producers, and that is a very collaborative thing.  When things are working, the tracks write and produce themselves.  We are stewards.

CV: What do you feel Grammy Award winner Sylvia Massy brought to the project? Did Sylvia’s involvement bring "Sugarbowl" to a different level than originally expected?
TM: We were very confident that the emotion and energy were captured, and we were fortunate that Sylvia helped make sense of it all. She brought continuity to a collection of songs that span several kinds of grooves and “feels”.  I just love her.  I have worked with her on previous projects and it’s always been stellar.
CV: If there was one thing you felt that "Sugarbowl" delivers, giving it that unique, standout quality, unmatched by any other album out there right now, what would that quality be and why?
TM: I think the album is a visceral experience.  It’s not a continuous, homogenous album where all the songs and vibes are flat-lining.  I wanted to make an album of individual “experiences”.  Granted, they are all guitar oriented, Rock, Blues-based, songs…  But I think each track is a gem on its own.  I played and sang for the song…not to showcase my voice or guitar playing.  Each track has an identity.  If I need to scream, I scream, if I need to make the guitar weep, it weeps, if I need to shred, I shred, if I need to whisper, etc. It’s all there. 

CV: In your opinion, has the world of music gotten so oversaturated with artists and new releases, due tothe ease of the digital medium...right now peaking over 25,000 new releases a day, that it has become an almost impossible task for the music to be heard and the artist to be given a chance?
TM: Absolutely.  I can only hope that the cream will rise to the top.

CV: Tony, does being an established, veteran performer make it easier to navigate a turbulent music industry compared to that of a younger, indie artist in your opinion?
TM: LOL, I AM an indie artist!  And no…I have the unfortunate perspective of knowing how things used to be, where the label was a helpful, effective entity, and the sales of physical albums fueled a band’s bottom line. 
To quote Yoda, “it matters, not.”  We have a special collection of songs, and we have to do whatever we can to make it happen. 

CV: From your experience, what do you feel defines a great band? Does the right attitude make for great music?
TM: It’s all chemistry.  I always start with the drums and bass.  There has to be a great connection between those cats, and then the songs lie on top of that.  Attitude is important, but innate talent and groove matter more.

CV: Many veteran artists are content with playing their back catalog and touring with no real intention to make new music. Is making new music and releasing albums as essential for artists as it once was? Is there an incentive to do albums?
TM: The only incentive to make new music for legacy acts is to service the hardcore fans, which is less profitable, but no less important.  The hope on the artist side is that the new music will awaken new interest from new demographics.  We are all creative people, so we always will be trying to create.  That is the nature of the beast.

CV: Does Shadow & the Thrill plan to tour in 2020 in support of "Sugarbowl?" If so, will the touring line up consist of other well-known performers to round things out?
TM: By all means, playing everywhere we can live in 2020 is our goal. I bring out players that are exceptional…I need to feel a musical connection with the people I work with.  I’ve been very fortunate up to this point.  I play with some of my Jack Russell’s Great White bandmates on some dates, and some old friends too when schedule permits.

CV: What's next for you?
TM: We are looking forward to more live shows…and hopefully hooking on to a tour with a complimentary artist.  There is nothing quite like performing live, and to have that experience in front of, and WITH the audience.  We aren’t doing it “by the numbers”, and each show has some element of improvisation to it, so everyone is a unique experience.  I want that magic that happens when things are getting created in real-time.  I would think that it’s a cool thing to watch for our audience as well.

CV: Thank you again Tony for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best and continued success.
TM: Thank you for having us, and please let your people know that the album, “Sugarbowl” is available through our websites…the singles are available through iTunes, Spotify, and all the streaming services. See you on the road!

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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