Ben Montague: impassioned songwriter, crowd-pleasing touring artist, eternal optimist and acclaimed custom guitar business co-owner, has penned his most lyrically raw and moving, anthemic and beautifully produced second album ‘Back Into Paradise’, released on his own label MWM Ltd on 15th June, throughAbsolute via Universal.
Sat in The North American Guitar Studio, Montague is as passionate about his playing as he is about the album’s lyrics. He’s no Metallica-style shredder, but the spare quality of his playing emphasises the luscious vocals throughout “Back Into Paradise”, which leads the singles off the album. “This was the track that defined the direction I wanted to take with the album. It is a ‘wedge’ of a song, and builds and builds, until it is a mountain of sound by the end. But it’s got a weird construction in terms of song-writing. It was a natural choice to open the album because it’s so exciting. And it’s a good name for the album because it says that, yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The album was the result of a process of self-belief and affirmation. Writing what should have been a song for another artist with writing partners Jez Ashurst (Gabrille Aplin, Will Young) and Charlie Grant (Simply Red, Melanie C), Montague found the lyrics for the first of the 10 songs, the searing, emotional “We Start Over” flooding out. Montague’s partner in crime on “Back Into Paradise” is producer Peter-John Vettese, the singer’s ‘secret hero’ for his programming and arrangement work with Paul McCartney, Pet Shop Boys, Dido and Annie Lennox as well as co-writing with Sia, Tom Odell and James Bay.
The overall narrative of the album is about finding a reason to start again and the redemptive power music can offer. In the track “Gonna Love Again”, it initially seems a beautiful melody about recovering from heartbreak. But, as Montague smilingly puts it: “It’s about me putting my arm around my only-slightly-younger self and saying it’s all going to work out fine. It’s me falling in love with making music again.”
The album also has a defiance to it, summed up in “The Meaning”, a blistering rock track that would surely have Dave Grohl pumping his fist in encouragement that was written with Rihanna songwriter Tony Bruno. Grohl is an appropriate name to mention in Back To Paradise’s context, as it features a stunning cover of “Best Of You”, which reworks the original hard rock monster into a wracked ballad. “I am a big big fan of The Foo’s and Dave Grohl. He is a phenomenal song writer and his lyrics are just beautiful”.
Listen to an album preview of 'Back To Paradise' due for release on the 15th of June
Other notable key figures in the making & writing of the album include Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, “Lego House”), Martin Brammer (James Morrison, Olly Murs) and Jim Duguid (Paolo Nutini, The Waterboys).
“I’m trying not to have any expectations at all,” he insists. “But this album is so real and I’m not hiding behind anything, so I hope people respond to it.”
People will get a chance to respond when Montague tours in October. “I have a lot of fun onstage, I think it’s so easy to take yourself too seriously. People want to have a laugh at gigs and be entertained and maybe hear the stories of why you wrote these songs.”
Don’t necessarily take the man himself too earnestly. But do pay close attention to his music. It’s as real and as raw as it gets – haunting enough to take the listener into paradise along with the man who made it.
UK Tour Dates
4 October Southampton, Brook www.the-brook.com
8 October Newcastle, Cluny www.thecluny.seetickets.com
9 October Edinburgh, Sneaky Petes www.seetickets.com
10 October Glasgow, King Tuts www.gigsinscotland.com
11 October Manchester, Ruby Lounge www.glasswerk.co.uk
17 October East Grinstead, Chequer Meads www.chequermead.org.uk
22 October Swindon, The Vic www.seetickets.com
23 October Birmingham, Glee www.glee.co.uk/music
24 October Bristol, Louisiana www.seetickets.com
25 October Leicester, Musician www.themusicianpub.co.uk