Taking a sharp turn from her previous single, “I Sold My Soul,” Kelsey Montanez is giving listeners a more bluegrass feel with her latest release “Right Time To Win.” With an acoustic guitar riff and sharp harmonica moments added to Montanez’s smokey and powerful voice, “I Sold My Soul” feels like you’re thrown into a country-western movie’s saloon with a bit of rock added from the drums. Ahead of the release of “I Sold My Soul” we caught up with Montanez to discuss the stark differences between her recent singles, what’s coming next and what’s inspired her to explore so many different styles of music.
Hey Kelsey! How’s everything going right now?
Hi Kate! Things are going pretty well right now! My band and I are playing lots of shows and I’m hard at work working on my upcoming album. I’ve released 3 singles so far, “Right Time To Win” being the 4th and the response has been pretty great so far so I’m excited to continue releasing these songs and see where it all goes.
What classic album cover is your current mood?
The first album that popped into my mind is Nirvana’s cover for Nevermind where that naked baby is chasing after a dollar on a fishhook. I feel like that is a good representation of my life right now. I recently took the leap to pursue music full time and focus all of my attention on making this album so I feel like the dollar represents the creative ideals I’m chasing and the naked baby represents the vulnerability I have to embrace in order to stay connected to my music and create things that feel real and authentic. The dollar being on a fishhook represents how elusive building a life in music can feel and how the target or the goal always seems to be moving or drifting forward no matter how close you get.
Your new single “Right Time to Win” feels like a big shift from your previous single “I Sold My Soul.” What inspired you to lean into the country/bluegrass genre compared to your previous pop/rock tracks?
It definitely is a huge shift from “I Sold My Soul.” There could be a couple reasons for that. One being that those songs were written over ten years apart. I was in two totally different stages of my life and in two different states of mind when those songs were created. Another reason for it could be that I listen to such a wide range of music and musical styles that sometimes I even surprise myself with what comes out when I sit down to write a song. This is my 4th release from the upcoming album and so far, every single song leans into a different genre or style, and the rest of the upcoming songs will be no different. I was a bit nervous to shift in such a different direction but I am learning to trust the muse when she speaks and lean into my intuitive nudges more.
What’s the story or message you want listeners to take away from this song?
Life is cyclical. When you feel like the chips are down and things aren’t going your way, the wheel of life is inevitably going to rise again and you will feel like you’re winning again one day. You just have to be patient and trust that there is a season for everything. I wrote “Right Time to Win” during a time when I didn’t feel like things were going my way. I was working a job I hated, I wasn’t doing enough of what inspired me or brought me joy, I felt like it was impossible to imagine things turning around for the better. But I just kept feeling this intuitive hunch that I needed to trust in the process, keep working hard, focus on self-growth and that eventually things were bound to shift in the right direction. And eventually, they did.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style is ever-evolving and it grows and changes with me the more that I change and grow. But at heart I’ve always been a Rock and Roll girl with a touch of Blues and Soul. I tend to become really enamored with whatever I’m into at the time whether it be a band or a book or a philosophy and I think it all reflects back out in my music.
What artists/bands did you grow up listening to/ who inspired your music style?
I grew up in the early 2000’s pop era so my earliest obsessions were artists like Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Mandy Moore, Christina Aguilera. But I was also super influenced by artists like Fiona Apple, Nirvana, The Beatles. Even as a kid, I was just enamored by music in all its forms and would listen to everything I could get my hands on. I discovered my moms Billy Joel CD in middle school and was blown away by the intricate harmonies and crazy catchy melodies and pop hooks. I think one thing all of those artists have in common is excellent songwriting and song structure. I was intrigued by the formula of crafting a good song, regardless of genre from a very young age.
If you could only listen to one record what would it be?
Wow, that’s a hard question. My first thought is a Beatles album. But I can’t pick which one. maybe “Rubber Soul” or “Abbey Road.” Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of The Moon” would also be a solid choice because there are so many layers to their music that you could analyze it from different angles forever.
Where have you been writing and recording all your recent singles?
I’ve been recording in a studio called “Chicago Broadcast” with my engineer Bill Karambelas. It’s been a blast because we appreciate a lot of the same music and we both like to be meticulous and thorough in our work so we make a pretty good team.
Can we expect an EP/album in the coming months? And if so can fans expect a variety of genres/styles like you’ve shown in your recent singles?
Yes and yes! The end goal is an album. There is no exact release date yet but it will be within this year. My dream is to hold an album on vinyl of songs that I created. The album will certainly embody many genres, styles and moods. I hope there’s a little something for everyone in there!
You recently played Reggie’s and The Cubby Bear (both in Chicago), how were those shows?
They were a blast! I really like both of those venues a lot. The sound is always good and it’s just easy to have fun and rock out in those spaces.
Do you have any shows planned outside of Chicago coming up?
Right now I’m just playing a lot of local shows while I work on the album. I don’t want to go too far until the album is over because I have studio sessions every week. But I think the natural next step once the album is done is to start touring and reaching further outside of my Chicago base.
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
This might ruffle some feathers but I prefer white sauce, thin crust, with mushrooms and caramelized onions. Last night I had a pizza at Whiner Brewery in Chicago that had honey and a balsamic drizzle and it was pretty awesome so I’d add that in there too. Maybe I’d call it “White Hot Honey” or “Honey I’m home”
What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
2023 will be the year of recording the album and playing all the local shows I can. I also want to continue writing and shaping my sound. I don’t know what will happen after this album is finished but I’m already thinking about the next album, so I’m imagining more music, more writing and more touring.
Keep up with all of Kelsey Montanez’s future releases via her Instagram.