Holly Montgomery is a lifer, a roll-with-the-punches frontwoman, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who's spent decades onstage, rolling her influences into a signature rock & roll sound. In an industry often built upon ego, she's also been a selfless leading light, raising three adopted children from Kazakhstan and striving to make a genuine difference. From teaching her children the English language to playing infamous shows at t. . .
Holly Montgomery is a lifer, a roll-with-the-punches frontwoman, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who's spent decades onstage, rolling her influences into a signature rock & roll sound. In an industry often built upon ego, she's also been a selfless leading light, raising three adopted children from Kazakhstan and striving to make a genuine difference. From teaching her children the English language to playing infamous shows at the Palomino Club (the Los Angeles venue where her country-rock band, The Mustangs, earned a cult following during the late 1980s) to maintaining an average of 300 gigs per year, she's a self-made success story, proudly building her own moral, musical world along the way.
She celebrates that unique journey with her sixth solo album, Sorry For Nothing. Co-produced with guitarist Buddy Speir and largely recorded during the pandemic that brought her show schedule to a temporary standstill, the album showcases a rootsy sound, mixing the amplified swagger of Montgomery's live band with heartland hooks, sharp songwriting, and full-throttled vocals. Call it anthemic Americana. Call it roots-rock. Better still, just call it Holly Montgomery.
"I grew up listening to British prog rock," says the Louisville native, who was raised by music-playing parents and formed her first band, Dorothy Boy, at 14 years old. "I loved Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, but I also loved John Denver and Dolly Parton. Those sounds became a mishmash in my head. I've spent years making heavy, rock-influenced music, but I'm making roots music now."
Don't mistake her for some unplugged folksinger, though. Sorry For Nothing, with its apology-free attitude and soulful grit, is the product of a bandleader who's unafraid to turn up the volume and the emotion. She sings seize-the-day songs like "Burn It Down" and "Song of My Life" with bluesy grit, then stands her ground on empowerment anthems like "I Got Damage." She even mines her experience as a mother with "For My Son," a song inspired by the years she spent changing the lives of three Kazakhstani children who, prior to their adoption, lacked both shelter and food.
"After some brutal disappointments in the music business in LA, I was nearly desperate to do something outward-looking, something that really made a difference and connected with people," says Montgomery. "Being a musician is a very inward-looking thing, even a selfish thing much of the time, so when I left Los Angeles, I did so because I adopted three kids (at age 9, 13 and 15) from Kazakhstan and took eight years off to teach them how to speak English, learn about the world, and graduate high school and college. I was feeling really unwanted by the world of music at the time, so I imagined who were the most unwanted people in the world, and older children without parents pretty much fit the bill. I tried my best to do something both meaningful and undeniably lasting."
Inspired by personal experiences, Holly Montgomery's songs tell universal stories about struggles, triumphs, societal challenges, and the importance of living an authentic life. This is music for roadhouses and rough-edged dive bars, dreamt into existence by a songwriter who's always been happy to defy expectations‚ and, when needed, bend the rules a bit.
"I'm making music on my own terms," she says. "I've spent the better part of three decades doing that. I play with my own band. I play solo gigs. I play with Mustangs of the West, and I play in other people's projects as a sidewoman. Sometimes there's an absurdity to the variety of things I do, but I've been making my own world."
It's a world that includes a long string of accolades. As a member of the group Big Planet, Montgomery received the "Best Acoustic Band in Los Angeles" award from the National Academy of Songwriters. She also performed alongside folk-rock icon Dan Bern, opened for Oscar-winning duo The Swell Season with Mark Dignam's band, championed the cowpunk movement as part of the all-girl band The Mustangs (and later reformed the band with her original bandmates), and even played bass on an Ice Cube album. If that sounds like an usual resume for a roots musician, well, that's sort of the point. Holly Montgomery has always called her own shots, and she isn't sorry for any of it.
"When it's my time to go, I'll go down swinging," she insists. "That'll be on my epitaph. I've had my brushes with fame. I've been told by the music industry that I can't do something because I look a certain way or I'm a certain age, but I don't care. I'm gonna do my thing, and if there's an audience to watch me do it, great! I play 300 shows a year, and so far, there's always been an audience."