Singer/songwriter Ricky Montgomery takes us track-by-track through his sophomore album ‘Rick,’ a big, beautifully bold record full of raw emotion and radiant energy.
for fans of Stephen Sanchez, Noah Kahan, Adam Melchor
Stream: “Truth or Dare” – Ricky Montgomery
The cover art for Ricky Montgomery’s sophomore album may appear to show him out-of-focus, but we prefer an alternate interpretation: That he’s slowly coming into view.
Seven years after the release of his debut album, and three years after his music was rediscovered and went viral on TikTok, the singer/songwriter’s full-length return is achingly heartfelt, deeply vulnerable, and – despite such intimate subject matter – big in every way possible. Now signed to a major label (and working with a major pop producer), Montgomery holds nothing back as he gets what so many of his peers never got: A second introduction.
Montgomery folds family, history, hopes, dreams, and more into Rick, a big, beautifully bold record full of raw emotion and radiant energy.
Let’s play truth or dare
Try to act like I don’t care
It’s only show and tell
Just suburban hell
Spinning in this carousel
And laughing at ourselves
Drinking before school again
I hope no one can tell
Released September 29, 2023 via Warner Records, Rick is sun-soaked and soul-stirring: Working together with producer Tommy English (K.Flay, Carly Rae Jepsen, BROODS) as well as Dan Wilson of Semisonic and Jeremy Hatcher (Harry Styles), Ricky Montgomery delves into his own visceral depths and emerges with a candid, compelling, and strikingly catchy artistic voice.
“Rick was a challenging – but ultimately very rewarding – record for me,” Montgomery tells Atwood Magazine. “It began with me being signed to a major label at the apex of a viral TikTok moment at the tail end of 2020 – not exactly a simple time to just be alive, by the way! I suddenly found myself thrust back into a solo project that I hadn’t put effort into for nearly four years, making an album from the ground up (with no tracks finished) in the midst of a global pandemic and possibly the most existentially uncertain time in my country’s history. This album represents the distillation of that exciting, clunky, and scary part of my life.”
“I knew I wanted it to bridge the stylistic gap between my first album and whatever would come next for my music. I had been working on another album for a different music project – The Honeysticks – which was going to sound completely different from the music of mine that people were responding to. I knew that, if I continued down that path, I would risk alienating listeners in a way that I wasn’t interested in. I don’t think the vision “changed” (it wasn’t much of a vision so much as a guiding principle) but it certainly led me down all kinds of unexpected rabbit holes.”
It’s me, baby. It’s Rick. It’s got jokes, it’s got pretty moments, it’s got chaotic moments. It’s Rick! My mom is in it.
Montgomery shares his personality and his stories with a warm, inviting pop singer/songwriter sound akin to current mainstream favorites like Noah Kahan, Stephen Sanchez, and Adam Melchor. Sweet harmonies and irresistible melodies blend together with expressive vocals and emotive self-reflections on identity, belonging, human connection, and personal relationships. The result is a collection of songs that are definitively and inextricably intertwined with Montgomery.
The album’s title, he explains, is named Rick for three reasons.
“Firstly, it is a response to my first album: Montgomery Ricky. It felt right to treat my second album as a sequel to the first album. It was, after all, a literal response to that album’s effect on my life. Rick feels more adult both as a name and, hopefully, sonically.”
“My dad’s name was Rik (spelled R-I-K), and my name is Ricky. I thought I would eventually go by Rick, but I never did. I wasn’t ready for that briefly awkward period of changing your first name into something new. By naming the album “Rick”, I am both gesturing toward my father (whose death is deeply explored at the tail end of the album) and using the album’s name to cosplay that name-change fantasy.”
“Also, it’s a parallel to what I feel is an awkward phase for me in music. I got signed for the first time at 27 (when many of my peers get signed much earlier), and I was still getting used to making music again. Prior to that, I had quit music for a long time after Vine shut down (where my original audience came from). After that app died, it felt like a dream had ended, and it was time to wake up. Somewhere deep in my brain, I “became not-famous again” (not that I had much “fame” to begin with). To go from “having an internet following” to “being a normal person” and then back to “being a major label musician with an album you made back when you had an internet following” was a supremely dizzying experience for me. Rick as a title is intended to compare my awkward career experiences to the awkward experience of changing my name – which, very importantly for the tonal implications of the title, I was never brave enough to follow through with.”
Highlights are aplenty on the journey from the longing-fueled “One Way Mirror” to the uncompromisingly raw, emotionally charged “Black Fins.” Three “interludes” comprised of recordings of his mother describing their late father offers insight into Montgomery’s history and personal life – where he’s from – but it’s in the songs themselves that he tells us who he really is – and who he wants to be. From the unabating yearning of “Sometimes I Need to be Alone” to the unfiltered honesty and dreamy restlessness of “Truth or Dare,” Rick is something of a diary for Ricky Montgomery, aged 30.
“I love all of the songs but today my favorites are ‘Ethan’s Song,’ ‘Paper Towel,’ and ‘Sometimes I Need to Be Alone.’ I’m sure my answer would be different if you asked me yesterday, though. Or tomorrow,” Montgomery says. “My favorite lyric at the moment is the chorus of ‘One Way Mirror’: ‘But why do I feel like a stranger behind a one-way mirror, like someone listening in. I haven’t felt myself since I can’t say when, but I wanna getcha back.‘ That track is first because it’s meant to present the main theme of the album: Losing touch with your own sense of who you are and wanting to get it back.”
Okay, you want the song of the summer
But all of my thoughts are a bummer
And I’m getting older and dumber
Take me upstairs in your pocket
Put me up there in your locket
Wear me around
Take me with you whenever you’re out
Don’t, don’t, don’t hang up
Don’t quit, don’t leave me alone
Still here, still f’ed up
Still miss you when I’m alone
– “In Your Pocket,” Ricky Montgomery
The notion of the blurry album art, and the camera slowly coming into view, makes a lot more sense now.
Rick is a record of self-discovery. It’s Ricky Montgomery’s reintroduction to the world, and he knows it. As such, he takes the opportunity to dive as deep as he can and leave few stones unturned – holding a mirror up to see all the wonderful cracks in his humanity. From the baggage we’re born with to the weight we come to bear along the way, what to the artist is a set of cathartic confessionals, becomes, for listeners, a soothing reminder that life is imperfect, unpredictable, and often unforgiving – but equally exhilarating.
“I hope listeners feel a little closer to me as a person, and that they are able to find songs on this album to love as much as they’ve loved songs from the last one,” Montgomery shares. “As for me, I’m just happy I got to make another album. Being able to participate in music culture is the honor of a lifetime. All I want to do now is go right back into my work – this time with a clearer mind and a cleaner slate.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Ricky Montgomery’s Rick with Atwood Magazine as he goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Rick’ – Ricky Montgomery
:: Inside Rick ::
One Way Mirror
The main theme of the album is established with this song, just like it was with my previous album’s opener, This December. It was one I started writing as an interlude but then these accidentally-vulnerable lyrics poured out of me, and I realized I wanted it to be a full track. One of my favorites at the moment.
A song about being less bitter about all of my little complaints and being more at peace with my life. But that’s too boring – so I made it about sex. I created a character whose love interest doesn’t like them back, but they’re down for a hook up. Instead of being heartbroken, the character is like “oh sick I like that just as much, I’m not sad at all.” It’s a song about gratitude dressed up as an unrequited love fantasy.
Truth or Dare
The verses are real stories from my teen years — I did try that stuff in a basement at a frat house, and the cops really did show up the very moment I tried it. It was like a bad comedy movie scene. At first, I sang those lyrics as filler to be replaced later. But Tommy English – my producer – loves that story and insisted that I keep those lyrics in the final version. So I did.
I’m Just Joking In This Interlude (interlude)
I wanted to have a bunch of interludes on the album, but the deadline was creeping up fast and I still didn’t have any ideas. A few days before everything was due, I got the idea to call my mom and ask her about my dad. They got divorced when I was 3 years old, and I don’t really remember anything about their marriage. So I taped the entire conversation and used some of my favorite moments throughout the album as interludes. The interludes also serve as my first truly self-produced tracks.
In Your Pocket
This one was more of a jam session that became a song. I was sitting in the studio with Tommy English and Jeremy Hatcher (the two producers of the album) and my very impressive friend Dan Wilson (Mr. Closing Time himself). I think we were working on a completely different song, but then Tommy started playing a riff off the top of his head. I thought it was sick and we unanimously decided to write a song with that instead. It’s one of those rare tracks that was completely written in the studio. I usually go home and write lyrics in a dark room where no one can see me being emo.
Don’t Say That
This is just me trying to be LCD Soundsystem, Beck, the B-52s, Trent Reznor, and David Byrne at the same time. I don’t know how well it worked, but I really like this one. It’s in mixolydian – not a big deal.
A song about overcoming patterns of self sabotage and fantasizing about the end of work. Destroy capitalism, baby. It’s hack. We hate it now.
We Got Married Twice (interlude)
As the name says, it’s a story about my mom and dad getting married. Better to listen to this one.
This one was maybe the very first one we tracked for Rick. I had originally started working on it with my friend David Marinelli (aka marinelli) and then we eventually brought it into the studio with Tommy. Jeremy later came on board too and we all finished it together. This is one of the only songs on the album that actually features a live drummer. I was sitting in my house in maybe 2018, wondering why I kept falling for people who didn’t want me. “What do I really want out of a partner?” I asked myself. And so I told myself in the chorus of this song. And you know what? I found it in my current girlfriend by complete coincidence. I wrote the second verse about our lives together post-pandemic.
This one is about old friends that let you down. You grow apart, or maybe you even end up in litigation. You want it to work out, you want to go back to how great your friendship used to be. But it just doesn’t work out.
Sometimes I Need To Be Alone
This one began as an acapella voice memo that I had put into a Dropbox folder and sent to Tommy/Jeremy. That’s why it’s all noisy in the beginning. You can even hear my phone go off in the background (luckily that tone was in the right key). When Tommy showed me that first demo he built from my voice memo, I knew this one was going to be one of my favorites on the record. It’s about being afraid of marriage and the implications of “forever.”
Wrote this one with my friend Ethan Williams in 2012 while we were in college. I’ve wanted to put this one out for over 10 years, and felt like this was the right moment. Ethan and I would jam a lot back then, and planned on starting a band called The Surgery (named after a clinic in England we used to walk past every day at school). Ethan wrote all the lyrics in this one along with the chords (I did all the vocal melodies or “top line”). I thought it would be really exciting to put out a song I didn’t write the lyrics for but that also wasn’t a cover and not a song some fancy pants songwriter pitched for me. There’s a cosmic quality to that song that I haven’t ever been able to forget.
A song about my father’s suicide in Mexico is 2009. There’s a music video that explores this in more thorough detail. A very important song for me to write, and I am deeply proud of myself for finally doing it.
Ribbons, it is.
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© Haley Appell
:: Stream Ricky Montgomery ::