An ace to the Austin music scene, Monte Warden has been performing
at local honky-tonks since he was just 15 years old.
Over the last four decades, Monte Warden and his songs have inspired the diverse Austin musical landscape as much as it has influenced him. From the critically-acclaimed country band The Wagoneers to his wildly successful career as a songwriter (including writing for legends like George Strait), Warden’s unique sound has led him on an impressive journey that, in his words, “could only have come from being an artist from Austin.”
The Wagoneers are known to have influenced other artists and helped lay the foundation for the emerging Americana and alt-country movement of the ‘90s. Including the bands with which Warden played as a solo artist, The Wagoneers shared the stage with prominent diverse acts, including headliners like Willie Nelson, Radney Foster, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Miranda Lambert.
Warden’s latest project, “Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few,” was recorded live in just two days. The Dangerous Few is made up of Mas Palermo on drums, Erik Telford on horns, Brent Wilson (of The Wagoneers) on bass and T. Jarrod Bonta on piano.
We chatted with this multi-million-selling songwriter ahead of the upcoming album, set to release June 19th.
What was it like for you growing up in Texas?
My family first arrived in Texas (on my dad’s side) in 1832 from Tennessee. I had an ancestor fight at the Siege of Bexar and seven ancestors fought at the battle of San Jacinto. I am a seventh generation Texan and, growing up, scarcely a day went by when I was not reminded of that fact. I find myself daily reminding my sons that they are eighth generation Texans!
The Wagoneers are known to have influenced other artists and helped lay the foundation for the emerging Americana and alt-country movement of the ‘90s. What are your musical influences?
I never would have picked up a guitar when I was eleven years old if not for Buddy Holly. As my musical palette expanded, I found myself moved and influenced by Elvis, Sinatra, The Everly Brothers, Dean Martin, Mahalia Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Lefty Frizzell, Rank and File, and the songwriting of Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn.
Talk about how the entire new album was cut live in just two days.
This album could only have been recorded live, anything less would have been inauthentic to the sound and vision I had for the project. Having said that, the band had to have the chops and skills (they did), the production team had to be onboard with my insistence that we were all in one room recording live (they were), and I had to be able to pick and sing in time and in tune. No tuning, fixes or overdubs.
You’ve said your music is “martini music.” What did you mean?
Our vision for the project was for the songs, sounds and art to evoke the playfulness, optimism and sexiness of midcentury modern. The album is as sophisticated and urbane as it is fun and lively, much like the swingin’ cocktail parties of the ‘60s that exist in our mind’s eye.
How would you describe the sound of your new album?
The anchor of the project is the strength of the songwriting. I definitely wanted to harken back to the era from the ‘40s to the ‘60s that stressed the quality of the song. And, yes, there is definitely a jazz flavor throughout, but the album certainly has a much grittier and rootsier flavor than any other Trad-Pop I’ve ever heard. I feel that unique sound could only have come from being an artist from Austin, where our audiences have a long history of allowing artists the freedom to explore music beyond any previously-existing boundaries – only insisting that the new sound be one of quality, integrity and authenticity.
If you had one message to give your fans, what would it be?
The same message I try to follow everyday. It’s from cut five on side one: ‘Find the joy in everything you do.’
Be sure to tune into the “Monte Warden Feel Good Hour” every Friday at 7pm Central
Cover photo Matt Sturtevant
Leean Vargas is an Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.