Sunday, May 19, ArtRat Gallery hosts this month’s second concert in its roots music series curated by The Stableford AgencyAmericana Sundays: An Afternoon With Monte Pride runs 3-5pm at 46 Division Ave. S in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. (Admission $15; tickets available from Eventbrite.)

 

Monte Pride is a Michigan-born and -based singer-songwriter and fingerstyle guitarist whose music recalls the delicate vocals of Simon & Garfunkel, with guitar-work reminiscent of The Tallest Man On Earth and early Joni Mitchell. Paired with electric, ambient soundscapes, he blends haunting melodies with vivid lyricism to create lush, experimental folk songs. 

Ahead of his set, ArtRat asked him about his process and his collaborations across Michigan. 

Who are some of the musicians who made you want to write and perform your own songs? Did you learn to play guitar so you could write, or did you start writing once you could write? 

Monte Pride seated outdoors with guitar.

Early on, my main influences in songwriting and guitar were The Tallest Man On Earth and Paul Simon. At one point I could nearly play The Tallest Man On Earth’s entire catalog, learning of alternate tunings and picking patterns through it. I was also inspired by local band Mystic Shake when I was very young, attending tons of their shows and getting my first guitar lesson from their frontman, Ben Hassenger. Ben also served as a great mentor as I began performing and recording/releasing my own music in late high school / early college.

I started writing songs after I had been playing guitar and singing for a few years. I sang in choir in high school, started by learning covers from YouTube tutorials my junior year, performed in a few school and local talent shows, and small local venues in the years following, then started performing across the state in the first few years of college as I began releasing original music.

Your 2020 album, "Even in Absence," features performances by a wealth of musicians from across Michigan. What's your collaborative process? How do you like to work with others on arrangement of songs?

 

I like to give minimal direction in the studio when collaborating with session players. When I hire someone to contribute to a song, I do so because I admire their unique style and think it would add to the tune or overall project. When it comes down to the actual recording session, I trust their instincts and try to stay out of their way, only giving occasional ideas if it feels like direction is needed.

 

I’ve never provided or worked out specific arrangements with session players, always letting them add to songs without parameters. Occasionally, I’ve worked with the recording engineers in the mixing process to create “arrangements” later on, pulling from different takes or omitting sections of an overdub if necessary.

I’ve also been working on a new album in the last 6 months or so. This project is a bit different from “Even in Absence.” I tracked all songs live, mostly on electric guitar, recording main guitar parts and vocals in one take. I went over a handful of them with ambient guitar overdubs, but that’s the extent of the tracking. It was a fun change to keep things simple this time around, playing all parts of the album myself.  

How would you describe the Michigan music scene, both socially and in terms of influences? 

I’ve always found the Michigan music scene to be supportive and collaborative. There are so many gifted songwriters, musicians, artists pursuing their work in our state.

What do you like best about performing in Grand Rapids? 

I’ve always enjoyed performing in Grand Rapids —it’s a great city! I’ve met a handful of local GR artists and other fans over the years who are supportive of my work; it’s nice to know that I’ll usually see a familiar face or two when performing in the area. I can’t wait to make my ArtRat Gallery debut this weekend and look forward to connecting with the community that’s been built there.

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