I am very honored on this Golden Globe day to speak with nominee Monty Powell whose song “For You” with Keith Urban from the film Act of Valor is up for Best Original Song. I grabbed a few minutes with him this morning before he and Keith begin their long walk down the Golden Globes red carpet. After chatting with Keith before his arduous throat surgery in 2011, I was thrilled to be speaking with the other half of this creative duo. Powell is best known for his writing collaborations with Urban, Lady Antebellum and Lee Ann Womack to name a few, and “For You” was also nominated for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award this year. This song is a powerful tribute to all of the brave soldiers fighting overseas. And Monty shared with me his thoughts on winning, the troops and working with Urban for the last seventeen years.
RCR: Congrats on your Golden Globes nomination. How are you feeling?
MP: Really relaxed. I have to say I am not really nervous. Also, being nominated for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award kind of shook my nerves out.
RCR: How did your nominated song “For You” come about?
MP: The movie, Act of Valor, presented a very groundbreaking concept of having active duty Navy Seals as actors. The producers were looking for a song that would deliver the underlying message of the film. And they reached out to Keith Urban and showed him a rough cut of the movie. Then he called me in the next 24 hours, as I have been his main co-writer for the past 17 years, and I saw the rough cut too and we wrote “For You.” The song was truly inspired by the film.
RCR: What is like to have been working with Keith for the last 17 years?
MP: He has a comfort zone with me. He can pick up the phone and say ‘We have to write a song this week!’ or ‘We have to cut a record in 10 days.’ He is awesome. He is a creative person and an artist through and through. At the end of the day, he is a guitar player and a songwriter.
RCR: And what is something people may not know about him?
MP: He gets terribly low blood sugar during the day. So he has to go to Wendy’s and order a double chicken sandwich with cheese! Here’s the deal with Keith. At 10 o’clock AM when we are writing a song, it’s awesome! At 1:30 pm, it’s the worst piece of shit that he has ever heard in his whole life. Then, we go to Wendy’s, get the double chicken sandwich with cheese and get his blood sugar back up, and then at 3PM, the same song that was great a 10AM, horrible at 1:30 PM, is now great again. And the song has never changed during this process. Only his need for a chicken sandwich has changed!
RCR: What is your favorite song that you have ever written?
MP: A song called “Joy” on my brand-new album “47 Minutes of Your Time,” which drops on iTunes on February 5th. It’s my first record as a singer, and it’s the record that I have always wanted to make. My mom was ill with cancer all last summer and she passed away in September. Her name was Joy. And I wrote this song for her and we played it at her funeral.
RCR: Wow, that is really emotional. Was it a challenge to write a song like that?
MP: It was so emotional, but so easy to write. It was all right there in front of me. It was one of those times as a songwriter that I didn’t have to struggle at all.
RCR: What inspires you to write songs?
MP: My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and he said, “A writer is always writing for one person.” And I think I was always writing for my Mom.
RCR: What are you working on next?
MP: Since being in LA, I have been taking lots of meetings. My music publishing company, Olay, set me up with a meeting at American Idol, where Keith is also a judge. I am talking to them about aligning with and mentoring some of the contestants on show. It will swirl around what Keith is doing there too. There is a real disconnect between these kids winning the show and thrusting them into the media spotlight. It is important for them to facilitate who they want to be 15 years from now, and not 15 minutes from now. We are talking about going in to help the contestants develop their artistry and songwriting so they can navigate the larger world once Idol is over.
RCR: And now the burning question. What will you be wearing today?
MP: I am wearing a Robert Graham tux jacket, an eggplant colored shirt and bow tie, and my glasses are plum, so I am going with a purple them today. I have been wearing their clothes for red carpet events for some time now and they are a fantastic company. They sent me some things to wear out here. The funny thing is, when the shipment arrived to my hotel, the box was wrongly delivered to a porn convention on the second floor! After several angry phone calls, the hotel searched and found my orphaned box of clothing!
RCR: How do you think the troops will feel if y’all win tonight?
MP: I think it will be a huge shout-out to them. I would like to win to be able to shine for those folks. We hear about their lifestyle and struggle and the sacrifices they make all the time. It’s amazing. And they have really embraced “For You” in capturing who they really are and for that, I am really proud.
RCR: How will you celebrate tonight if you win?
MP: My wife, jazz singer and songwriter Anna Wilson, is insisting that we go to the InStyle/Warner Bros. party because InStyle is the only magazine that she subscribes to! So we have to make an appearance there. If we end up somewhere in a corner table with Keith and get to enjoy a win, that will be really awesome.
Best of luck, Team Urban/Powell. We are rooting for you!