10 Questions with ... Monta Vaden
July 20, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Born and raised in LaVergne, TN and moved to Maryville, TN in my teens. Earned a certification in Event Planning and attended the University of Tennessee -- GO VOLS! Seven years in Bridal Consulting/Wedding Planning ended when then-Journal GM Bill Berry discovered me, and I found a home in radio. Four wonderful years at Journal Knoxville (WCYQ/WWST/WKHT/WNOX) came to a close when I decided to move back home earlier this year. I've held several non-industry jobs between careers, but excited to be back in the Country music world with All Access.
1) Monta- You're the newest member of the All Access family. Welcome! You came to us from Journal Country WCYQ/Knoxville. Did you always know you wanted to work in music?
No! I tried on a lot of hats before I found radio and the music business. Growing up, I wanted to either write for a newspaper or teach high school English. I got a harsh dose of reality in college when I figured out that newspapers are a dying "art," and teaching is really just politics in disguise. I've always loved music, but never knew there would be a career to be made of it, as I learned early on that guitar was not my best instrument. All Access is the most beautiful combination of music and writing I could have dreamed up, I'm stoked to be here!
2) You grew up in the Nashville area. Nashville now seems to be the "it" city. How do you feel about its extreme growth over the past few years?
Overwhelmed! I left the area before I had my drivers' license, so finding my way around since moving back has been quite the adventure! When I lived in East Tennessee, I came "home" a lot, but only for weekend trips. I was constantly amazed at how much changed from one month to the next, but I didn't realize the full scope of the changes until I started exploring the city when I moved back. What a cool time to live in Nashville. If any of y'all have great restaurant recommendations, bring them on!
3) Speaking of growing up in the Nashville area, a lot of people from here don't really like Country music because they claim to they were around it TOO much. However, it's a big passion of yours. What attracts you to the format?
Let me start by saying that I love all music. Music in general is a passion of mine. But I feel like Country tells a story that other formats don't. Life in a small town, and in the South in general, has its own feel. We walk a little slower, talk with a bit more twang, and feel love for different things than you find elsewhere. Ask a rock legend when he last wrote a song about the bonfire he and his friends had the other night -- doubt he'll find one in his catalog! Country is a state of mind, and I love the meaning it brings with each song. I'm a huge fan of songs that tell a story. Country delivers.
4) At WCYQ, you wore a lot of different hats. What was your favorite "hat" to put on in the radio world, and why? Promotions, On-air, Social Media, etc?
I wasn't an on-air gal. I did the typical commercial cuts and things that everyone in the office got drafted for, but I am not a fan of my own voice, so on-air would never have been the lane for me. I started as a Sales Assistant, and I worked my way up from there. I loved everything about radio! But I'm definitely a people person, so I really enjoyed assisting the management team at Journal. We had a fabulous set of Department Heads over there! Chris Protzman is a killer GM with a lot of passion for radio. Dan McKee and Ben McWhorter are Sales Management gurus who can get an entire room amped up. We had several great Promotions Directors during my tenure there, and Journal always took it to the streets hard. I love that about them -- never afraid to get out in front of a crowd. Our programming staff was killer. Rich Bailey has been OM there for many years and really understands the market. Darren Stephens was the PD at WKHT when I started over there, and he would let me sit in the control room with him while he did his shift. I learned a lot from him about programming, scheduling music, and working with labels. Joey Tack has since become PD of that station, and I couldn't be happier for him -- he and I have a lot in common, including our love of Garth Brooks. There were a lot of amazing on-air people in that cluster, and they all were so welcoming to me. Some of them are still my closest friends. When WCYQ was launched, Paul Orr was the man at the helm, and when we lost him to a stint at WZZK in Birmingham, we thought we'd never be able to top him. But fate swung Journal's way, and we landed Mike Hammond as PD for WCYQ, and that was huge. Mike Hammond is a legend, and I learned a lot from the way he handled business and dealt with people. All in all, I know this was a really long answer, but "in short," working with the people at Journal was my absolute favorite part. I wouldn't be here if I hadn't been there.
5) Speaking of working alongside the great Mike Hammond, what are some pointers he gave you that you'll never forget?
Smile and shake hands. Watching Mike Hammond work is really something to see. He never forgets a name or a face. He knows this business better than most people; he's been around it his entire life, and yet he can still recall every interaction he's had with someone. It's remarkable. He taught me to speak my mind, be bold, and listen to other people's thoughts and opinions. He never told anyone in the building that their idea wasn't good. He would gladly sit down with anyone and let them share their thoughts. I think for a man with as many awards and accolades as Mike Hammond, being open to the ideas of anyone and everyone is a remarkable trait. And he has fun. You can tell that he loves the format, he loves what he does, and he loves people. I talked to him before I left Journal, and he advised me to always do what I love. If I am not having fun, and if I don't absolutely love what I'm doing, then it's not the right gig for me. I kept that in mind, and that's why I came to All Access.
6) You've seen a lot of concerts over the years. Who are some artists that are on your bucket list to see that you haven't yet?
Right now, the focus is all on Garth. I've seen him dozens of times, but this upcoming tour is going to be insane, and I hope to hit at least three cities. But, as for people I've never seen, I do have a few still on the list of Country acts. I really love live music, and I try to go to a good number of shows each year, but there is always an ever-evolving bucket list of shows! Reba McEntire and Randy Travis are on my list of all-time greats that I've not had the chance to catch live. I grew up with their music. Kenny Chesney is on there, too. One of my great lifelong regrets is not getting to see his show at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville back in 2003. I'm glad he's making a big comeback. Hopefully I can catch him next time out. As for the current guys, I'd say Keith Urban. And I'd love to see Blake Shelton live. I'd also love to grab a drink with him. Who wouldn't, though, right? He came through Knoxville last September, but I already had tickets to see John Mayer in Atlanta that night. If you know me, you know about my John Mayer love. It's a whole different level of crazy. But I do regret missing that Blake Shelton show. And currently, I'm on a mission to catch Eric Church live. He's one of the artists I really admire out there right now. I love his sound, and his whole persona reminds me of the Outlaw Country my grandmother raised me on with her vinyl album collection. #TeamCashAndWaylon
7) Who are some new artists out there right now that have really caught your attention?
You know, there are a lot of really great young artists out right now! I love tuning in to radio and hearing these fresh voices bursting through. I'm a big fan of Charlie Worsham. I've had the pleasure of seeing him live, and he's just impressive. He reminds me of a Marty Stuart, who plays shows, puts out albums, and is happy to make music. Charlie is that guy right now. I hope he makes it big, but I have no doubt he'll still be making music decades from now. I'm also a little bit in love with Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett. And I think Sam Hunt is one to watch, just based on the fact that with one single on the radio, he managed to pack out the recent WSIX show at Opry Mills -- like, couldn't get to the show, because they had to cut off people coming in based on the fire marshall. Something's happening there, and I hope we radio folk take notice. On the ladies' side of things, I just love Kacey Musgraves. I think that's a fairly common sentiment in the industry right now, though. She's real, and she's raw, and she's just talented. I'm excited to see what she turns out on her sophomore release. And I'm kicking myself for accidentally deleting her CMT Crossroads special with Katy Perry off of my DVR. That one deserves a re-watch. But, seriously, there are a ton of great artists out right now. It's a great time to be in Country music!
8) There's a battle between "Bro-Country" and "Bra-Country" right now. Which do you prefer and why?
Neither. Here's why. I don't like labels on music. I don't label my own music. If it speaks to me, it speaks to me. Whether it's telling me to get up and dance, love a little deeper, or enjoy my weekend ... if I like it, I like it. I don't label people, so I won't label my music. I like all the above, but I hate the terms "Bro-Country" and "Bra-Country."
9) When working at WCYQ, you probably saw a lot of artists come through. Was there an artist or group that came by that really caught your attention? Tell us about that experience.
It goes back to what I was saying earlier about Charlie Worsham. That guy came in and just blew me away. He didn't have a single out yet, and just came in with a guitar and played for us. It was one of those artist visits you don't forget, because he was just that good. I remember telling him I felt like I was listening to the musical love child of Vince Gill and Keith Urban. Another visit I really enjoyed was when Love and Theft came through. Those guys are just too much fun! It was right at the start of the Harlem Shake phase, and we did a video with them where we were wearing these goofy Christmas costumes and they did the Harlem Shake with our entire staff. They were so much fun, and really nice guys. I still have a little bit of a crush on "Love" after meeting them that day. Sweet boys.
10) We recently saw a picture of a younger you dressed as Garth Brooks. Out of all of Garth's songs, which is your favorite and why?
Picking a favorite Garth song is like tiny torture! As a couple of friends and I say, we are "Troyal Loyal." We have even used that as a hashtag on Twitter for a couple years now. I wish I were kidding about that. HA! I really love "That Summer," and I don't know that there's a reason why. I've loved it since it came out, and my younger brother absolutely hates it now, because I've played it so much. Another favorite is, of course, "Ain't Goin' Down Til the Sun Comes Up." I remember having August 31, 1993 circled on my calendar for months because "In Pieces" came out that day. I had my grandmother take me to Walmart at midnight to buy the cassette -- because that's what you did in the 90s -and I listened to that track over and over again for two days to memorize all the words. It's still a friendship test to this day; if you don't know the words to "Ain't Goin' Down Til the Sun Comes Up," we aren't really best friends. Live, you just can't top "Callin' Baton Rouge" or "Friends In Low Places." So much energy in both of those. A personal anthem will always be "She's Gonna Make It." It makes me keep pushing. And, anything Garth and Trisha sing together is perfection. I totally slay Garth's part of "In Another's Eyes" when I'm in the car alone, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Also, special shout-out to "The Dance" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes," because they were my grandmother's favorite Garth songs. They've always made me cry, but they're even more special to me now. Seriously, though, I'd have an easier time picking a least favorite Garth song (I'd pick "Wolves" from the "No Fences" album. I just never got that song. Probably because I was way too young at the time. Maybe I should go back and re-listen? Or maybe Garth can just call me and explain it to me?) than picking a favorite... or even a top 20. They're really all my favorites!
Any artist, dead or alive, called us and said they wanted to stop by the office for a visit. Who would you want it to be?
This is a trick question, so I'm going to give a trick answer. There are two artists that I'd sell arms, legs, and kidneys to meet. Clearly, one is Garth Brooks. Did you see me just ramble on there about him? Yup. Garth. But the other is definitely John Mayer. I've followed John Mayer's career since 2000, and I've never missed a tour. I devour his music as soon as it comes out, and I hold him in a place with Garth, high above all other artists. Mayer's music came in to my life right around the time that Garth retired, so it's almost like I filled the void with the other one. I've seen both of them live well over a dozen times, but that wouldn't stop me from seeing them a few dozen more each. I promise you that I could go two full months or more wearing nothing but Garth Brooks and John Mayer shirts without ever repeating an outfit. The amount of respect I have for both of those men's artistry is through the roof, and it would be an absolute honor to meet either of them some day. Oh, wait...Jimmy Fallon is signed over at Warner, right? Do we consider Jimmy Fallon an artist, because, if so...make that three people...