Ray LaMontagne, the soft-spoken folksinger from New Hampshire, certainly seems like an odd candidate for success in today's music industry. He rarely gives interviews, considers the spotlight to be so abhorrent that he often performs from the side of the stage, and was well into his 20s before he even considered songwriting as a vocation. As if that weren't enough, LaMontagne chooses to ignore his growing celebrity, living in a farmhouse in the remote hills of Western Massachusetts. And, in contrast to many flagrantly public musical celebrities from which he has emerged, LaMontagne offers absolutely no chutzpah—no dresses made of red meat, a la Ms. Gaga.
Yet time after time, his songs and albums have continued to soar above his reclusive person, enjoying unusual success in a genre that has long since faded from the mainstream music market. He emerged onto the national music scene in 2004 with his debut album, Trouble, attracting attention both with his beautifully crafted songs and his raspy, mesmerizing voice. Working with producer Ethan Johns, LaMontagne then produced two more albums, Till The Sun Turns Black (2006) and Gossip in the Grain (2008). Both have sold over a quarter million copies, and many of the songs have been featured in television shows and major feature films.
Despite these achievements, LaMontagne still presents a perplexing marketing challenge to the corporate music world, and when he delivered his most recent album, God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, to the A&R executives at RCA, their response was decidedly negative. They told LaMontagne—who had produced the album himself—that it did not harbor even one single worth promoting, and instructed him to return to the studio to keep on trying. But LaMontagne, however introspective and quiet though he may be, would not be tossed around so easily.