Raymond Charles "Ray" LaMontagne (pronounced ) (born June 18, 1974) is an American singer-songwriter who lives on a farm in Maine with his wife and two sons. Reportedly, after hearing a Stephen Stills song, LaMontagne decided to quit his job at a shoe factory and pursue a career in music. He has since released three albums, Trouble, Till the Sun Turns Black and Gossip in the Grain. In the UK, Trouble was a top 5 hit, and the title track of the album was a top 25 hit. Till the Sun Turns Black was a top 40 hit in the U.S. A soft-spoken person who is known for his raspy voice, LaMontagne has won a number of awards for his music and has performed at several charity events.
Ray LaMontagne was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1974 to a constantly traveling mother and a violent musician father who abandoned the family during Ray's childhood. Because of his father's background in music, LaMontagne refrained from most musical activity, instead spending much of his time reading fantasy novels in the forest. LaMontagne attended high school at Morgan High School in Morgan, Utah, but frequently ditched class, wrote stories, or got into fights with other students. As a result of these interactions, his grades were poor ? LaMontagne struggled to graduate. After graduation, LaMontagne moved away from his family to Lewiston, Maine in order to find a full-time job.
LaMontagne found a job at a shoe factory in Lewiston where he worked 65 hours a week. One morning at 4 a.m., LaMontagne heard Stephen Stills' song "Treetop Flyer" on the radio as it awoke him for an early work shift. After purchasing the Stills Alone album, LaMontagne decided that he wanted to quit his job at the shoe factory and start a career as a singer-songwriter. LaMontagne began touring in 1999, although he maintained a side job as a carpenter. In the summer of 1999, LaMontagne amassed 10 songs for a demo that he sent to various local music venues. Mike Miclon the owner of Buckfield Maine's Oddfellow Theater heard the demo and invited LaMontagne to open for folk acts such as John Gorka and Jonathan Edwards. A friend and business executive heard LaMontagne's recordings and introduced him to Jamie Ceretta of Chrysalis Music Publishing. CMP recorded his first album, and sold it to RCA Records in the US and Echo Records in the UK. In 2008, LaMontagne moved into a farmhouse in Phillips, Maine that once belonged to author Norman Mailer.
In a period of two weeks, LaMontagne re-recorded Trouble at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, California with producer Ethan Johns. RCA Records released the album on , 2004. The album featured performances by Nickel Creek violinist Sara Watkins on two tracks, along with Alex Davids and Stephen Stills's daughter Jennifer Stills on another. In the US, the album reached a low peak of #189 on the Billboard 200, but sold over 250,000 copies. Trouble has sold over 400,000 copies worldwide.
During a tour to promote the album, LaMontagne played six songs for an episode of Austin City Limits, which first aired on October 29, 2005. On the third week of finals in the fifth season of American Idol, eventual winner Taylor Hicks performed "Trouble". Chris Sligh, an American Idol Season 6 Top-12 finalist, also performed the tune to rave reviews from the judges. An EP of LaMontagne's performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival was released on , 2005. "Trouble", "All the Wild Horses", and "Burn" have been used as background music for the TV show Rescue Me. "All the Wild Horses" was featured on the show's soundtrack, which was released on May 9, 2006. In 2006, "Trouble" became a top 40 hit in the UK, and the album peaked at #5 in that country. LaMontagne performed on Top of the Pops on June 18, 2006. He received additional national exposure in the US in 2009, when the title track from Trouble was featured in a Travelers Insurance commercial on network television.
Till the Sun Turns Black
LaMontagne's second album, Till the Sun Turns Black, was released , 2006 in the US. Also produced by Ethan Johns, the album featured more instrumentation than Trouble, including the use of a horn section and string section on several of the songs. Singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata provided background vocals on the song "Barfly." The album peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling 28,000 copies in its first week of release. The album also sold enough copies to be a top three heatseeker album in New Zealand.
According to his website, the first single from the album was "Three More Days". LaMontagne performed on The Tonight Show on October 6, 2006 to promote the album. His song "Till the Sun Turns Black" was featured on the television show "ER", and his songs "Lesson Learned" and "Within You" have been used on the CW drama "One Tree Hill". "Be Here Now" was also used in the official trailer for Away From Her, and was featured in 27 Dresses and an episode of Bones. "Empty" was used in the last episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent's 6th season, "Renewal." Ray LaMontagne recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road in October 2006. He shared his episode with Shawn Colvin, Nerina Pallot and The Zutons.
Gossip in the Grain
LaMontagne released his third studio album, Gossip in the Grain, on , 2008 on RCA Records, and it achieved his highest-ever debut on the Billboard Charts at #3, with over 60,000 units sold. Working again with producer Ethan Johns, the album also featured LaMontagne's touring band: Jennifer Condos on bass, Eric Heywood on guitar, and Ethan Johns on drums. The opening act on much of his 2008 US Tour, fellow singer/songwriter Leona Naess, guests on three songs: "I Still Care for You", "A Falling Through", and "Gossip in the Grain". LaMontagne also announced a series of New England dates to start off his US tour in support of the album. The song "You Are the Best Thing" was featured in the movie I Love You, Man. He also performed the song live as musical guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live on March 7, 2009.
Composition and performance
LaMontagne is particularly known for his raspy voice, which he says he learned by singing through his gut and not his nose. LaMontagne stated that he is highly influenced by Stephen Stills, Richard Manuel, and Rick Danko. Critics have compared LaMontagne's music to that of The Band, Van Morrison, Nick Drake, and Tim Buckley. LaMontagne refers to himself as a "very private person", and rarely gives interviews. He also usually does not interact much with the audience between songs during his live shows and has been known to perform in the dark to separate himself from the audience.
In 2005, he performed at "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy", a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The concert was held at the Radio City Music Hall on , 2005, and also featured Dave Matthews, John Mayer, and Simon & Garfunkel among others. LaMontagne also played at the "Warren Haynes Christmas Jam" that year on , 2005. The concert raised funds for Habitat for Humanity in Asheville, North Carolina. LaMontagne performed at KYSR's Lounge for Life charity concert on October 5, 2006 at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, California. He also auctioned off one of his guitars on eBay for its charity auction. Funds raised from the concert and auction went to breast cancer research.
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Ray LaMontagne