Journey Montana 2024 2

Journey Montana is a name we only recently became familiar with, but it is one that we wish we had heard much sooner. We were first introduced to the Harlem Native’s pleasant fresh vocal tone through her single “Jack”, which was released in October of last year. After attending the release party for her Sophomore EP ‘Stargirl’ and hearing each of the 8 tracks, we knew we wanted to dive deeper into her world. Journey is a skilled writer, a singer who puts effort into her background vocals and harmonies, and an artist who cares deeply about her craft – all qualities that we love in upcoming R&B artists. Songs like “Cry Baby” , “Only Have Eyes For You” and “Undefeated” with Eric Bellinger are a great showcase of the time and work Journey has been putting into her music. We are excited for you to get to know her and, of course, enjoy the music like we did.

We spoke to Journey about working with Eric Bellinger, the artists that inspired her sound, the making of ‘Stargirl’ and much more.

YouKnowIGotSoul: This is the first time that I’ve met an artist before I interviewed them, so I kind of heard a little bit of your story and about each song on ‘Stargirl’ already. I want all of our audience to also hear those stories, but for now just tell me a little bit about your past and name some albums or artists that inspired you, your sound and who you are.

Journey Montana: I grew up on a lot of Gospel music like Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, stuff like that. When I was young my family was very religious, so that was most of the music I would listen to. As a baby, my first memory is music. It expanded into Beyoncé. I would hear her around the house, Fantasia, Ne-Yo, Jordan Sparks, Chris Brown, things like that. I had two older sisters also, so they were obsessed with Chris Brown. I really kind of got my first taste of music from my older sister, just stealing her playlist because I didn’t know how to make my own. So she was listening to a lot of Drake, The Weeknd, and PartyNextDoor when they first came out. She was into alternative R&B. I think that really rubbed off on me for being my first “cool music”, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like what I was used to, like gospely and singey, it was cool. I remember the first album that I really downloaded was Drake. When I really kind of got curious about music I wanted to learn more about women singers. I really dove into the R&B space and learned about who’s what. I found my way to Etta James and it changed my life. I was like, who is this woman? She’s amazing, so my first obsession was Etta James. I love her to this day. I covered every single song she ever dropped. I was obsessed with Drake too. He was the first album that I listened to completely. I started doing covers when I started singing online that really played a big part in my music taste and who I was influenced by because I was always trying to find songs to sing. I related to them a lot and I sounded like them. SZA … I have also covered every single song on her CTRL project. I love her. I even remember being obsessed with J Cole’s album around that time. I think I’m just like a mixture of everything that I’ve kind of digested. I feel like everything’s played its part

YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell me about your journey from making covers to putting out this project, ‘Stargirl’.

Journey Montana: I’ve been doing covers since I started Instagram … Facebook really. I was really doing skits and acting stuff on Facebook and then I went over to Instagram to do covers. I did them for years. It was kind of my second nature. Come home from school, do a cover. Come from school, sing. I just did that for about like four or five years all through middle school. When I got to high school, there was this girl group that reached out to me in Atlanta. They wanted me to replace one of the girls. I became the lead in the girl group when I was like 13 or 14. It was a lot because the girls were older than me. They were like 17, 18. I had never really recorded a song before in the studio, but as soon as I got comfortable doing that, I kind of took over with the writing and I wrote a lot of the music. We as a group got reached out to by this situation with Streamcut, so we were with them for a while. They kind of pulled me out to write for other artists that were signed to them. I was doing that for maybe like two years – writing for the artists on the label outside of the group. Then my manager found me and I started getting my own sessions. At first I was working with a lot of writers, too many writers. I got to a point where I had to find my voice. So I was like, no more writers until I figure out what I want to sound like, you know what I mean? Because I was really young, so I would get brushed off easily or I didn’t have the nerve to say what I was really thinking. I found myself making songs that I didn’t want to make a lot of the time. Senior year, I moved back to New York (because I was in Atlanta for high school) and then I dropped my first song. My senior year of high school during COVID. I shot the music video a week before everything shut down. We were in the car leaving the music video and they were like,”Oh look at what’s happening”. I was like, it’ll be over in a week just like Ebola. That was literally the day we were looking at the COVID stuff. So, that was when I first really kind of got into it. Ever since then we have just been going full force. ‘In and Out’ was a moment too. After that I want to really massage my next project. I spent about a year and a half working on ‘Stargirl’, from the nucleus of it. It took me a while to put all the pieces together, but overall I have been working on this project for a while. I signed with my label this year. That’s been an amazing journey in and of itself. I’m skipping over things, but I got new management and then new people on my team. “Bad Decisions” went crazy. it’s just been a great journey and I’m really grateful for everybody around me.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s hop into a few of the songs on ‘Stargirl’. One that I want to talk about instantly is “Only Have Eyes for You”. I know that’s your grandma’s favorite song and that it was inspired by a TV show, so explain a little bit about that.

Journey Montana: “Only Have Eyes For You”, is one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. I wrote it based off of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is one of my favorite shows. I’ve been watching it since I was like six years old, even when I wasn’t supposed to. I still watch it to this day. It’s like a comfort show. One of my favorite episodes is called “Only Have Eyes For You”. Basically the main character is going through it with her man. He’s a vampire, and she’s a vampire slayer. Basically this thing happens where he loses his soul after they do the deed. He’s now the bad guy and he’s trying to kill her. In the episode, they get possessed by these two spirits that were in love and had a tragic death where he shot the woman. Basically, they’re living in a tragedy, but they get possessed by another tragedy. In the end, the ghosts that possess them are able to have closure and have a moment dancing to the song “Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos. The whole episode is just so heart warming, so I was inspired. I went to the studio and I was like, “Give me the emptiest, most old school record playing sound and track you can make”. Originally it had a lot more stuff in it. I took everything out. I went in there and I just recorded it. I didn’t do any stacks or any crazy harmonies. I wanted it to feel very like me and a mic just vibing, you know? I wanted a love song. I’m not really big on love songs, but I wanted one. I played it for my grandmother when I got home from the studio and she loved it. She played it like 10 times. My grandfather recently passed away, so she was saying it reminded her of him and it was really nice. She would always ask me about it, like “when’s that song coming out?”. She called her friends and told her friends about it, so it just became like a thing for me. She said it feels very old school, which I love that she said because somebody our age could say that and it’s like, okay, but she actually listens to that music. Her saying it’s old school was like a whole different level. So yeah, love that song. I feel like it’s a lot of people’s favorite song.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Another song that I know means a lot to you is “Undefeated” with Eric Bellinger. Give me a little bit about the story behind that collaboration and what you learned from working with him.

Journey Montana: That whole thing is just synergy, manifestation, the right vibes and the right track type thing. Everything just fell into place for that. “Undefeated” is the first song that I wrote for the project. I have been sitting on it for a while and I knew I wanted to put somebody on it, but I couldn’t find the right person. My manager was suggesting this person and that person for about six, seven months. I was like, “no, no, no, no. It just doesn’t make sense”. I knew how strong the song was. I didn’t write a second verse, and it’s very rare that I don’t write second verses. Like I said, I don’t leave the booth until the song is finished, so if I don’t write a second verse that’s for a reason. My manager also manages Eric, and we were kind of newly working together. Me and Eric had just met because we had a writing session together. We wrote together, which was absolutely amazing. It was a song for me, but it was amazing to work with somebody so talented. I was just in there soaking up everything I could. I was like, how do you work? How do you write? What is going on? He’s such a nice guy. Anyways, we were trying to figure out the feature. My manager’s like, what if I see if Eric can hop on it? I was like, “Yeah, okay. Sure.” He sends it and then the next day he sends back Eric’s verse. I was like,”Oh my God”. He did it fast too. So I hit Eric and he’s like, thank you so much. We weren’t even planning on doing a music video, he just happened to be in town. I was already planning on shooting a music video that day. Then he hits me that he’s in town and I was like, “f*** that song! We’re doing this song.” Eric pulled up and we shot the music video in two hours, right before he had to get on his flight. It all fell into place. It just made sense and I’m so happy. Shout out to him. I love how the song turned out. I feel like he just elevated it, made it nostalgic and made it a hit. I can’t wait for more people to see it and listen to it.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Yeah, it’s a great song. Pure R&B, honestly. Your voices both complement each other so well on it too. You got all the harmonies and the backgrounds going …

Journey Montana: It’s so funny, when he sent back his verse he went crazy with the ad libs and the backgrounds. I didn’t have any of that on there. I was like “oh hell no! Put me back in the studio tomorrow, we about to figure this out” *laughs*. I had to go back in, cause I was like, he not about to be doing me like this on my own song. Like, no, this is not happening *laughs*. So, I definitely went back in the booth and added some intertwining harmonies there. I love that he brought the standard of the song up. You know what I mean? I had to do a little bit more and match his energy. So, that was a funny story with that.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Is there a specific song that you connected with more than anything else?

Journey Montana: Maybe “Stargirl”. That song was really special to me. I feel like it’s the nucleus of the project. It has a little bit of every song in my opinion. I feel like if anybody’s confused on what the message is and what the point of the project is, they can just listen to “Stargirl” and it’ll tell you everything you need. Just read the lyrics along. I’m really venting in this EP and I feel like “Stargirl” is kind of the point. I co-produced the song. There’s about 10 different versions of it. Originally a different song was labeled “Stargirl”, and then I made that one and I replaced it. There’s so many moments in there, and actually fun fact, my mom is singing at the end of the song when it’s the choir part. It’s s my mom, my producer and me all singing in the booth. Yeah, it was just so many little things that we paid attention to with that song. There’s so many different moments and so many different feelings. I just feel like it’s such a big record. I just had to talk on that because I have a lot of respect for that song and respect for the process that was taken to make that song. Its definitely one of those ones. It’s being slept on a little bit, but people gonna find it on their own. Every day somebody’s like “I love “Stargirl by the way”. I’ll just give it time. Honestly , all the songs I feel are solid and really represent me, but I’m a little biased *laughs*

*Check out the YouTube video for our full interview*

Photo Credit: Edwig Henson