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Climbing the Vine: An STLCC Alum Launches His Music Career

Ricky Montgomery performing at Open Mic Night at STLCC-Wildwood.

With creative genius, inspiration and a smartphone, STLCC alum Ricky Montgomery has launched his career as a musician, writer, and producer on a shoestring budget in the way that this 22-year old knows best – digitally.

Without sending a single resume, Montgomery has already been hired by Adult Swim, a production and entertainment channel for young adults in New York City, created promos for the 2015 NCAA Basketball Final Four, and garnered $6000 in start-up money through Kickstarter.

It all started on January 24, 2013, the day after the Twitter-owned app Vine was launched. Montgomery always liked short form video, so his attraction to the app that enables users to record 6-second, looping videos was a welcome creative challenge.

He and his long-time friend Zach Gilmartin jumped onboard. “We got obsessed with it,” recalls Montgomery. “We were inspired by Adam Goldberg who had done a series of videos featuring himself, his girlfriend, her friend and a blonde wig.” Both men collaborated on the production ideas. Gilmartin filmed and Montgomery starred in the clips that were shared through Gilmartin’s account (@zgilmartin).

“Our followers grew, and eventually one of the videos was selected as a Vine editor’s pick,” said Montgomery. They have continued to work together, and were selected in January 2015 as a runner up in an international Vine contest hosted by French digital marketing agency Armstrong.  Meanwhile both of their accounts have grown. Ricky (@RickyMontgmery) has 1,618,000 followers and his videos have been viewed 65,105,450 times. Gilmartin has 679,000 followers and 11,352,180 “loops” or views.

After Montgomery finished his associate’s degree at St. Louis Community College, he transferred to Mizzou, but quickly realized that he didn’t want to follow the traditional route and earn his journalism degree. He turned to Nick Gallo, a Vine connection, who offered him an internship with Adult Swim.The channel is best known for its Aqua Teen, Squid Bullies and Robot Chicken series, and is popular with cartoon and anime officianados between 18 and 35 years old.

“I flew to New York and worked for 6 months as a production intern; filming, running sound in the studio, editing and doing casting calls.” When Turner decided not to renew the channel, Montgomery returned to St. Louis.

In the meantime, the musically talented Montgomery was writing and producing original songs and sharing glimpses of them through his Vine account. “I always wanted to do music, but thought it would be more on the side,” Montgomery explained. However he had already built an audience through Vine, so when his EP titled “Caught on the Moon” finally debuted in November 2014, it charted on the iTunes rock chart for two days. Since then his songs (“Last Night, “Get Used to It,” and “California”) have been downloaded more than 10,000 times and the EP has over 255 5-star reviews.

Montgomery’s producer encouraged him to do an entire album, so he used the proceeds from the sale of his EP and funds from his own Kickstarter campaign, aptly named “Rickstarter.”  The album will also be appropriately named “Montgomery Ricky.”

When Montgomery was tapped to film Vine videos for the NCAA’s Final Four Basketball tournament in March, he took a little reprieve from the album. But since then, he’s been focusing all of his energy into completing it.

Montgomery  is a musician in every sense of the word. “I do everything but the mixing and drums. I play the guitar, bass, synthesizer, piano, write the lyrics, arrange and write the strings and sing.” He draws inspiration from anything that he feels passionate about. “I sometimes use bottled up emotions and project them onto something more relevant. But sometimes I have something I’ll really want to write about and it doesn’t happen.”

He likes a broad range of musicians and musical styes, from Kanye West and Vampire Weekend to Jeff Buckey and the Beatles. “I like Kanye West and Vampire Weekend because they try to do something new, but not for the sake of being experimental.  If the intent is to move music forward, I still think it should sound good and be appealing. I want to see what new things I can do with stuff that’s already appealing. I don’t write for a particular genre of music. I write what I feel best doing, and then wait for people to attach a genre to it.”

At the end of June 2015, Montgomery shot his first music video for the album at Tower Grove Park and locally in Wildwood. Dylan Schnitker, formerly of Webster University, was the director.

The video is for “Don t Know How,” and the album will be released sometime in Fall 2015.

As for the future, Montgomery is flexible. “In two years, I’d like to be able to support myself doing what I like to do, whether it’s Vine, video projects or music – or all of it. All is the goal.”