Local musician Conal Montgomery will be familiar to many on the local scene as the frontman for bands such as Sweet Leaf and StillWater, mainly performing covers. In November he fulfilled a long held ambition of releasing an album of his own songs with the independent release of “Happy Being Free”. We arranged a Skype call to talk about the album on 17th December and you can hear that interview on the Friday NI Rocks Show this week - www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show.html (uploaded 19th Dec).

It’s also available on the NI Rocks MixCloud page - https://www.mixcloud.com/NIRocks/interview-with-conal-montgomery-on-the-friday-ni-rocks-show-on-20th-dec-2019/



The album can be purchased from Conal’s Bandcamp page – https://conalmontgomery.bandcamp.com/releases – and streamed or purchased from many other sites. Check out his Facebook page for details - https://www.facebook.com/conaleaf/




Full playlist for the Show –

ALICE COOPER & FRIENDS – Santa Claws Is Coming To Town

VIXEN – How Much Love

LITTLE ANGELS – Too Much Too Young

GREAT WHITE – Heart The Hunter






VANDALLUS – Barricade

HEAVEN & HELL – I (Live)

Interview with CONAL MONTGOMERY Part 1 (5 min)

CONAL MONTGOMERY – Living With The Reaper

Interview with CONAL MONTGOMERY Part 2 (5 min)

CONAL MONTGOMERY – The Angel and the Demon


DAVID LEE ROTH – A Lil’ Ain’t Enough

EXTREME – Rest In Peace

COLIN JAMES – Just Came Back

MATS KARLSSON – A Natural High

LUCA SELLITTO – Land of the Vikings

SIGN X – Fall

FIREHOUSE – When I Look Into Your Eyes

SAMMY HAGAR – Give To Live

W.A.S.P. – Forever Free


JEFF SCOTT SOTO & FRIENDS – We Wish You A Merry Christmas





NI ROCKS – Hi Conal, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. You released your album “Happy Being Free” a few weeks ago. Where was the album recorded and who did you work with in terms of production etc?

CONAL – I recorded the album in a home studio. A friend of mine from school – Aran Lewis. He calls it Beech Tree Studios, in Tullyveery just outside Killyleagh. We also recorded the drum tracks at Millstone Studio in Derryboye just outside Downpatrick.

NI ROCKS – Who else appears on the album with you?

CONAL – I have Laurence McKeown on drums. The song “Venus” on the album was actually written about 1994, so I had the original drummer come in and put the drum track down for that. His name is David Muchka. Damien Hanna and Silver Amos who is a friend of Aran Lewis – he was coming in and doing guitar and some backing vocals and stuff.

NI ROCKS – How long then from start to finish did it take to get the whole thing done?

CONAL – I started in January. I was approached in November last year by Debbie McGrory from NVTV to do an interview and I done that. I had a few songs in my head and was thinking of doing an album and once I’d done the TV interview I decided to go ahead with it. It took me nine months in total. That was going out to the home studio once a week basically. Songs were changing as the months went by. Some songs started off like singer-songwriter and then turned into rock songs just as we built around the acoustic versions.

NI ROCKS - You’re currently fronting the band StillWater which mainly performs covers. It’d be fair to say that the tracks on “Happy Being Free” are more mellow, singer-songwriter kinda songs. Were the guys surprised by the material that you’ve brought out?

CONAL – We were struggling to put it into any kind of genre. With the live shows that I have in my head I can really see this rocked up. “The Angel and the Demon”, the first song on the album I would class as a good rock song. And “Living With The Reaper”.

NI ROCKS – That’s probably one of my favourites.

CONAL – It would be up there with the rock genre. “Silent Transition” and “Lessons We Have Learned” are rocky, but not up there with the other two.

NI ROCKS – Yeah, it’s quite a diverse album.


NI ROCKS – Just in case people aren’t aware, can you tell us where people can pick-up the album; either for download or to buy the CD?

CONAL – I’m on all platforms. The CD can be bought through Bandcamp - https://conalmontgomery.bandcamp.com/album/happy-being-free - It’s on all platforms – Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube. It can also be purchased through my Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/conaleaf

NI ROCKS – Presumably, it’s been a long term ambition to release an album. When did you start writing the nine tracks? You mentioned that “Venus” was started back in 1994, I think you said.

CONAL – Yea, Damien Hanna was with me then, dabbling with writing a few songs. I lost track then for about 30 years I think, with alcoholism and addiction. Four years ago when I got sober i decided to go back and tick a box basically. I always had it in my head to do some music writing, do my own music and put an album out. I was playing in cover bands in the biker scene and the parties came first and the music came second.

NI ROCKS – It’s great that you managed to get it out there now. We’ll play one of those tracks from the album now. Can you pick a song and tell us something about it?


CONAL – “Living With The Reaper”, the number five track on the album, is about schizophrenia and the voices that people have in their head. I wrote it with the experience that I have with my daughter’s mental illnesses. The lyrics just came to me and I wrote it on an acoustic guitar. My friend Aran Lewis and I built the song around that. The song is aimed at the voices in the head and the battles that she had to go through that.


NI ROCKS – Many people will know you from the band StillWater and from your acoustic shows. Tell us a little bit about your musical journey from getting into music initially to the current day.

CONAL – I was always fascinated by the frontman, the lead singer. I started a few cover bands back in the ‘90’s and fell in with a great guitarist. Probably the best guitarist that I’ve ever been involved with – Robert Lyons. We formed a band called Sweet Leaf and we were on the biker scene for a long time. We were getting booked every week for years. We were invited over to Stratford Upon Avon for the Bulldog Bash in 2008. Motorhead headlined that year, but we were doing covers, so we were like an after-gig party. That was a good experience and once we came back from that all the biker groups in Northern Ireland were booking us. We were doing the whole circuit – down south, the lot.

NI ROCKS – Who were your musical influences when you first starting performing?

CONAL – Ozzy, Ronnie Van Zant, Axel Rose, Bon Scott. I was always fascinated by watching Bon Scott on video. The way he sang, it looked effortless, but it is so difficult to get. Songs like “Highway To Hell” and “Touch Too Much” I’ve been struggling for years to try to get anywhere near it. Copying these guys or trying to do them justice is pretty hard.

NI ROCKS – What artists do you listen to these days. Does any band in particular tick the boxes for you these days?

CONAL – I’m oldschool. I listen to Ozzy, Dio, Ronnie Van Zant, Paul Rodgers, Mick Jagger, Steve Perry. Those kind of guys, I don’t really get to into the modern stuff.

NI ROCKS – What was the last album that you bought or downloaded?

CONAL – I’m actually listening to a bit of Dom Martin at the minute – blues, has just come onto the scene last year. He has just finished his acoustic tour. I’m listening to a bit of that and he’s a very impressive young man. (https://www.dommart.in/ )

NI ROCKS – The “Happy Being Free” album has just been released; about three or four weeks ago. What are your immediate plans in terms of trying to promote the album and have you any longer term plans in regard to recording another album?

CONAL – I have one show planned at the minute. The way I live now, it’s basically one day at a time. I have a gig planned for the 22nd February, in Denvir’s Coaching Inn in Downpatrick. If all goes well I plan to do another; hopefully in Belfast this time. Maybe the Oh Yeah Music Centre or the Black Box, somewhere like that, maybe Voodoo.

NI ROCKS – Would you like to do another album sometime in the near future?

CONAL – I’ve actually been thinking about it and I’d be aiming more towards doing a full rock album to tell you the truth. I’ve been in cover bands doing classic rock for years. This album is what came out of me after all the years of what I’ve been doing. There is rock in it, there’s singer-songwriter in it, there’s a wee bit of everything. I would love to do full on rock, now that I’ve got all these musicians around me. I might as well make the most of it.

NI ROCKS – Was there a track on the album that was more difficult to write or finish than any of the other tracks?

CONAL – Not really. “Haunting Me”, number six, was originally written by myself and Robert Lyons from Sweet Lead when we dabbled a little bit in song-writing about ten years ago. Nothing ever came of it, but I wrote the song myself on the acoustic and Robert built the electric guitars around it. I basically notched it up a key and dabbled a bit with it. It just didn’t sit right with me – the vocal – and I worked a bit at that. I’m probably still not totally happy with it, but it’s my own version rather than Sweet Leaf’s version.



NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have for you but we’ll finish by playing another track from “Happy Being Free”. Again do you want to pick a track and tell us something about it?

CONAL – “Angel and the Demon”. It’s about life basically and a guideline to listen to your conscience. Everybody has their own path and you’ll meet forks in the road. Listen to your conscience and hopefully you’ll choose the right one. That’s what that is about.


NI ROCKS - Thanks Conal for taking the time to chat with us.


Last Updated (Sunday, 03 October 2021 23:45)