Montana Traditionalist Ben Stillwater Makes Mark in Music City

It’s a long way from the Big Sky country of Montana to Music City USA, but for the traditional country singer and songwriter Ben Stillwater, it seems he was born to make that journey.

The singer and proud father of four has been living and working in Nashville for a year now, and in that short period he’s already recorded two albums and written more than a dozen new songs.

“I’ve been here one full year, and it’s goin’ real good,” Ben says in a phone conversation in early February.

The new albums are called “Montana In The Spring” and “Giddy Up Truck,” two titles that tell a great deal about Stillwater, whose musical heroes include Roy Orbison, Hank Snow, and Mark Chesnutt.

“I was raised around cattle, but I was mostly into trucking and still run a trucking company,” Ben says. “I’m also into timber management and logging, as well as renewable energy, wood chips and sawdust for heating pellets.”

Ben Stillwater knew how to run very profitable businesses long before he ever got to Nashville. That’s 1,695 miles from his hometown of Livingston, Montana.

“I’ve been working in my own businesses, where I could get ‘em to the point that allowed us to move down to Tennessee, go into the studio and still keep the things running,” Ben says.

“I’ve got four kids now and was married at 21,” he continues, and his wife and children are major inspirations for Stillwater’s music and songwriting.

And while many Nashville singers and songwriters struggle for years to get on country radio, Ben’s already on it every week. He and Paul Jones co-host “The Classic Country Radio Show” which airs Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WLIJ-AM1580 in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

“I produce the show and host with Paul Jones,” Ben says. “It’s a classic country show, playing traditional country music and a little bit of Gospel. We don’t really use a script, it’s just two country boys that get away with what we can. It’s the personality of the DJs.”

Traditional country has always been Ben’s musical bread and butter.

“What I love is the inspiration they put into the music,” he says. “It was so original, and it appealed to me at a very young age. My Dad would talk about his own favorite singers, like Roy Orbison. Melodically, I always had a connection with him, the way he sang and wrote music just appealed to me with the style of person I was and the atmosphere I was raised in.”

The move to Nashville and the radio program have been big hits with his wife and kids.

“It’s a lot of fun, they get to hear me on the radio,” Ben says. “They have a lot of fun with that. The kids grew up listening to me sing at home, and my wife is really into my music. I wrote all the love songs about her.”

It’s no wonder Ben, a gun collector who also loves target shooting, sounds like he was born for country music and country radio.

He recently shot a video for “You And I” from the second album. One of the cool cover versions on the first record is the autobiographical “My Rifle, My Pony, And Me.”

Ben’s songwriting has really ramped up since he moved to Nashville, and that’s something he always longed to do.

“I knew when I was young that I would write songs,” he says.

Stillwater continues to impact the Row and radio with his traditional, pure country sound. Fans and radio programmers who enjoy Stillwater’s music will hear the pure country influences of Don Williams, Hank Snow, Merle Haggard, and Lefty Frizzell.

Ben’s albums have been recorded at Biting Dog Studios, and co-produced by Chad Webb.

By Phil Sweetland

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