Singer battles alcoholism to release rock album

Singer battles alcoholism to release rock album

6 November 2019

SINGER Conal Montgomery’s journey to sobriety over the last four years culminates with the release of his first solo album next month.

The Killyleagh man is well-known for his heavy metal rock vocals but has shown his softer, more reflective side in Happy Being Free which is released on November 19.

The 48 year-old father-of-four freely admits that he struggled with alcoholism for most of his life but says that 

his epiphany came when he realised that his only daughter, Jodie, was in great need of his strength and support.

Conal will celebrate four years of sobriety on January 2 — a milestone which has given him great personal peace over that time as well as the creative impetus to explore his thoughts and experiences in song.

His moment of defining clarity came while he was performing at the Central Bar in his home village.

“I stood on a stage going through the motions,” explained Conal. “I had come to the edge of oblivion and decided there and then that I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. 

“I have struggled with alcoholism all my life if I am honest, with a need inside me to escape my mental struggles and dislike and inadequacy of myself. I turned to anything to make myself happy, confident and also to run away from me.”

He is now brave and open enough to say just how bad he felt inside himself at that time.

“I had written a suicide letter to my wife,” said Conal. “Then my daughter’s illness was produced in front of me. I thought I didn’t know how to fix myself, never mind her but I just realised that I wasn’t going to take a drink that night.

“I felt like that I couldn’t save myself but when your child’s illness is produced in front of you, you just have got to do something. So my saviour came in the form of a little girl who was struggling herself.”

He and his wife, Tracey, found out that their daughter was struggling with her mental health at the same time he was wrestling with his demons from alcohol.

“This is where I stopped being selfish and with a sober mind had to be there unconditionally for this little girl,” said Conal. “My song and favourite on the album, Forever In Your Debt, thanks her for saving me from myself.”

Conal had always loved singing and admits having dreamt of bigger things in music in his earlier years.

He said: “I have sung in cover bands since my mid-twenties, all with the help of my old friend the booze. I desperately needed something to change my outlook, to realise that I didn’t have to live like this. If it hadn’t have came, I am afraid that I was at the stage that I didn’t really want to be here any more.”

Conal says that he hopes the album strikes a chord with those who listen to it.

“The album is how I see life, what I have seen in life and what I think is to come. It touches  on our conscience, love, thanks, the health of our minds, family and the world we live in today and what society has learned from  the past but turns a blind eye to let it happen again.

“It focuses a lot on addiction, the health of our minds and really the realisation of what is important in life and having the wisdom and bravery to make the right choices in life.

“And as I approach my fourth year in recovery, hopefully this can help someone who struggles with addiction and mental health issues.”

Conal says that he now looks at life in a completely different way and sets himself achievable goals which gives him great satisfaction.

“I have done things in the past four years I didn’t ever think I could ever do,” said Conal. “I have climbed a mountain with my father, past my driving test, written and recorded an album and everyday watch my family heal that little bit more. I am in no rush to get anywhere fast as I am just Happy Being Free.”

Conal has three older sons — Dean, who now lives and works in Londonderry and wrote the lyrics for the track 

Venus on the album; Ryan, a soccer coach in California; and Dylan, who is studying Performing Arts in Cambridge University. 

Conal’s album, performed by his band consisting of musicians Damian Hanna, Laurence McKeown, Christopher Killops and his cousin Neil Montgomery, is being released on his daughter’s 18th birthday.

He hopes to play in Denvir’s in Downpatrick and the Enler Blues Club in Comber in February.

His album Happy Being Free will be available on Spotify and other free streaming platforms and he can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud and YouTube.