Written by Park Butterworth
I grew up a big fan of Joe Montana. There was something mystical about him. From the red and gold uniforms, the storied career, and the persona, I just thought that ‘Joe Cool’ had it all. We had a little Joe Montana Christmas tree ornament growing up that made an appearance every year. I would pull him out of his box and pick the perfect spot to hang him on the tree. I think this is where it all started.
I wasn’t a particularly sporty kid however. I never played a single snap of regulation football. I always wanted to, though. Instead, I played two-hand touch in the front yard. I was however, (and still am) a die hard Alabama Football fan. I guess when your dad is the mascot for the university, you have no choice! My love for sports icons like Joe, certainly comes from my dad. Hearing the stories from the sidelines, the larger than life personalities, and the energy in the stadium during the ‘big’ plays. I idolized these moments, and cherished them when I got to see them in person. My dad used to tell me bedtime stories where I would be called out of the stands and onto the field to play in the big game. And I think that’s why I liked Joe. He was always in the game. Always making the big plays. Even though I never got to see Joe Montana play in person, I would watch him on TV. Being born in 1993 meant I really only got to see him in the August of his career, plus the highlight reels that would play occasionally on Sportscenter. But that didn’t stop my love for Joe! It’s an upbringing like this that shaped my nostalgia and fuels my songwriting.
So how did I go from a Joe Montana Christmas ornament to an alt-rock tune about the Hall of Famer? It’s a process that took over 2 years and yielded a 3 minute, 34 second rager.
I picked up my guitar in the Spring of 2019 to noodle around. I don’t often find myself writing crunchy & distorted guitar riffs. But on this occasion, I did. The riff came to me pretty quickly. It’s nothing too fancy. Just a simple pattern played over the open E string. I recorded a 5 minute voice memo on my phone. Just a quick clip, fumbling through the riff, stopping occasionally to talk through the idea. As I listen back, I hear myself pitching the idea to my bandmates. I’m mouthing the drum and bass parts; nearly speaking in a different language. After this memo, I put the idea on the shelf, where it collected digital-dust for the next year or so.
In the Spring of 2022 I saw that Joe Montana had a docu-series on Apple TV called ‘Cool Under Pressure.’ I fired up episode 1 and was immediately hooked. By the end of the first episode I was running back to my home studio, digging in my devices for that 5 minute recording. I knew INSTANTLY that this was the riff, and Joe was the inspiration. This was one of those ‘lightning in a bottle’ moments that songwriters daydream about. They don’t come very often. So when they do, it’s really important to embrace it.
The verses came really easily. I’m a big believer in a certain songwriting principle. I heard this idea first from Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers, Producer: Taylor Swift, The 1975, etc). Jack says “Blues in the verses, gospel in the chorus.” In other words, use your verses to tell the story, and your choruses to respond with how and why that story matters. There are only 2 verses in this song. Verse 1 tells the story of Joe growing up, learning the game of football, and going off to college to chase his dream. There’s even a nod to the G.O.A.T, Tom Brady. See if you can catch it! Verse 2 takes a different direction. I tell the story of the ‘down years’ in Joe’s career with the ‘49ers. A lost superbowl in ‘88, the stakes of losing in the big game, and his impact on the city of San Francisco. But the astute listener will pick up on the hidden metaphor in verse 2. As you’ll learn after watching the documentary, Joe didn’t sit idly by when the going got tough on the field. He pursued another passion of his, off the field. AVIATION! Joe learned how to fly and became an accomplished pilot. I thought this part of his story was worth including in the song.
The chorus is one of my favorite parts of the song. It’s simple, singable, and anthemic. Its important to me for one line in particular. “Put your shoes on and shoulder pads too” It’s nothing special on the surface. In fact, a bit goofy! As a kid, I was always trying to motivate my friends to form a band with me. Unlike Joe’s hobby as a pilot, we never got off the ground. But the first song I ever wrote with a friend of mine had a line in the chorus about lacing up your shoes. That song never got finished, recorded, or released. But it was fun to call him recently and let him know that I snuck that line into this single.
The song wraps up with a raucous instrumental bridge. Instead of a new line of lyrics, you’ll hear a gnarly, pulsing synthesizer, providing the backdrop for a soaring guitar lead. If you listen closely, you’ll hear Juco’s bass player, Alex Townley, screaming into the mic. I chopped and distorted the vocals, and sent them through a spin cycle that has them rotating between your left and right speakers. It’s chaotic and wonderful all at the same time. When we finally land the plane, we let that warm synthesizer coast down the runway until the song fades out. We figured you’d need a minute to collect yourself.
Anyways, that’s Joe Montana. Joe Cool. So cool. Check it out and let us know what you think. Maybe our next song will be called Jerry Rice?
It’s always a treat when we get to hear the story behind an artist’s music. On the release day of Juco’s newest single, Joe Montana, we are inviting you into the mind of our very own Park Butterworth to hear his vision and process for his new song. Click the link in our bio to read the blog!
Want to check out more incredible Bham musicians? Click the link in our stories to check out our Discover Birmingham Playlist on Spotify.