Mickey Lamantia isn’t today’s typical country singer, eschewing the sounds of modern country and sticking with the tried-and-true sounds of tradition and the ‘70s outlaw movement. Along the way he’s found favor with one of Nashville’s most revered country music families, and is building a successful career one download at a time.
Through a mutual friend Lamantia connected with singer Melonie Cannon, daughter of megaproducer Buddy Cannon (Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney) and sister of multi-platinum writer Marla Cannon-Goodman (Blake Shelton, Eric Church), for a duet on the song “How Far Would I Fall.” The Cannons then became collaborators with Lamantia, with their contributions helping lead to millions of streams and hundreds of thousands of YouTube views.
His new cover of the Waylon Jennings classic “Ladies Love Outlaws” features a vocal assist from Melonie Cannon and country star Jamey Johnson, and is the second single from Lamantia’s upcoming project, Honky Honk Confessions: Chapter Four, the final installment in a series of EPs. The track was produced by Buddy Cannon and Lamantia’s Nashville collaborator Bill McDermott.
“I guess Buddy got bored one night and wanted to come into the studio and sing harmony with Mel, she’d been singing harmony on my records,” Lamantia said. “He had such a good time he ended up singing on about five songs. It just went on from there. It was a connection from God, y’know?”
“Me and Buddy and Marla had been writing songs for about four months,” he continued. “I went to Nashville, and when we went to cut some of the songs Buddy looked at me and said, ‘Man, I have this idea that we should cut ‘Ladies Love Outlaws,’ and I said ‘Hell yeah,’ and he said he was gonna invite Jamey to sing on it. And I said, ‘Even better.’ So it was all kind of last-minute. I’d met Jamey before, but this was Buddy’s idea to get Jamey to come and sing on the record.”
Lamantia said that he enjoyed working with CMA award-winner Johnson, who has been a source of inspiration for him. “When I heard what Jamey was doing back in 2010, 2011, I really dug what he was doing. And when I saw his show was when I said to myself that I can do this if I try. So I started writing songs, writing better than I ever had because I put more into it. Then I decided to record an album in 2016, and here I am, over four years later.”
His song “Outlaw Life,” which chronicles the pitfalls of substance abuse, has become somewhat of an anthem in the trucking community, and for other people who have endured loss and suffering because of bad choices. “Ninety-eight percent of what I write is life experience, and 2% is writer’s creativity,” he said. “I think it hits people when you have a certain honesty, when you sing a song like that, a song that you believe in. And people believe in you when you sing it, people can relate to it. It really caught on with the truckers in the Midwest, they made a YouTube video of it, and the next thing I knew it was getting 2,500 shares a day, got on some Spotify playlists, and it just really took off.”
Lamantia said he’s content to utilize the resources of the Internet to put his music out there, and he hopes to be back on stage soon. “At my age  a record label wouldn’t sign somebody like me, but these days a record label’s not really necessary. Jamey’s doing it without a record label, and I kind of model what I do after his success model. I love what Jamey’s doing, playing shows of 3,000 to 15,000, I wouldn’t mind being in the middle or even at the bottom of that. I’ve no desire to be a superstar, I just want to play my music and touch people’s lives through that music, that’s my goal. I look up to people like Dean Dillon, who wrote all those great songs for George Strait. Like Merle Haggard, a tremendous songwriter who wasn’t afraid to talk about what was going on in society, and about his thoughts, and how he put those thoughts to paper. Those are the kind of guys I look up to, who paved that path for the kind of songs I’m trying to write.”
Unlike countless musicians and singers who spend years playing in cover bands the honky-tonks of downtown Nashville, eking out a living while waiting for that big break that seldom comes, Lamantia has never lived in Nashville and gone that Lower Broadway route. “Never messed with it,” he said. “When I was about 21 I got four shows [opening for] Willie Nelson, doing a small tour up in New England, then I did one with Tanya Tucker, and I’ve been playing acoustic shows forever. But I never went to Nashville. That’s why I say that, in my mind, this was meant to be, kind of a Divine intervention.”