"I'm the poster child of what not to do..."
John Jontez Montes is a nationally known singer, who recently appeared on NBC’s Sing Off with an a capella group called Ten in the 2013-14 season. He is a presenter, coach and scout for AMTC.
Tell me about yourself.
I love my family. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, but I’m talking about my parents, my siblings, my cousins. I was the oldest of 5, my father was a truck driver and wasn’t around much, but my grandfather lived down the road. He was a pastor—my pastor and mentor for the first 20 years of my life. We went to his church. I did everything in the church. I was the youth leader, I got things movin’ and shakin’.
How did you get into music?
Music’s always been a prominent part on both my Mom’s and Dad’s side. It was just part of life. My cousins had a band. We played and sang a Spanish type of music called Tejano, like in the movie Selena. I played the sax and learned the keyboard. I really started singing after high school.
What happened after high school?
I moved to Dallas and then to L.A. I had so many opportunities: Sony, NBC etc. When I got to LA I basically left all my past behind. Since I grew up in the church I didn’t want the pressure of being a church leader anymore. I had my best friend’s mom compare her son to me saying to him, “Why can’t you be more like John?” and I didn’t like that. I was just tired of it all.
I worked a lot in LA—did a lot of Studio work. I actually added it up: 25,000 hours of studio work in 10 years in LA! I had 2 Spanish mainstream albums, one Christian album And So It Is, and I was on tour. Then one day my dad called to say that my grandfather was sick, so I moved back to Dallas. But there was nothing in Dallas musically speaking. It’s tough to get into that market. Nobody was hiring.
So this is where AMTC comes in?
I needed a job and saw a billboard for AMTC. At first I ignored it. I actually said, “Who will take that seriously?” In LA people would laugh at that. It was LA talking! Then I saw the billboard again a few weeks later and decided to go in. I was hired and traveled with Carey (AMTC’s Chief Serving Officer) for 2 years.
Which was a pretty significant life change, wasn’t it?
Carey restored my faith back in leadership. Back in ministry. It all came back. She didn’t really do anything extraordinary. It was her prayer that she said all the time: “Lord, forgive my sins that I have committed and those I haven’t committed yet.” I had never heard a leader or anyone on the pulpit ask for forgiveness in front of other people. I felt healed and restored.
How have you developed since as an artist?
I got comfortable in my job with AMTC. And then Daystar Television Network asked me to start with them. I hadn’t wanted to do worship again. Ever! But my heart was softened. God has done amazing things. I learned to stop saying what I wanted to do and I learned that it is what God wants me to do. Now I want to hear what God has to say.
So what’s the impression now of a ministry you thought “no one would take seriously?”
I am the poster child for the opposite of what you should do in this industry. I did the opposite of what AMTC shows you should do. Jenn Gotzon and I both said that if we could do it again, we would go through AMTC in a minute.
Talk about TEN and NBC’s "Sing Off"
God has been so good to me. When I was approached about joining this group and auditioning for NBC, I didn’t want to mess with what God had been doing over the last three years. I just wasn’t sure. So I asked God to give me an open door. I went to Carey and Daystar. I needed to hear from both of them that they thought it was good. I asked them to give me their blessing. They both high fived me and told me to go do my thing. I was in… I got green light from God.
What was being on the show like?
I can’t say too much, but we went full force. It was an experience I will never ever forget, and it’s something I probably won’t want to do again either. It was like boot camp!
What advice would you give to future performers who want to make a positive impact for God?
So many things come up against us all the time. The way we view it is often negatively and some things are negative. Some things aren’t fun to go through, but we learn a lot. It’s just like when you are weight training. You are sore the next day but if you don’t have that resistance, you will never grow.
The Bible tells us to go from glory to glory. You’ve got to know the purpose of it. Don’t let it discourage you. You start speaking negatively you start to spiral downward. So, be thankful for whatever you are going through. As a performer you need to.
Remember in the Bible when the people were going through the wilderness for 40 years and it should have taken 11 days but their mindset, hearts and focus weren’t right. The journey was long because God wasn’t done with them yet. They were not in the right mind set, they weren’t ready.
If you can’t get your mind on straight He will keep putting your through circumstances until you do. You’ve got to understand His purpose.