INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Montgomery "Somebody's Praying For You"

Elizabeth Montgomery was born to sing. However early on in her life it did not appear that would happen. From birth to age fourteen, Elizabeth would have many bouts with an extremely serious lung illness, spending much of her childhood in hospitals. These illnesses took so much of her breath away that she could not even blow up a balloon...her doctors did not expect her to live.

Through fervent prayers of her family and people in ministry, she experienced a miracle.

In her teenage years, she recorded her first album of Gospel music and since then she has released seven albums of Christian music. Her last album, "Somebody's Praying for You," was produced by Chuck Butler (Backstreet Boys, Kimberley Locke) and Elizabeth. This song is connecting with people everywhere as it encourages those who are in need that someone cares and is lifting you up in prayer.

Elizabeth and I shared an afternoon of visiting and engaged in some interesting conversation about her past and the early prognosis of her medical condition as well as her current path in life and where she hopes it leads her.
BEV: Tell me a little about your history - how you started, where you came from & how you got in the music business & we’ll go from there…
ELIZABETH: I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma called Vinita. It’s about 60 miles northeast of Tulsa – a town of about 6,000 people. I grew up in a wonderful home. I have an older brother and a sister. I grew up in church as my mother was very instrumental in seeing that my family was in church every Sunday. So, I learned about God at a young age. I became a Christian when I was about 9 years old. But before that there was a pretty significant event in my life. From the time I was a baby until I was 14 years old, I suffered from a severe lung problem. The doctors didn’t think I would even live to be a teenager. So I was in/out of hospitals throughout my childhood. I was frail and had poor lung capacity. Then my life changed. When I was 14 years old, some people in ministry prayed for me and I experienced a miracle.
I first began singing in church, but the first time I really ever sang in front of a public crowd was at the Tulsa State Fair. I kept seeing ads on TV for a contest & my mother didn’t even really know I could sing. I kept telling her I wanted to enter this competition. My sister played the piano and she was supposed to play “Over the Rainbow” for me. So, I got ready to go to the fair and my sister chickened out before we were to drive to Tulsa so I was left without an accompanist. I kept going up and down the halls, until I found somebody to play for me. I quickly went over the music in the hall with this person I had never even met. I got out there on the stage and my mom didn’t even know I could really sing. So I belted out, “Over the Rainbow.”
I got out there and sang, but I didn’t win. That was the start and she knew I had the desire to sing. So I started singing in church and one thing lead to another and since that time, I’ve probably performed in more than 2,000 venues. I do all my own bookings and really enjoy that part of it myself because I get to talk with the music ministers and pastors. I’ve made some great friendships along the way. So, that was how it all started. I was finally getting my health back. At that point, I really started singing anywhere and everywhere someone would ask me.
BEV: Was it difficult for you to sing at the State Fair…health wise; was it painful? Because you said you hadn’t healed or the miracle itself hadn’t happened yet.
ELIZABETH: I started singing when I was 12 years old and the miracle happened when I was 14. I experienced about 20 bouts of pneumonia during the course of those 14 years. As far as singing, I wouldn’t say it was painful, but my lung capacity still was not great. I got through it and I enjoyed singing so much. I noticed it took several years to really get to where I could hold long phrases since my breathing had been affected.
BEV: Do you have any after-effects or continue to have any problems from the issues with your lungs?
ELIZABETH: No, I’ve been fine. I have allergies and just typical stuff like that. A little bit of mild asthma occasionally. But no, I’m well. I try to stay active and exercise a lot to keep my lungs healthy.
BEV: From that point on, how did you actually get into being a recording artist…because that’s a big step, from just singing in church to deciding to be a recording artist…what was your first project like or how you did go about it?
ELIZABETH: I did my first recording when I was 12 years old. People would ask me if I had any recordings. Back then it was the cassette tapes and big vinyl LP’s. So my mom took me to a recording studio in Tulsa and I got acquainted with a woman named Stephanie Boosahda, who later became a pretty well-known Christian artist. She worked a lot with CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) and Pat Robertson. She was from Oral Roberts University. She played piano for me and I got a full band at that studio. Her husband, Wayne Boosahda, produced the record and I recorded a number of songs that were written by other writers so it was all fresh new material. The title of the album was Elizabeth Dietsche. In the cover shot I had braces on my teeth and a big smile on my face! That was the first project…then I made another one not long after that.
BEV: How many did you sell…do you remember, do you have any record of it?
ELIZABETH: No. I may have written down some names of those who purchased the recordings but I can’t remember exactly.
BEV: Do you still have any of the sales receipts or information on who was purchasing the first albums?
ELIZABETH: I do have a list of all the churches I went to perform at when I was a kid, but not the list of the people who bought my albums.
BEV: It would be interesting to go back to see who the first fan was.
ELIZABETH: That would be interesting to know if my first fans were still buying my albums. The next CD or ‘vinyl’ project I did was when I was 17. It was a project called All the Way My Savior Leads Me. By that time, I was singing all over Oklahoma, especially at churches and school events.
BEV: Were you still in school or had you graduated?
ELIZABETH: I was singing in junior high and high school. Then I went to Oklahoma City University to study music and business. Since I was in another part of the state (Oklahoma City), I starting to build my church base up in that direction. Next, I attended the University of Denver and received my Masters degree in Music where I studied opera.
BEV: That is really something from having the lung issues you had to doing opera…that is proof of believing in yourself and overcoming obstacles.
ELIZABETH: It was interesting and that’s where I really learned great technique and how to have endurance in singing. Sometimes I was doing three to four performances in a weekend. I had to learn how to protect my voice, how to use it properly, so I feel those years I was learning these things were priceless to my career.
BEV: Do you primarily book Church performances or do you look for symphony halls or similar venues that incorporate your opera background and your training.
ELIZABETH: I have done some musical theatre shows in Denver. I worked with Opera Colorado and had principal roles in operas at the University of Denver. I actually did opera for children. Opera Colorado created a show called La Boham that was adapted for children. There was a puppet show format that introduced opera to small school children and that was fun. I also did a Gershwin Review with a touring group out of Denver called the Tabor Opera Company. Gospel music is my first love, but I do enjoy singing other styles of music.
BEV: Well it’s a good marriage to be able to combine both genres.
ELIZABETH: Absolutely and I got to travel a lot. My base branched out to Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado. Colorado became a productive place for my career, so after I received my degree I stayed for another four years. I have been all over that state; from the smallest to the bigger cities.
BEV: Of all the experiences that you’ve had, what‘s been the most memorable that you can think of, maybe after your performance, someone came up to you and a certain song touched them in a certain way?
ELIZABETH: I began writing songs several years back and it is so rewarding when people come up and tell me that a song ministered to them, or maybe they have tears, or that it reminds them of an experience or a memory in their childhood or their family. Those kinds of things really make an impact. I think this latest recording project I’ve done, Somebody’s Praying For You, has had the most meaning. I’ve started a prayer ministry. In every church I have provided a sheet for people to sign up – and list any prayer requests they have for themselves, or friends or family. Once a week I get out these hundreds of requests and I pray over them. I’ve got prayer partners and people to help me pray for them. Since the song “Somebody’s Praying For You” was released it seems to have connected with so many people. I am approached about how the song touched them and that it is comforting to know that someone is out there praying for them. Best of all, Jesus Himself is interceding before the Heavenly Father on my behalf, so somebody is always praying for them. I believe this is a new direction God is taking my ministry. Another reason that makes this song special is that my father was a co-writer on that song, along with Stephanie Boosahda, who now lives in Nashville. He gave me the idea for the song, we collaborated and then I brought it back to Nashville where Stephanie finished it. It’s probably been the single most meaningful song I’ve ever written.
BEV: The CD was released just before the end of the year correct?
ELIZABETH: Yes, it was just released this month. I have a music video with it for the title and lead single “Somebody’s Praying For You”. A lot of times, I’ll send the video in advance of my performances to introduce my music to the congregation and encourage people to come to the concert. So I have the video & the recording. I get prayer requests by email on my web site, so this has really become a big commitment in my life. There are a lot of requests. I feel that it wouldn’t be right to just say, “Bless all the people on the list.” I feel that since each person took the time to come up and ask for prayer, I need to go through those names and needs individually.
BEV: I assume there is a confidentiality of some sort and that you do not place the requests themselves online for the world to see?
ELIZABETH: No, it’s my own personal ministry and the needs are confidential. On occasion I’ve even given my cell phone number to individuals to call. I’ve prayed with them over the phone. I try to be available because I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do.
BEV: Do you feel like your music, is going to lead you in the direction even further with this…that you may go into a ministry or something on a more formal basis?
ELIZABETH: That’s a possibility. I don’t know really where it’s going to go just yet. So far I have four or five prayer partners that have agreed to help me and I send them lists. I’d like to get a little more savvy with it digitally, where I could keep better records of people’s needs and praise reports.
BEV: That is why I asked if you did anything in writing - because then you would have a digital or email list to could go back and keep track, but at the same time I wouldn’t want my name out there for the whole world to see, maybe, maybe not, depends on what we’re praying for.
ELIZABETH: Sometimes after the services, I will pray with people that come forward. I’ve had folks come up that have very, very big needs such as cancer and other illnesses. It is not too difficult for God to do. We don’t’ know how God will answer the prayer. Really it’s not up to me to worry about that part of it. God will answer the prayer the way he feels best. He has to have a vessel to work through, so that’s where I feel like God is leading me on this specific path. It’s been exciting. It’s been one of the greatest things in my life and I’ve been doing it for about two years with the prayer list and it’s growing more and more each month. I have to set aside time - sometimes over two days to go through all of them.
BEV: Have you ever had a moment where something just hit you, where something has been answered and you knew you were a part of that?
ELIZABETH: yes I have…
Guest: I can share my own personal experience about that: I’d been praying for my mom who is dealing with cancer and since I’ve known Elizabeth, she’s been so supportive and a welcomed source of comfort with added prayer in the situation. My mom had surgery not long ago and Elizabeth was so kind to add her to her personal prayer list and prayed for her before the surgery, Yes, it helps! I believe that the more people praying for someone, the better. There’s such power in prayer. My mom got through the surgery well and doing much better. Elizabeth adding her to her prayer list was personally comforting for me because I knew there were others praying for her as well.
ELIZABETH: I find people feel comfortable enough where they will say will you pray for me? Because, like you said earlier, sometimes it’s difficult.
BEV: I personally am associated with people who I know are very uncomfortable in that situation; they may say they are a Christian, but to have someone in public pray for them in front of friends and family, they’re not comfortable with that at all and it is very unnerving for them.
ELIZABETH: At times people will say their need is unspoken and that’s okay because God knows what the need is and He will answer the prayer.
BEV: That’s interesting; it makes you wonder, what’s so terrible that you can’t tell me what I need to help you with…but everybody’s different
ELIZABETH: It’s just the level of comfort.
BEV: Going back to the music, let’s talk about the kids, the lullaby, and the playtime songs; how did you get into those, because even though it’s still tied in ways, it’s different than this whole concept we’ve been talking about.
ELIZABETH: I recorded the children’s project a few years ago. It started out with melodies popping into my head. Then I sang little ditties for my dog that is now 18 years old. Those tunes led to songs for children. It was one of the most prolific times in my writing career. Some of the playtime songs include the “Books of the Bible,” and “The Noah Song.” They are fun, educational songs and the lullabies will hopefully help the kids go to sleep.
BEV: Is it safe to say that since many of your concerts are in churches, that the whole family attends the performance?
ELIZABETH: I get a mix of people at my concerts. I would say that my music is more inspirational, with more of an emphasis on an audience of 40 and up. My recordings have been diverse with everything from very traditional hymns and spirituals to contemporary. My desire is for many people to hear my music and be blessed by the message.
BEV: What has been the one most exciting thing about the whole music process when you look at the big picture and reflect on all the different aspects of what you have done?
ELIZABETH: I have to say I still love performing the most. The songwriting has used a different element of my creativity that I never had before. I have more than 60 songs in my catalog. If you asked me 10 years ago if I would write any music, I wouldn’t have believed that was possible. It has evolved over the years and I owe a lot to Thomas Cain over at BMI. He was instrumental in setting me up writing appointments with some great songwriters. I met with him and shared some of my music and he played it right there in the meeting and made recommendations as to who might be good writing partners. He opened several doors for me to write with Robert White Johnson and Twila LaBar. I began to expand my horizons and hone my songwriting skills. To this point I’d written a lot myself, but not with other people, so that experience was unique. I tried to be prepared when I went into a writing session. I knew that these people were so talented and I wanted to put forth a good impression! If they didn’t like one melody, maybe they would like another. I made sure to come with several different ideas.
BEV: Have you broadened it to do Country Christian?
ELIZABETH: I haven’t specifically sat down intending to write Country Christian music, but I wouldn’t be opposed to try it. It’s just that Christian music is my first love. However, as long as the song has good lyrics and message, that’s what counts. There is a whole category of positive country that appeals to me.
BEV: It is a very close marriage between the two genres.
ELIZABETH: Yes, it is…I wrote a bluegrass song a few years ago. I guess it had a little bit of a Country, Southern Gospel feel. That’s the closest song to country I have written.
BEV: Do you consider your music more Gospel or more Christian, because there is a difference?
ELIZABETH: I would say my music is more Inspirational Christian music. I do Gospel songs in every concert and usually I close my shows with the great old hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” and that has been one of people’s favorites so, I’ve adopted that as one of my last songs of the evening. Most of my performances are original material.
BEV: Where do you go from here, what’s your next step?
ELIZABETH: I’m encouraging people to participate in the prayer ministry. In terms of singing, I’m probably doing more than 65 dates a year and getting ready to work on a Christmas album for next year. Robert White Johnson is going to produce this recording.
BEV: Will you be recording original songs or remakes?
ELIZABETH: The Christmas album will contain a lot of remakes, but I actually wrote one with Robert White Johnson this week. I’m going to be using Stephanie Boosahda’s song, “Somewhere It’s Snowing.” It’ll be a good mix of the older, traditional Christmas songs with brand new fresh ones.
BEV: Do you find it difficult to come up with a new Christmas song that is fresh?
ELIZABETH: Christmas songs have been done so many ways - how many ways can you do Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer? It is so exciting to work with Robert White Johnson. He co-wrote Celine Dion’s first big hit, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” and he’s worked with Lynyrd Skynrd, just countless artists…he’s a great producer.
BEV: Do you do sing duets or only sing as a solo artist?
ELIZABETH: I have done some duets, but it doesn’t seem like that opportunity presents itself as much, I would love to do more duets. I’ve done duets on the “The Prayer” in churches and at a lot of weddings.
BEV: Who are your dream duet/duo partners?
ELIZABETH: No doubt about that one…Josh Groban. What an amazing singer! I just love Josh Groban’s voice. He is a pop singer, but you can hear his great Classical training. He is such a versatile singer.
Guest: Elizabeth is getting ready to sing the national anthem at the Oklahoma Thunder NBA game in 2010. She has also sung the national anthem at several Denver Bronco’s and Nuggets’ games.
ELIZABETH: I’m very honored to be singing the national anthem at one of the Oklahoma Thunder NBA games this year. When I initially wanted to sing the anthem at a Denver Bronco’s game I was so excited to audition to sing. It was a special experience to sing for that crowd…75,000 people. It was great! I didn’t really get nervous, until a couple of days before. It’s one of those songs everyone in America knows, but my worst fear was forgetting the words…now that would be horrible.
BEV: What has been the worst thing or most embarrassing that has happened to you during a performance?
ELIZABETH: I’ve had one experience where I was so hoarse that I couldn’t speak, but I had to get up and sing about eight songs for a concert. Luckily my voice held out…it was weird because I couldn’t speak but I could sing and was pushing it as hard as I could push it. I made it through it. There might’ve been tiny cracks, but I hope nobody noticed. That was one of the scariest experiences.
BEV: Where was that at?
ELIZABETH: That was in Denver, Colorado at a Baptist church and I literally thought I was going to have to cancel my concert. Looking back on it, I probably should have canceled because I know it isn’t good to push my vocals when I’m hoarse. I had another thing happen that had to be one the most embarrassing moments. I was wearing a flapper style dress and it had a bow that set low on the waist. I didn’t have it pulled through the belt loops so with every song it dropped a little lower and I just knew that it was going to fall off. Finally it fell to the floor in a circle around my feet. Everybody in the church started laughing. I didn’t have time to say anything before the next song started so I just stepped out of it and threw it back on the pew and continued singing. When those things happen you just handle them with grace. At least I try to because I realize we’re human and things are not always going to go perfectly all the time. Most of the time people are supportive - even if you forget words.
Guest: Elizabeth recently did an interview with the Tulsa World newspaper about pet health care and we are currently talking with Tulsa Pets and Modern Dog magazines about features for upcoming issues in 2010. Elizabeth has a “miracle dog” named Allie that is amazing. Her dog is 18 years old and her vet says she has the heath of a 2 year old. What a story – you should share it Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH: Allie is part Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever. She weighs 42 lbs. She’s black, very beautiful, and has a docile personality. A few years ago she had a number of health issues that were pretty scary: tick fever and a mast cell cancer. Three years ago she got diagnosed with a tumor in her abdomen and they said it was as big as a baseball. I was fearful it might be cancer. I read about a famous vet in New York, named Dr. Martin Goldstein. He has been on Oprah and has written a book called the Nature of Animal Healing. I read it a number of years ago and it’s all about alternative therapies and conventional ways to treat disease in cats and dogs. I read that book and I decided to call the clinic in New York. You can actually consult with one of his associates. My local vet sent Allie’s blood work up to New York and Dr. Goldstein analyzes those levels. With that information he designed a health powder custom made for her needs. Dr. Goldstein thinks that the blood work tells the story of the animal. If there are inconsistencies you have to balance that out in the health powder or the supplements. You must take the whole picture into consideration. They put her on an all-natural diet, and the vet told me I had to start cooking for my dog. I made her chicken breast, rice, potatoes, raw carrots, Brussels’ sprouts, and broccoli. So along with the supplements and the nutritional supplements, Allie is a new dog. The tumor turned out to be benign and has remained stable since her new therapies. It actually got a little smaller a few months after I started her on this regimen. She runs, plays - you would never know she is the age she is. So, when I’m on the road, my mom and dad take care of her. I take her up to their home, it’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Tulsa. My mom has to do all the supplements, too. She’s a retired nurse and she probably does it more even better than I do.
BEV: This is normal food that you can eat too so as your cooking you can both have the same food, as in; here’s your plate here’s mine?
ELIZABETH: Yes, it is food that a human can eat, too! Allie is great. She’s just an inspiration. I didn’t realize a dog could live to that age. She is a medium sized dog and most of the dogs that live to be a ripe old age are the little dogs. I brought her to Nashville a few months ago…we drove 10 hours. I took her to all my writing appointments. Allie brings a sense of calm wherever she is. I call her my miracle dog. The Tulsa World is doing an article on pet longevity and Allie got a feature article!
BEV: Elizabeth, I suppose we should wrap this up; where can people find you and how can they get in touch with you
ELIZABETH: People can go to my website . My latest CD Somebody’s Praying For You is sold on CD baby. You can also get it on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon and handles all these digital stores. You can purchase most of my projects on those digital store sites. I also sell the product following my concert performances. My tour schedule is listed on my website and I’m on Facebook, too.
BEV: Thank you so much, what an enjoyable time I have had visiting with you and getting to know you. I look forward to hearing more music from you and coming to see you perform.

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