Anna Wilson and Monty Powell...Changing the Conversation Through Music and Love
By Karen Painter
This season, the Utah based husband and wife duo Troubadour 77 (T77) are grateful for the lessons they’ve learned from each other. The duo consists of jazz singer/songwriter Anna Wilson and songwriter/producer Monty Powell. Their songs are about social change, life, death, love, hope, and redemption.
They each had solo careers before T77. Powell has written over 50 songs in the country music business for artists such as Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, and Tim McGraw. Twelve of his songs are #1 hits. Wilson’s songs appear on over 7 million certified records of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for artists like Lady Antebellum and Reba McEntire. She has also penned the international theme song for Habitat for Humanity International and recorded with artists like Keith Urban and Kenny Rogers.
The couple celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary in September. Their dynamic is playful, respectful, and accepting. Powell says he’s grateful he gets to work 24/7, 365 with his life partner.
“For so many folks their partnership is their time together when they are off and that defines the level of their interaction together,” he says, “but we really don’t have those kinds of restraints. I am super grateful that I can spend that amount of time with Anna without us constantly going in different directions.”
Wilson agreed. She is also grateful they can do the work they love from anywhere. “To have that ease and flexibility is a great blessing. It gives us a lot of ability to change and flow and not get stagnant,” she says.
The couple met because of the band Diamond Rio. Powell was their producer and Wilson was their publicist. “I tell everyone we met backstage at a concert-- the way everyone meets in the music business, right?” he laughed.
Wilson clarified the meeting was strictly professional. She says they met many more times to discuss the band but soon wanted to know more about each other. “It was very organic. I wouldn’t say there was a first date aspect, but Monty did ask for the first business meeting so —I guess he did the asking,” she laughs.
Powell says the lesson he has learned most from Wilson is unconditional love. “To learn at the feet of your life partner is a beautiful thing. Because we are both artists, we both carve a wide spot for each other’s artistry. The fact we created Troubadour 77 is not the main story of our lives. The main thing is being taught about love and being given the room to be who we each are. Top that kiddo,” he teases.
Wilson, “Shit! Um—"Powell laughs, “You could have gone first--”
Wilson runs a hand through her dark, curly hair. “Ditto, Ditto,” she laughs. Eventually, she says Powell taught her acceptance. “He’s Mr. Even-keeled. He goes with the flow. Nothing really rattles his cage. I still sometimes go into crisis mode. He’s taught me to be an acceptance of everything that is and to face it with grace, poise, and not to resist, because when you resist what it is, then you lose your peace.”
The couple’s latest album “Revolution and Redemption” was released in April 2020. Wilson says some of her favorite songs that she has written are on the album. “To be able to voice social issues in poetry that connects to what we are all going through is really satisfying,” she says.
Powell says the “Revolution” comes from changes in the country that they wanted to be a part of and to speak about. “We wanted to walk in the footsteps of the artists that inspired us, particularly from the late 60s, early 70s singer/songwriter “Laurel Canyon movement” that was happening in Los Angeles. Those artists were not shy about talking about social issues, nor are we.”
Troubadour 77 Release of Revolution & Redemption
Powell says the “Redemption” part of the title comes from their move to Utah from Nashville. “For so many years we were the voices and faces behind superstar artists, but never put ourselves out there. In this second half of our lives, there’s still enough time to go out and say what we want to say and perform instead of being the ones behind the glass.”
They purchased a vacation condo in the Ogden Valley area in 2006. Eventually, they spent more and more time here. Wilson says, “We were going back to Nashville only to work in our recording studio and we thought what if we built a studio in Utah? So we did. In the summer of 2014, we brought our guys out from Nashville. They lived at our house for six weeks and built the studio. Then we found even less reasons to go back. We love our little valley. It is just the right amount of remote and yet it is adjacent to the right amount of civilization.”
They now spend half their time in Utah and the other half in Naples, Florida. “We decided to do the beach and the mountains for a while and see if we liked that vibe. Turns out we did and have never looked back. Now, we are enjoying our creativity fueled by nature,” Wilson says.
The couple said the pandemic didn’t change their working lives because they were used to working at home. However, they had to cancel their summer tour. They spent their time in quarantine writing two new songs, now available on their deluxe album.
Wilson says their two new songs are part of what they call “The Love Forward Project.” They were inspired by the human condition that the virus has shined a light on and the equality discussion and debate that is in the news. “The conversation has been and still continues to be very divisive in the world,” she says. “We thought one way to change the conversation was with music—which we are called on to do as artists. Our job and craft is to find a better message. We found that love was the one thing that we can all agree on. These songs promote a message of love, acceptance, and tolerance.”
Just how Wilson and Powell choose to live their lives.
"We found that love was the one thing that we can all agree on. These songs promote a message of love, acceptance, and tolerance.”