Just a couple of months ago, Walker Montgomery's year ahead looked a whole lot different than it does today. Like many other rising artists, he started out 2020 champing at the bit to win fans one night at a time out on the road while opening for some of his musical heroes.

"Getting out on the road, meeting the fanbase and having fun," Montgomery told The Boot in February, when asked about his plans for the year. "Opening for Hank [Williams] Jr. a. couple times, Josh Turner, Morgan Evans and Adam Doleac. Just having fun meeting new friends."

Then, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, and across all genres, the music industry shuttered. Tours were postponed, plans were canceled and awards shows were pushed back until it's safe for fans to congregate in mass gatherings again. Like virtually every other performer, Montgomery found himself with unexpected free time on his hands as his shows got postponed to comply with social distancing regulations.

Before the pandemic, Montgomery also told The Boot that he had a couple of new songs lined up to share over the course of the spring, following the release of his early 2020 tune "Like My Daddy Done It."

"We've got three songs recorded as of now," he shared at the time. "We're looking into recording more."

The first of those songs was "Saving for a Rainy Night," a dreamy, romantic tune that Montgomery had planned to release well before the COVID-19 shutdown. In light of the pandemic, though, the power of music as an escape from everyday surroundings seems more pressing to him than ever.

"I wanted to release a song during this time because so many people are feeling down," he told Taste of Country, which premiered the track in April. "Nothing can heal the world like music, and I felt that I owed it to my fans to give them something to take their mind off of everything that was going on. I hope this can provide a musical escape for everyone."

The immediate future is uncertain for everyone, and Montgomery is no exception. Though it's unclear when he'll be able to hit the road again, he has the benefit of a strong musical identity and community behind him. The country music genre runs in his blood: His father is John Michael Montgomery, Montgomery Gentry's Eddie Montgomery is his uncle, and rising Americana star Dillon Carmichael is his cousin.

Even beyond those family ties, Montgomery is rooted deeply in '90s country with a modern twist. He's signed to Play It Again Music, a label founded by his songwriting hero, Dallas Davidson, who actually wrote "Like My Daddy Done It." The music that Montgomery has released so far this year -- and the music still to come -- draws largely from that community, he notes.

"These songs have definitely got that '90s flair to them. They've got that rockin' Telecaster. But they've got real modern lyrics," he points out. "And I think that's the best of both worlds, especially these three songs that are coming out. But they definitely have a lot of that '90s influence. You can hear it from the first note."

More From 97.3 The Dawg