Husband-wife duo embrace the nomad life
Meeting the challenges of raising a family on the road
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Trent Monk had already pursued and abandoned a career in music by the time he met his future wife Shellie. Then, he didn’t imagine that this budding relationship would lead to a new chapter in music.
But it did, as part of a duo wherein he and Shellie formed a musical partnership to coincide with their personal one.
First, a romantic duo
“We met in Texas,” said Trent Monk of his now-wife, Shellie. “After dating for a little bit of time, I asked her if she wanted to give up her steady job and her steady paycheck and hit the road with me.”
Monk had already tried his hand at music stardom despite his relatively late start. Focusing mostly on sports through high school and into college, he was 21 before he picked up a guitar, but within a week he was trying his hand at performing. Sort of.
“I had learned a few chords and was leading a worship group the next week,” he said. “I’m not saying I was good, but I had blind determination. It was a junior high school Sunday school group, and I went up to the youth pastor afterward and said, ‘That was really bad.’ And he said, ‘Oh don’t worry,’ so I said I wanted to go one more time, that I’d be better. The next week played the same songs. I was just determined, and I guess I’m a quick learner because then I started writing my own songs.”
For a time he had a duo with a friend, calling themselves Monk & Neagle. They met with some success with recording and radio play, but when things didn’t take off, he moved on to other things.
Until, that is, his decision to marry Shellie and hit the road again. At the time his plan was to be a solo act, albeit with Shellie by his side. Eventually things evolved, taking the couple in another direction.
Bringing his wife on board
“I was going to do the solo artist thing, and she was working behind the scenes,” Monk said. “She worked the merch table and booked shows. But I started noticing that she had some real talent that hadn’t been tapped into. She had a great sense of rhythm and an ability to harmonize, so I said, ‘Why don’t you learn to play some percussion so you can join me on stage for a few songs?’ That was about five years ago, and we’ve been a duo ever since. She plays keys, a little bit of percussion, and provides harmony. She’s really been rocking it.”
Now calling themselves, appropriately, We Are the Monks, the pair relocated to Nashville where they renovated an RV which takes them around the country with their two young children. Son Oliver is now five and daughter Amelia is three. The family travels together daily.
Having recently visited their 40th state (Montana), the Monks are also home schooling, providing for constant togetherness. That can be challenging, but Monk said it works for their family — and their marriage.
“When Shellie and I met, we had particular personalities that just really fit well together,” Monk said. “We have the normal tiffs and arguments like all couples do, but for us it’s just easier because we really get along well. We’re together 24/7 for 10 years of marriage, but we just like each other.
“There are challenges, and when we decided to home school on top of all of our other tasks, we knew we had to find a way to balance all of those things. We want to spend quality time with the kids and prioritize our work with doing things as a family. We’ll often play on the weekends and then spend the weekdays visiting national parks with the kiddos.”
Planning a music career
But that nomadic life is not without structure. Monk said that as they continue on their musical journey, they have started planning their career out more, allowing them time to meet all of their responsibilities.
“Over the year we’ve scheduled things further and further out schedule-wise, booking ourselves for the time ahead,” he said. “We have this year pretty much booked, and we’ve already started booking for next year. And if someone said, ‘Hey, we’d like to book you for November 2020,’ we’d go ahead and book that and then build bookings around that.”
Together the Monks both contribute their own personal compositions to their set, demonstrating their Christian faith and commitment through songs and hymns which have touched a chord with fans around the country.
Having already experienced a musical career with recording contracts and such, Monk is content to be as independent as We Are the Monks are, favoring the way their careers are moving under their own control.
“My earlier work laid a foundation, something I can springboard off of and build our own thing,” he said. “We’re not with a label, but my years in the business helped me build relationships which have been helpful. We’ll just keep doing this as long as the Lord wills it.”