Tim Ryan Rouillier's "symphonic memoir" will air on Montana PBS stations in December.
The stations will screen it at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.
Rouillier grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in St. Ignatius and learned to play music with his grandfather, Vic Cordier. He eventually moved to Nashville, where he wrote songs for Randy Travis and George Strait, among others.
His memoir, titled "My Grandpa's Fiddle/Play Me Montana," tracks that journey in an extravagant fashion. Ryan wrote 13 original songs, with fellow Music City writers Alex Harvey and Charlie Black. He hired Charlie Judge, an arranger for the likes of Keith Urban, to orchestrate strings. He brought in friends like Grammy winner Lari White to sing.
There are many facets at work, so much so that his industry friends in Nashville told him he needed a multi-million-dollar budget that could only be provided by a corporate sponsor. One solution was to do it himself. He wanted multimedia, so he shot video of Montana scenery himself and taught himself to edit.
He also took the show home to Missoula, where it premiered in June 2017 to a sold-out audience in the Dennison Theatre on the University of Montana campus.
"I guess I won the race because I never dreamed that I would even get it this far," he said recently.
He recruited David King, a producer who worked on live-action and animated projects in Hollywood and now lives in Polson, to film the performance. Through Clint Mitchell, a UM graduate who's now with the William Morris Agency, Rouillier got PBS interested. They whittled the story down from an hour to 39 minutes and aired it around the country during pledge drives.
The Montana PBS viewings will have full performance. "To have this show play statewide in Montana for my home, this is probably one of the highlights of my career, because this is what we were after," he said.
That's perhaps because there were so Montanans on stage.
"I had the opportunity to do it in Nashville. And after my wife and I thought about it, we wanted to do it with our people," Rouillier said.
He brought dancers and drummers, led by Jim Durglo, from the reservation. One of them, Francis Durgeloh, was ill and died in October. A tribal elder, Stephen Small Salmon, danced and blessed the stage.
White passed away from cancer several months after the concert. (He says it was "a gift" that she came to play.) Judge conducted the Missoula Symphony Orchestra. His frequent collaborator Mike Ulvila, a Kalispell native now in Nashville, was there, too. He brought in his fiddler, Trevor Krieger of Billings, too.
They had a perhaps a week to prepare, and experienced many errors during the rehearsals, which is natural when you have some 126 people hitting the stage.
"Wouldn't you know, on Saturday it was so smooth it was like it was meant to be. Maybe all the gods were smiling on us or feeling sorry for us, one or the other," he said.
Ryan said DVDs and CDs will be available during the pledge screening here. He's planning a 2019 tour, ideally playing with symphony orchestras, and perhaps stopping in Great Falls or Billings.