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IAN MUNSICK: PUTTING THE WESTERN BACK IN COUNTRY

Coyote Cry, the debut LP from Wyoming’s Ian Munsick, on Warner Music Nashville, is an honest reflection of how he was born and raised. Munsick’s wide-open land, impossibly big skies and local rodeos for cowboys are just another day in the life of this son of a rancher turned teacher and farmer.

After learning music from his fiddle-playing father, Ian and his two brothers became The Munsick Boys, leaning into bluegrass, Beatles, rodeo rocker Chris LeDoux and old-time country. Possessing a high tenor that resembles Vince Gill’s, the winner of iHeartRadio’s Rocky Mountain 2017 Song of the Year brings the notion of “high lonesome” to Coyote Cry, but his rafter-scraping notes are more Rocky Mountains than Appalachia.

Whether a mountain-’grass cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” his sweeping “Mountain Time,” or “Long Haul,” a dustier evocation of Nickel Creek’s “When You Come Back Down,” Munsick’s music captures a sense of how deep emotions can dive. Coyote Cry also packs a little side-to-side romp ’n’ shuffle, whether the cowboy-Romeo wisdom of “Humble,” the Timberlake-style soul stroll “Come Home to You” or the Jack Johnson-slinky, can’t-face-it’s-over “Like It Ain’t.”

You’re putting the Western back in country.
It’s not country doesn’t sound like country; it’s more a whole ‘nother culture of country. In the Rocky Mountains, the West, there’s a whole other lifestyle. I grew up with two older brothers and my dad, working the ranch. There’s a whole other audience that hasn’t been spoken to in a long, long time.

A whole new world.
I’m not gonna try to be more right about a culture I don’t know. But the culture I know, that takes me home, is the West and the cowboys working, really working—that’s my flag.

There’s bluegrass, swing, cowboy music for sure.
A lot of organic instrumentation. Banjos and mandolins and fiddles—acoustic instruments all on top of the drums. Growing up in the ’90s, I loved hip-hop and pop music, so I think traditional stuff is something I draw on. I love the motion, groove and energy of hip-hop. I draw a line from Post Malone to cowboy music.

In the American West.
People have a fascination with the West, especially after COVID. There’s been such a real-estate boom out here. Around the world, there’s nothing more American than cowboys; the beauty of the landscapes and the freedom.

Kanye’s out there. Would he fit?
We wouldn’t have to change much. A lot of the music doesn’t have drums; it’s more old-timey. So we’d just give him a drum pad, let him go.

Coyote Cry has that notion of “high lonesome.”
Ki-OAT.

What?
KI-OAT. Even the way you pronounce it says something.

Your voice holds that high lonesome.
There’s a lot of cattle calling, that higher range [laughter]. There’s a ton of it in my music. Also a lot of fiddle-playing, which sets you right at the campfire. But it’s also those big, big mountains and wide-open spaces. It takes my breath away. So I wanna wave the Wyoming flag and bring a voice they haven’t had for too long.

John Denver?
He was a country artist, but not country country. Chris LeDoux, maybe. Garth Brooks obviously was inspired to become an entertainer from Chris.

Then who influences you?
Ian Tyson is one of my heroes. His songs are soundtracks for my childhood. My brothers as well. Tom Russell was another, but they don’t make big country music.

Rodeo factors.
There’s a huge scene in the Rockies. Per capita, Wyoming has the most cowboys, period. One in three, maybe one in two are a cowboy, a rancher or in agriculture. That’s a whole other way to live—the work you do with your own hands. You respect the work because the mistakes you make, the things you miss, they don’t get done. It’s every day. The bigger ranches have animals; you have to look out for your family, to provide for them and the people who work your land.

And your family.
We had 65 acres, small. Four horses, two emus, two peacocks, chickens, goats, dogs – and then a few cows we keep for our purposes. We lease the land for our neighbor to graze. It adds up to 100 animals, and this isn’t what they do for a living.

Beyond the Munsick Boys, what are they doing?
Before my brother got married and had his kid, he lived alone in a bunkhouse. Even now, he goes into town once a month for groceries, makes the two-hour trip and stocks up. There’s a certain kind of human who can live this life.

How did your career get started?
I’d been playing rodeos and dances, private events, anywhere we could all over Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota. Then I played in some country-rock bands with a couple Texas artists, Carlton Anderson and Blackjack Billy. I did that through college.

And now?
Bring the West to the rest. People want it, love it when they hear it. So let me be the one who does it.

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