Though many consider cowboy music to be a niche genre and a dying breed, there’s a new generation of musicians bringing young blood to an old legacy. Just like the traditional cowboy crooners who kept cattle calm on drives, and those who emoted through song before the advent of Nashville country, these young artists have lives and music that ring true to the ranching and cowboy lifestyle.
“I write and perform cowboy music … not country, cowboy,” says Adrian Brannan, 21, also known as Buckaroogirl. “I write about the life I love and things that matter to me.”
For Brannan (www.buckaroogirl.com), this includes things like big open country, bucking horses, working cattle, roping, and stories of cowboys and vaqueros from days gone by.
Brannan, who grew up on a ranch in Northern California, started her singing career during a trip to the Monterey Cowboy Poetry Festival, where she was selling rawhide horse gear with her older sister. She was just 14 years old.
“I had written two songs about things I loved—Elko County and cowboys—and had learned to play three chords on the guitar only two weeks before the show,” she says. “I jumped up on the open mic stage and it stuck!”
Since then, Brannan has released three albums and a fourth is in production.
Trinity Seely (www.trinityseely.com), 32, of Alcova, Wyo., was born to a musically talented ranching family on a remote dude ranch in the wilds of British Columbia.
“I was born with music in my soul and a love for horses and the cowboy way of life,” she says. “For me, it wasn’t ever a decision I had to make to ‘become’ a Western cowgirl singer, it happened because the music took me there.”
Like most true cowboy singers, these young women write their own songs.
“When a song comes to me when I’m horseback or through a story I’ve heard from a cowboy I respect, it means something to me,” says Brannan.
Their appreciation for their fans runs deep. Seely says, “Knowing that there are good people out there that still care about the Western and cowboy way of life, and having a chance to perpetuate something so important as this, means the world to me.”
Veteran cowboy artists encourage these new up-and-comers. “Getting to perform with folks like Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, Ian Tyson, and Tom Russell has been really neat because I grew up listening to them and now I get to work with them!” says Brannan. “That is still something that gets me excited.”
These young women prove that not every “country” singer is a commercially manufactured pop star in it for the money. For them, and others like them, making it in the world of cowboy music isn’t about record sales or booking gigs, it’s about the people met, the stories shared, and a love of the cowboy culture that gave us this music to begin with.
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