When he’s reminded that he will open for Dwight Yoakam, who was country before country was hip the way it is now, Ian Munsick’s reflexive response is exactly what you’d expect from a rising young star: “Oh, man, that’s gonna be awesome.” But then he pauses and chuckles when asked how he thinks the crowd will respond to him. Are those nerves?
“It’ll be interesting,” Munsick tells BandWagon.
Ian Munsick, after all, is doing what he can to push the music beyond the traditional sound that made Yoakam and others like him a legend. Munsick has a hip-hop beat on “She Was Right,” one of the tracks from this year’s album Coyote Cry, and “Mountain Time” could almost fit on Imagine Dragons’ latest album. He even covers “Dreams,” the Fleetwood Mac tune, which has blown up like dynamite on social media (he swears he first played “Dreams” in 2018 before the days of TikTok). Even his more traditional numbers, like his breakthrough “Horses Are Faster,” reveal a twinge of Blink 182 in his voice, which makes him laugh now because he believes he’s matured since then. But Munsick has something in his back pocket that may soothe all those traditional country fans at the Greeley Stampede just ready to see Yoakam: he has roots.
Munsick grew up playing traditional bluegrass and country with his brothers and his fiddle-playing father. He was so young at his first gig, he doesn’t even remember it. And his music reflects that as well.
“I think if you can combine the contemporary with originality, you’ll be able to have your own lane in country music,” he tells BandWagon. “That’s what I try to do. Even if there’s a hip-hop beat on a song, there will also be some banjo or fiddle on it.”
In fact, Munsick isn’t sure he’d be able to show his love for Eminem and, yes, Blink 182 if country music hadn’t already laid the groundwork for the ultra-contemporary direction in which it’s headed. He does that in small doses, but the pop influence is still definitely there on Coyote Cry. His father, he said, didn’t care what he played, although deep down, Munsick believes, his father wanted him to play country. He thinks he did too.
“At the end of the day, that’s the music that takes me home,” he says of country.
Home, for Munsick, is in Wyoming, where he grew up on a ranch. His father was a rancher by day and a musician by night. He brought his sons on stage with his band at an age when they could barely lift a pitchfork. Munsick doesn’t think his father was preparing him for a career in music — he even discouraged it at times, saying music should be an outlet, not a job — but his father also seemed to want that for his sons, Munsick said, even if he knew how hard it would be for them. It must have worked: Munsick’s brothers also have careers in music.
“As a Dad, that’s the highlight of his life: being able to play with his boys on stage,” Munsick said. ‘That’s really why he did it. That’s about as special as it gets.”
Munsick loves Wyoming and bemoans the fact that he can think of only one country music star, Chris LeDoux, in the last 20 years who came from the Rocky Mountain region. He calls the region the most underrepresented in country music.
“There’s not a lot of places more country than the Rocky Mountains, and yet we don’t have anyone representing it in mainstream radio,” he said. “There’s not a lot of tunes about the landscape or the lifestyle we live out here. That’s been my goal – to bring a piece of Wyoming with me. That region has given me tons of love the last few years.”
So he may be buoyed by an enthusiastic Rocky Mountain crowd at the 99th annual Greeley Stampede this year, but even if that’s not the case, Munsick believes he can win them over.
“I do feel like just having the instrumentation that I do, the fiddle and banjo, I think that naturally draws an older crowd because those were the instruments of traditional country music. Honestly I think it’ll be great,” Munsick says. “Totally.”
Ian Munsick opens for Dwight Yoakam on July 1 at the 99th Annual Greeley Stampede, one of five concerts during the Stampede’s SuperStars Concert Series. The series runs from June 26 – July 4 at Island Grove Arena in Greeley. Other headlining acts include 3 Doors Down, TobyMac, Dylan Scott and Hardy with Lauren Alaina. Go to greeleystampede.org for more information and tickets.