When Ian Munsick was about 8 years old, he took the stage with his dad and two older brothers at the Best Western in Sheridan, Wyoming. They were hired to play the restaurant and bar that evening. “It wasn’t nighttime because I don’t think any of us three boys were allowed in there after 8,” Munsick said. “It wasn’t for very much money, but I remember somebody put a $10 or $20 bill in my guitar case. My dad was like, ‘That’s yours. You get to keep that.’ When you’re that age, $20 is like a million dollars. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get to make money doing what I love.’ That’s when I knew I was hooked.”
That night onstage at the Sheridan Best Western started a career for a ranch kid from Wyoming that has since landed Munsick in Nashville. In 2017 he released an independent project, and his song “Horses are Faster” “kind of grew legs on its own.” At this point the song has more than 13 million plays on Spotify alone. That organic growth caught the attention of Warner Music Nashville and in 2020 he signed a contract and made a full-length album, which will be released on country music radio, as well as on-demand streaming services.
“‘Horses are Faster’ was actually the first song that I produced that I thought people would like,” Ian said. “I wrote and recorded it all on my own. It was kind of a case of beginner’s luck. It inspired me to learn more about the craft of engineering and producing my own music, which led to a lot more time in front of the computer, diving into the technology end of music. That definitely changed the way I recorded music and my overall sound as an artist.”
That sound has changed since he left the ranch when he was about 18. “I’m almost 28 years old now. Even if I’d stayed on the ranch, those are extremely transformative years, not only musically, but in anyone’s life. My music definitely changed as I grew up.”
He calls his current sound “a strong handshake between those two worlds,” Wyoming and Nashville. “I’m always looking ahead in terms of what’s going to be next, in terms of pop music. Lyrically, I always go back to my roots of country music, and storytelling and the positive outlook on life. The hardworking, hard-loving community that is country music. It’s a good blend of modern and traditional.”
He lists the Beatles as the number one influence on his music. “I go back to my Beatles records and find new inspiration in their writing and production and their influence on the world.” He also lists western music icon Ian Tyson, Guy Clark’s writing and Bruno Mars’s energy, Ricky Skaggs from the Bluegrass world. “I love all kinds of different music. At the end of the day I’ll always go back home to country music.”
The foundation of his music–and his character–is still the ranch. “The ranch taught me a lot of lessons that are priceless. How to work hard and keep your head down and get the job done, no matter what happens. Hard work, how to stay humble. How to respect not only other people, but the earth and planet. Those three lessons I still carry with me in Nashville.”
Ian says his dad, Dave, would have loved to pursue music full-time. “He’s really talented, but he knew there comes a point where you’ve got to put your wife and kids before you. If you’re going to be able to make your dream work, then great, but being able to put your loved ones before you is another just great, great lesson that growing up on the ranch taught me.”
While Dave never made the big time on his own, he gets to watch all three of his boys make music. Tris, the oldest, has a band called Tris Munsick and the Innocents, and he plays more traditional music. They play mostly around the Rocky Mountain area. Sam, the middle son, “he’s a rancher, through and through. A cowboy through and through,” Ian says. “He kinda lives his life in isolation. He’s a great, great writer, has an amazing voice as well. He’s putting together a new record, which I’m really excited about. He hasn’t really put out music but he has some amazing tunes in his catalog. I think he’s going to do really good things for the country and western world.”
And Dave still gets on stage when he goes to his son’s performances. He usually plays fiddle for “Horses are Faster.” Ian says, “That’s kind of the go-to because he actually fiddled on the record. I feel like a lot of people don’t know that. But that’s usually the song that people know me by as of now. Every time he hops on the stage for the encore and we do that, there’s a wow factor that goes into it. It’s a special thing. He played on the record; it throws me back to the ranch days and playing with him. That’s a really cool thing that we’re able to do.”
Music is still at the center of family gatherings. The boys and their dad do a Christmas concert in Sheridan every year for the last 15 years. They still are invited to cowboy poetry gatherings, like in Elko, Nevada. “There are always opportunities (to play together). We still get to play with each other, but obviously not as much as we used to,” Ian said.
The Munsicks boys’ mom, Trudy, loves to hear her family play, and has always been the manager. “She keeps us in line,” Ian says. “She’s really organized. She just loves to listen to us and keep us on track, keep us on a schedule. That’s her job. Without her we would all definitely not be where we are today.”
The boys all took music lessons from kindergarten on, starting with piano. Ian plays piano, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo and guitar. “Guitar was the one we took after we took piano as young kids. Guitar was the instrument we were always trying to get to because that was the one we always saw our country and country western and cowboy heroes play. Seeing him (Dave) play was even more of an inspiration for us to play.”
Ian says the interest in music came naturally to all three boys, and was encouraged by both parents. “To improve, you always have to be practicing. It was just a natural thing because we were always around it, because Dad would be playing at home.”
And that’s still how it is. “We always have a jam session when we’re home. I was home a couple weeks ago. We had all the new generation of Munsicks there, and my generation and my parents and some uncles, playing music, listening to each other, running around. That definitely still goes down anytime we’re in the room together.”