Family is Everything: A Munsick Family Christmas celebrates Western roots, family
The Munsick Boys were teenagers the first time they walked onto the stage with their dad at Christmas time at the WYO Theater in Sheridan, Wyoming.
They’d been playing country and cowboy music together for years, but this was their first shot at “the big time.”
“We thought that was about as high as you could climb, to play the WYO,” says Tris, the oldest of the three boys.
The Munsick Boys are Tris, Sam and Ian, and their dad, Dave Munsick. Their mom, Trudy, has been their biggest supporter, coordinator and stage manager since they were little.
Since that first concert 15 years ago, both singly and as a group they’ve produced records, performed all over the country, Dave and Ian have played at the Grand Ol’ Opry, and they’ve built a fan base that’s increasingly putting them in the spotlight.
But for the Munsick Boys, playing the WYO at Christmastime is still coming home.
It was a slow start, Tris says. “We have deep roots here in the community. Our family is from here. We had a handful of folks show up that first year. That was pretty awesome. They let us back the next year, which was amazing. Word was spreading. Not that it was a professional show, but that it was an honest family effort to do something cool and give folks something to do during the holidays. There are folks today who have gone to every single show, which is crazy.”
Those deep roots are still holding strong. At one point Tris was in Austin, Sam was in Oregon and Ian was in Nashville. But they always made it home for the Christmas concert. “Even if we didn’t have enough money, we made it somehow,” Tris said. “Sometimes the show paid for our trip home at Christmas.”
This year, their Friday, Dec. 17 show sold out so fast they added another show, on Thursday, Dec. 16. That one sold out too.
The show has changed a bit since it was three nervous teenagers and their anxious dad onstage. “It was mostly hanging by a thread kind of panic,” Tris says. “We were just trying to make it through. We all play multiple instruments and we used to ham that up and switch instruments all the time, between songs, which would inevitably lead to bass guitars falling over on stage and banjo strings breaking–little fires all the time, and my dad trying to keep it all together. Now it’s just fun. We take it a little less seriously now because we just enjoy doing it. As you get older and play 100 or 1,000 shows you realize, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ They’re still going to like us. The main goal is for us and the audience to have fun. The pressure is off.”
There’s still a certain amount of pressure, though, as they often introduce some of their newest music. All four of the Munsick Boys write music and they use the Christmas show to try out the songs each has written in the last year.
In the beginning, it wasn’t pretty, Tris says. “We grew up playing with our dad whenever possible. He would suffer through getting us up there on stage to sing a few tunes, play an instrument. It was pretty bad. We gradually got better.”
Dave, a rancher, has played music all his life, and passed on the love and ability to his sons. There is six years age difference between Tris and Ian, with Sam a year younger than Tris, but all three boys started playing piano when they were 5 years old. Now, between the four of them they play guitar, bass, drums, piano, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and harmonica.
Their diverse abilities lend themselves well to their diverse sounds. While all started out playing cowboy and western music, they each bring their own tastes and abilities to the stage for their own performances, and the Christmas concert, which includes a lot more than Christmas music.
“Sam will play more Bluegrass, Ian will play more modern Nashville, my dad will play folk-songwriter stuff, and I like playing singer-songwriter, country-rock,” Tris says. “But it’s all Munsick Boys. It’s all of us playing on them, so it blends together. Hopefully everyone in the audience can relate to at least some of them. Our strong points are our songwriting and brother harmonies. That’s a special thing, and we try to choose songs that highlight that.”
There’s a level of support and trust between the boys that Tris says they all appreciate. “We’re super lucky. If I’m wondering if something I’ve written is any good I just have to ask those three and they’ll give you an honest answer. Sometimes more honest than you’re looking for. We’re pretty lucky to have three people who know what they’re talking about to be honest with you and bounce ideas off and work with.”
Beyond the Christmas concert, about the only tradition the Munsick family always honors is spending as much time together as possible. “That’s kind of our main goal as a family,” says Tris. “Everybody understands it’s hard to do when your family isn’t in the same place, and so many irons in the fire and going different directions. Usually we have to travel to meet up. It makes travel a lot easier when you can do it with your family. Family is everything.”
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