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Wyoming's Ian Munsick chats to Maxim about faith, getting homesick, and the importance of creative freedom.
"Being outside, especially in the Rockies where I call home, that’s where I feel the most alive."
Your recent single, ‘More Than Me’, is one of my favourite songs at the moment. The key lyric ‘She loves Him more than me’ would turn any other song into a heartbreak song. But in ‘More Than Me’ it takes on a completely different meaning, which makes it all the more powerful, and offers a really unique take on faith. I read that it took you a number of years to finish this song. What was it that kept you going back to it, and what made it finally click for you?
I saw one of my old college friends get married four years ago. He was really nervous, and the preacher asked him, ‘Why do you love her?’ And he just smiled and said, ‘I love her because she loves Jesus more than me.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, that’s a song right there!’ I brought the idea to one of my best friends, Carlton Anderson, and we kicked it around. We then brought it to another of my songwriting friends, Phil O Donnell. His faith speaks very loudly about who he is, so we knew he was a great person to bring this song to. We worked on it for a few hours, but we couldn’t really wrap our heads around it. I didn’t want to rush it, because it really felt like a special one. I took it home and over the next few days wrote out the rough scheme of the song. Then I brought what I had to another renowned songwriter, Casey Beathard, and he loved it. He tweaked it, and then finally we got it to where it is now. It took three years, but it was worth the wait, man. It reinforces the overall message that I’m trying to bring to the world, which is to live a positive lifestyle.
Faith is hugely important to my mental health. Two other potential methods of easing anxiety are offered on your latest song…‘Horses and Weed’! What made you choose this as a single?
Man, throughout my career I’ve always been very yin and yang with my releases. I released ‘Long Live Cowgirls’ in January, and then ‘Cowboy Killer’ a few weeks after that, and they are polar opposites. One is extremely traditional and the other is very contemporary. As an artist, I always feel like I owe it to my audience to give them all of me, and not just the same thing over and over again. I think that’s a mistake that country music has fallen into in the last few years. I wanted to release one that was completely different to ‘More Than Me’, but that still has a common thread. ‘Horses and Weed’ has the same message about promoting positivity and freedom in life, and just staying on the bright side. I grew up with horses and cows on a ranch, and every time I go home that’s the happiest I am, because I can feel the freedom in the air. Being outside, especially in the Rockies where I call home, that’s where I feel the most alive, man. Country music has often held the stereotype about being all about trucks and beer. Instead of trucks and beer, it’s all about horses and weed where I’m from!
You’ve touched on the fact that your have a unique sound that’s hard to pin down - I think of you as being traditional country, but at the same time there are bluegrass, EDM, R&B and experimental influences throughout your debut album. How would you describe your music?
I love to produce my own music. It gives you a freedom to express yourself however you want, instead of trying to channel your art through another creator. When the production element comes into play, I feel like there are no boundaries for me. There are probably five or so A-list producers in Nashville that do one lane really, really well, and that the majority of artists will bring their music to. That's great, man, because they’re amazing. I do think it’s important to choose your lane, but I want my lane to be as wide as possible. That’s why producing or co-producing my own music is really important to me. That’s how you go from 808s to drop to steel guitar all in the same album. Overall, I would say that my sound is a firm handshake between traditional and modern country music. It’s definitely not the same old country and Western tunes, but I definitely drew a lot of influence from them because of where I grew up. Growing up I would steal CDs from my brother, so I’ve been influenced by everyone from Eminem to Blink-182 to George Jones. My music taste is really all over the place.
Songs like ‘Mountain Time’ really capture this sense of finding ‘home’, and in your music natural spaces and landscapes play a key part in building this picture of a safe, comforting place where you can just escape the stresses of the world. There’s perhaps an irony in the fact that singing about your love of home has propelled you away from home, as you’ve now moved from Wyoming to Nashville and spend a lot of time on tour! How does that balance work for you, and do you get homesick?
Yeah, man, I get homesick. We hit the road really hard. I’ve lived in Nashville for the past ten years, I have a wife and kid out here, who was born here. But when I think of the word ‘home’, I still think of Wyoming. I think that’s what inspires me to write about home, because I miss it and it’s on my heart. Whereas if I still lived in Wyoming, I would probably just be happy and outside all the time, and I wouldn’t have time to write music. Here in Nashville, I am here for one reason - to create music. Being on the road as much as I am also plays into that - my song ‘Come Home To You’ epitomises this. Usually, I’m gone all week and I come home at the end of the week to my wife and kids. Being away from home is what inspires those songs about home. If you’re at home all the time, you’re probably gonna be writing about wanting to be away from home!
Is there an album on the way?
Yes there is! ‘More Than Me’ and ‘Horses and Weed’ are the first two tracks on it. The album will be coming in 2023.
Lastly, something we ask all our interviews, what would be your top three songs with a theme of mental health?
It was very hard for me to pick individual songs, so I have artists instead -
1. The Beatles They’re my favourite band of all time, I draw a ton of inspiration from them. That goes back to the beauty of producing your own music - The Beatles were able to reinvent themselves over and over again. If you listen to their first album and then their last album, you think, ‘How is this the same band?’ - yet it still all works. Every time I hear them, I’m always re-inspired to create. And when I’m creating, that’s when I feel the fire in my heart and I’m happiest, because I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
2. George Strait Every time I hear his music, I’m inspired to up my songwriting game. The songs he’s cut over the years are timeless, and you can listen to them now and they have just as much impact as if you’d listened thirty years ago. George is always one I’ll turn to and he’ll take me back home as well, which has been a theme in this conversation.
3. George Jones This might seem like a weird one, because George Jones probably has the saddest songs in Country music! I hear his music and I think, ‘You know what, my life is pretty good! That guy is going through it, so compared to him I’m doing ok!’ I feel like I will never go through as many hard times as he has.
Do you have plans to come over and perform in the UK?
Man, I would love to. I really want to go over there just to experience your Country crowds - I’ve only ever played in the US, so I’d love to head over there soon.
Ian Munsick’s latest singles, ‘More Than Me’ and ‘Horses and Weed’, are out now!
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