“We don’t do things half-heartedly. If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it all the way”
“If there’s trouble, we’re gonna find it.”
This line from Pony Up, the 2018 hit single from the Calgary-based country-rock band Nice Horse, sums them up.
At least, that’s what Katie Rox, one of the four founding members, says.
“That pretty much describes us,” laughs Rox, who calls Airdrie her hometown and now resides in Vancouver, and plays banjo and acoustic guitar. “We began as a project band. We just wanted to do what we do, have fun, and play at Stampede.”
The band’s onstage camaraderie is something bass player Brandi Sidoryk, who lives in Calgary, credits to their off-stage friendships.
“We’re comfortable sharing the stage with each other,” she says. “We were friends before this.”
The band’s drummer, Krista Wodelet, who lives in Airdrie, agrees, “We’re friends who happen to be women, and who are damn good musicians.”
The band’s electric guitarist, Tara McLeod, was unavailable for an interview, but, according to Sidoryk, “is the rock in their country rock.”
The quartet’s 2017 radio-friendly debut album, There Goes the Neighbourhood, hit the ground running, featuring catchy songs like Six String Outlaw, which pokes fun at the classic narrative of the heartbreaking cowboy, and the feminist anthem Mansplainin’, which comically skewers condescending men.
Fueled by a raucous mix of rapid-fire vocals and Rox’s spirited banjo, Mansplainin’, has received a lot of attention.
“(Male patronizing) is something we talk about a lot,” Sidoryk admits. “Some men still seem surprised that we’re capable of playing our own instruments without their help.”
Wodelet agrees, “I’m a drummer, and there are few women drummers, so I get it. People just aren’t used to seeing this.”
“The industry has changed a lot,” Sidoryk adds. “But we still occasionally get that look like, you know, ‘You’re the band?’”
They formed in early 2017, but they’ve already toured with Tom Cochrane, played with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Washboard Union, were named CMT Fresh Face Feature Artist, and have been nominated for their first Canadian Country Music Association award.
All four co-write and sing, and while a feminist theme runs through their lyrics, Wodelet says their songs are not all message driven.
“We’re all career-focused women … but we’re about having a good time, and that shows up in our music.”
Before Nice Horse, they each had successful but very disparate musical careers.
Rox was the lead vocalist for the indie/rock band Jakalope, Sidoryk has been an opera singer, Wodelet is a classically trained bassoonist, and McLeod shredded guitar in the heavy metal band Kittie.
So, why a country band?
“It just happened as we were writing songs,” says Sidoryk. “They sounded country; we just went with it.”
Together, the four friends bring an impressive list of individual industry connections, such as the Sakamoto Agency, Coalition Music, and producer Jeff Dalziel.
“We’ve all been in the music industry for a long time, and we bring all of that,” explains Rox.
“We don’t do things half-heartedly,” she adds, “If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it all the way. It’s part of the magical sauce of Nice Horse.”