Success coming quickly for foursome of friends that really just wanted to be silly and have some fun.
Cheesy? No doubt.
But it’s hard not to evoke the words of Captain Lou Albano’s sassy ’80s daughter when it comes to Calgary country act Nice Horse.
Fun. They just wanna.
“I think that is 100 per cent why we are doing it,” says Kaley Debra, one-quarter of the all-female, Daisy Duked fun squad, while sitting on the patio of Inglewood pub the Hose & Hound.
“We started this band because we went on this girls’ trip to Hawaii and we were drinking and having a good time and wrote a bunch of country songs.
“We were like, ‘You guys — we should just start an all-girl country band and play during Stampede and it’s just an excuse to hang out and have fun and maybe make some money.’
“And as soon as we threw that idea into the world everyone else was like, ‘Wait: Quit everything else you’re doing, those are terrible ideas, do this.’ ”
That’s actually not entirely true — what they were all doing pre Nice Horse wasn’t terrible. In fact, Debra had a lengthy singer-songwriter career, Brandi Caroline and Krista Lee comprised popular electro-pop duo Sidney York, and Katie Marie was vocalist for the project Jakalope among many other things.
But the appeal of the new band is impossible not to understand, with the four friends making country music that’s cheeky, catchy, flirty and, yeah, fun.
If the band name itself wasn’t enough of a clue — or their names for that matter — you can hear it on their debut EP A Little Unstable and tunes such as Pony Up, Put Your Lips On Me and Jim, Jack, Johnnie and Jose, songs that would get any roadhouse rocking thanks to the fantastic vocal play and slick musicianship of the quartet.
“That’s another reason that we’re really proud of the EP is that literally every note on that, with the exception of a little pedal steel and a little fiddle, is played by us,” Lee says.
For Caroline and Marie, the country direction is not much of a stretch, as both ladies grew up on farmland on the prairies and are merely heading back to their roots. Roots, as well, is where Debra has spent much of her musical life — roots music.
For her part, Lee says Springsteen was as close to country as she got, which is why she’s a little more comfortable “hiding behind the drum kit in my Converse while (these) guys have their cowboy boots on”
But musically, they all admit that the direction has been somewhat effortless.
“Nothing has ever come together as organically as this one has,” says Lee. “It was a bit of a surprise, for sure, for everyone involved.”
Debra agrees. “It was relatively easy to do. And I think for Krista, too, the country music that we’re making, not only is it country, but we have these other influences because of our other projects, so it is that pop-country feel … It just kind of fused to make this really special sound I think.”
And people are noticing and “great opportunities” are coming their way, such as some high-profile shows and a spot in the Top 12 of the radio station-sponsored Project Wild professional development program.
That also includes the sessions for that aforementioned EP, with half being recorded with Jeff Dalziel, who’s had success working the board for such acts as Washboard Union, Dan Davidson and Brett Kissel, and the other half recorded at The Warehouse in Vancouver with legendary producer Bob Rock.
The latter came about thanks to previous work Marie had done with the noted Metallica wrangler, and friendships Lee and Caroline had with his engineer.
That, actually, is something that the bandmates point to as being one of their biggest assets and has helped take them so far in such a short amount of time — their collective experience in the industry, the relationships they’ve forged, the knowledge they’ve earned.
“What people don’t see is the 10, 15 years that we’ve been really grinding in this industry and making connections, and this is a project where the four of us collectively are now pulling in all of those connections and favours that we’ve earned,” says Lee.
“This is the one we’re going for.”
Calgarians will get many opportunities to see that over the course of the Stampede, as true to the original inspiration behind the band, Nice Horse are performing most of the 10 days, including Thursday through Saturday at The Station on the grounds.
They’ll also make a guest appearance during Tom Cochrane’s set Wednesday as part of the Stampede Shaker at Fort Calgary.
It considers a relationship that began earlier this year when they were invited to open for the veteran Canadian rocker — originally only for four dates, but so impressed was he that he brought them back for five more.
“We just got along with him so well,” Lee says.
“The stars aligned and it just worked out and it was a really great match,” agrees Debra, noting that they joined him onstage to sing backup on some of his songs. “From the first show we played with him we just really clicked. It was really easy to tour with him.
“And his crowd’s were awesome. They were really appreciative … and gave us a fair chance and really listened.”
Lee laughs. “After every show we had someone who was like, ‘I don’t like country music, but I like you girls.’
“That became our new mission, just converting them one at a time.”
Nice Horse perform Thursday through Saturday at The Station in the Big Four Building on the Stampede Grounds.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.