Stephanie Quayle was working in the studio with her producers Julian King and Mark Wright, trying to get all the parts for the song “If I Was a Cowboy” figured out, when they decided to add a bit of rumbling baritone guitar to the mix. It was like something clicked.
“All the little hairs on our arms raised up,” says Quayle, whose new EP — also titled If I Was a Cowboy — is officially out today. “That’s how you know, OK, something’s about to happen.”
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She had already been fully on board with the song, a tune by Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, and Ross Copperman that offered a message of harnessing the resilience and strength of cowboys. But the finished product with baritone guitar, topped off with some lonesome whistling, was the sound she’d been searching for — sonic references that linked her back to the wide open expanses of Montana where she grew up.
“That’s a big part of what makes me who I am: I grew up with an endless view,” says Quayle, whose previous singles include the power ballad “Ugly” and the bright, colorful “Winnebago.” “That’s kind of how I look at life.”
That same optimism courses through “If I Was a Cowboy,” in which Quayle encourages herself to embody the stoic and heroic aspects of cowboydom: namely, get back in the saddle and keep riding.
“When I think of cowboys, it’s not a gender thing to me,” she says. “It’s a state of mind. That has been a huge part of me persevering and making decisions. When you’re out on the range, you don’t have always a lot of time to make choices. You have to really look at today and what has to happen today for tomorrow to show up.”
Those themes of having courage and of the future being yet unwritten are present in all the tracks on If I Was a Cowboy. In her current single “Whatcha Drinkin’ ‘Bout,” Quayle plays the part of a woman boldly seizing an opportunity to cheer up a heartbroken stranger. Quayle co-wrote the song “Evel Knievel” with Tori Tullier and Karen Kosowski about a fellow Montanan who took huge risks and lived fearlessly. And the EP’s closing track, “Untitled,” says we are all but a few chapters into our own stories and that we have to live fearlessly in order to get to know our authentic selves.
“The more we focus on finding our own voice versus chasing what other people think our voice should be in whatever line of career that is, that’s when we really get to see our own selves,” she says. “And that’s when people really get to see us. For me, being on the back of my horse, and being on the stage is where I feel the most me. This is how to take you on a horseback ride without you and I being in Montana right now.”
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