A Katy Creek Concert is an exciting adventure of life and love, laughter and tears, with a dash of murder, mayhem and mystery you won’t want to miss.
As romance authors, we are inspired by real-life romances and find it fascinating that you and your husband have strengthened your bond through music. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, can you share some of your romance with us? How did you and your husband Wes meet?
Nancy: Wes and I met through a letter writing service called Southwest Mountain and Country Singles. We both discovered the add for the service in Western Horseman magazine. I was a single mother of two teenage daughters and did not enjoy dating at all. I was very happy in my life and looking at a just couple more years of having my children at home then they would be gone! I really wanted to have a companion I could enjoy; hunt, fish, write, sing, hike and grow old with. My girls would often try to fix me up with their friend’s divorced or widowed dads or someone where they worked but, the times I gave in and said OK all ended with pretty hilarious results. My youngest even tried to fix me up with a man she spotted in the produce section of the grocery, betting me a pound of grapes he was my age, she even had the nerve to asked him! Anyway, one day I clipped the add then let it lay on my desk for months, with my girls teasing me and pressing me to do it, before I finally signed up. It was a nice service where the responders answered through the company and not directly to you unless you gave them your information, so it felt very safe.
When we started writing to each other I was impressed with the content of his letters and that he took the time to hand write them. He told me about his growing up in Colorado, cowboying with his Dad and brothers and of course why he was using the service instead of the regular dating routine. At the time he was living in Wyoming and would joke that the men still out numbered the women significantly and so options were slim. We wrote for several months before I gave him my home address and then it was a while longer before I would give him my phone number, mostly because I was really enjoying the letters and I wanted to see if he would persist. When I did finally give him my number, we spoke nearly every night and he won me over almost right away when he began to recite poetry to me over the phone. Bear in mind now, cowboy poetry is not often romantic in the hearts and flowers sense of the word, mostly it is about the life and adventures. After a couple of months talking on the phone, he asked if I thought we should meet in person. Yes, I wanted to meet him ! I felt as if I had known him already and it was as if he had just been gone a long time and needed to come home.
He told me he and his nephew were planning a pack trip into the Wind River Range late summer and would I like to go along. I blurted out Yes!, then realized I didn’t really know this guy and wondered how I would get out of it. But, he realized the situation and a couple of conversations later he suggested he should come here to Phoenix before I went off to the wilderness with a man I knew nothing about.
So of all the times to come to Arizona, he came in June! It was unseasonably cool with even a few little rain showers and he was actually impressed, thinking, “it’s not all that hot “. I kept trying to tell him it was not a normal summer. We rode the steam train to the Grand Canyon, visited old Tucson, hiked in the desert and up around Lake Pleasant were I was looking at some property. He proposed at Old Tucson and I accepted! Then it was in August that we went on the pack trip. We rode in about 13 miles and spent four days in the Wind Rivers. It was rainy, snowy and cold on the ride in, and my horse slipped on the slick granite and fell, but the rest of the time in the mountains the days were beautiful with green meadows, glaciers, wildflowers and running streams everywhere filled with cut throat we would catch and eat.
Wes was learning to play the fiddle when we first met and had been writing poetry and reciting for some time already. He recites his own material as well as some of the classic cowboy poems. He writes about his life growing up farming and ranching with his family as well as western people of the past and present who intrigue him. Many of his poems are humorous. I had begun to play the guitar while pretty young and had been encouraged by a grade school teacher to write poems and to journal. There are stacks of notebooks in my mother’s attic with child hood scratchings and stories. I grew up with and interest in history and especially the west because my father was so interested it. We often went to museums and historical events depicting the west. When Wes and I met and began to write together it just naturally fell into place with the love of history and his cowboy background. I think every couple needs a glue to hold together through the tough times that always come. When you take an independent cowboy and a strong willed independent woman and put bring them together, you’re gonna need some glue! God is anchor and the music and writing are the common bond.
We love to hear about a writer’s call to the craft. Was there a moment when you decided you were going to become a performing artist/musician?
Nancy: I dreamed of performing when I was just learning to play the guitar at about age 13 or 14 and did actually start performing while still in High School. I even had two original songs from that period that I performed for many years. I wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember and was encouraged by a teacher to do so.
Can you share some of your writing process with us? Do you and Wes write together? Do you put music to words or words to music?
Nancy: Wes and I have two very different writing styles but we often write together. He, being a long time poet, has a different take on rhyme and meter than a songwriter. So, if it is a song he wants to write, he will put it to paper as a poem then hand it to me to make into a song. “Cowboy Willie” and “Lawman of the Trail” are examples of that kind of collaboration.
But, there are plenty of times we sit down side by side with an idea for a song and write it as a song, completing lyrics and melody in the same sitting. “They’ve Called Me A Cowboy”, and “The Goodbye Promise” are two examples of songs we wrote in that manner. “Autumn’s On Its Way”, “White Tanks” are songs I wrote alone. For me most of the time, the words and feel of a song determine the melody. And music can change the whole flavor of a song. We lately wrote a song and while playing with the melody we ended up changing the whole basis of the story line because we felt the melody required it.
But I do have melodies in my head that are just waiting for the right verse or story line to come along and occasionally they do come along.
What writers and music artists have inspired you?
Nancy: As a writer, mostly I am inspired real people, especially women, who share their lives and stories with me. I have gotten ideas from just being out in the desert, the countryside or wilderness, on foot or horseback and letting the landscape tell its tales. But as far as writers go, I would have say for one, Zane Grey for his deep thought and detailed descriptions of people, places and events. I also get inspiration from biography material from people of the time like Elizabeth Champie-Cordes who was raised in the area north of Phoenix; the Champie ranch is still up there in that tremendously rough country. Ben Green who wrote “A Thousand Miles of Mustangin” and Dakota Cowboy by Ike Blasingame. J.P.S. Brown ( The World in Pancho’s Eye) is also one of my favorites, raised on the border lands of the Sonoran Desert and Mexico he inspires incredible mental pictures.
As a singer, the delivery of the story in a song is what gets my attention and I always want to get my story across they way I feel it. Janis Ian does that for me, as well as Rory Block and Emmy Lou Harris. Jon Messenger’s voice paints pictures around the word he writes and has a quality that makes you listen. Sue Harris is an entertainer pure and simple, be it song, poem or story she can put you right where she wants you to be mentally.
Who have been your greatest influences?
Nancy: My parents fostered in me a love of this Country and its great History by taking me to places across America to camp, make friends, see history re-enacted and experience first hand what the pioneers might have felt. When you get to meet, either face to face or through books or storytelling, the people who are the life blood of this nation, it fosters an endearing and enduring connection and gives a stable, grounding and strengthening knowledge of who you are personally that can take you through dark, dismal even unimaginable times. It would be hard to say one person in particular who influences me, but I would have to say it is the women as a whole. Women are tough, tender, fighters, lovers, romantic realists. Without their innate contradictory contrasts, this country would not exist. Tom Russel said it in “Hallie Lonnigan”, “the secret of your history is in a working woman’s soul”.
You have mentioned your music and poetry are inspired by figures in the historical west. Who are some of your favorite western characters?
Nancy: While I love to read about Annie Oakley, Miss Baldwin and the others who rode for the famed 101 Ranch and the wild west and rodeo shows, I have to differ to the ranch women who worked and rode (and still do) beside their husbands or alone. Their stories are often buried in libraries and diaries and kept unintended secret by families. I find my inspiration in the books like The Wagon Train Diaries, articles from publications like Range Magazine and from meeting and talking to the women in the ranching and farming community.
Is there a story behind the Katy Creek name?
Nancy: Katy Creek is a creek (though now dry) running through our property near Table Top National Monument. We were riding one day and discovered a natural depression the cowboys fill with water during round-up. The water is pumped from about 300 ft down into a tank for holding, then it can be turned out into the depression to water cattle. When we asked a local about it, he told us it was at one time a running creek and quite lush but very nearly the only constant water supply in the area. Two local ranchers bickered for years over it and finally one blew it up with dynamite and drove it underground ending the fight.
True? Well, who knows? I have never found out anything one way or the other. There are two long established ranches, one on the South side, one on the West side of Table Top.
But, as it is well known in cowboy gatherings, one never passes up a good opportunity to embellish the truth ( or otherwise ), so it became the basis for the Legend of Katy Creek and the name of our band. You can read the Legend of Katy Creek part one on our web site.
Of all the venues you have played, do you have a favorite?
Nancy: Oh, my! I cannot think of one in particular as far as one place in time. But I love to play to an audience who is there to receive, who came to be entertained, who is hungry, open and unafraid of adventure and experiencing the gamut of emotions. They are riding right beside you and will whoop, hollar, cry and laugh out loud. We are especially thrilled when we get to create a new enthusiast, someone who came to the show for the first time and is now hooked for good.
What do you enjoy most about live performances?
Nancy: A songwriter, as with any writer, bares heart and soul. You expose your very being to the public. Of course you want to be accepted by your audience. So it has to be the realization of the impact our songs and stories have on people. When they come and talk to us after and tell us what they felt during the show, about the memories brought back or “hey that exact same thing happened to me!” To know that you have touched someone heart and soul, see it in their faces during the show, hear them gasp or laugh or wipe a tear, see them lean forward in their seat; they are in it, living it with you. You can only know and experience this through live performance.
Are there any new artists you’ve been listening to, who you think other people should check out?
Nancy: Oh, there are so many good western entertainers worth checking out! But some of the newer faces on the scene are; Joe Green, a singer songwriter from Texas and what a stooory teller, ( that’s how Joe would say it!) He just takes command of the audience.Mike Moutoux, New Mexico’s most enchanting cowboy sings originals and standards and can spin a yarn that will have you laughing so hard you’re gasping for air. Diane Tribbet is a rancher and has been writing and performing a few years. She write moving and passionate poetry and is a must hear. Lauri Wood from Encampment, Wyoming is another up and comer who writes and sings with her young daughter Cora.
Can you tell us more about the “murder and mayhem trilogy” on your CD?
Nancy: It all got started when we began performing “Step It Out Nancy” written by Robin and Linda Williams. It is about a young girl who is in love with a cowboy but her father wants her to marry the rich cattleman. The cattleman kills her lover and she kills the cattleman. Tremendous story! And it was an instant hit with our audiences! Marvin O’Dell, a singer- songwriter and DJ for Heartland Public radio, heard us perform it and decided it would pair up nicely with a song he wrote called “I Guess I Better Dig Another Grave “ about a woman who goes a little crazy when she is left alone and her children die and gets pretty creative in killing anyone who ventures onto her place. The two songs became our most requested. While we were at a festival in Kansas, The Yampa Valley Boys heard the set and determined we should add Tom Russell’s “Hallie Lonnigan” to the mix. Without spilling the beans, the girl wins! I had never heard it before, but when we did get a copy, couldn’t resist!
Where will you be performing next? Do you have a new CD in the works.
Nancy: Our next major public performance will be at Festival of the West, March 19-22 at West World in Scottsdale, Arizona. We have some smaller shows and local events that may be in your area and you can check our calendar for those. www.katycreek.com
We have two very exciting things coming up in the near future.
Our next CD, titled Campfire Reflections will release this summer. It is all original with one co-write by myself and Les Buffham ( he is the author of the song Montana Lullabye you hear play on our home page). It will have eight songs and four poems, 2 of which I will recite, an new thing for me! We have added more musicians too! Jon Messenger is on lead guitar, Alice Pitts, a 19 year old newcomer on fiddle and Maxine Eldridge on double bass. It is produced and recorded live by Kedron Porter at his Dreams Captured Studio.
Also, the title cut of our current CD, Autumn’s On Its Way, inspired Major Mitchell, a western author to write a full length book based on the song. I never could have imagined this, and when he contacted me I was floored. He asked me scores of questions to make sure we were on the same page with the song. There are two more songs spinning off of “Autumn’s On Its Way”, one about Abby and one about the Cowboy, so I was thrilled that he had the same ideas. Major will release the book this spring. We are hoping to be able to have the book available with a disk of the CD included
Have a question for Nancy? She will be visiting with us throughout the day. One lucky comment poster will win an authographed Autumn’s On Its Way CD!