Wylie and the Wild West to receive prestigious ‘Wrangler Heritage Award’ in April
Wylie and the Wild West next month will receive the exclusive “National Cowboy Museum Wrangler Heritage Award” for Outstanding Original Western Composition at the 2015 Western Heritage Awards in Oklahoma.
Wylie Gustafson, lead singer of the Conrad-based western group, said this award is a huge honor for them, saying it’s, “the most prestigious award we can get.”
“It’s like the Grammys of the western world because it also encompasses movies and television shows. It’s kind of a cool idea because they do a good cross section of western culture.” he said. “I’ve attended the award show ceremony as a presenter a couple of times but this has been one of the awards that has eluded us for a long time. I guess finally persistence has paid off.”
There ceremony itself is set for April 18 at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City.
Gustafson said he’s proud of the fact that they’ve received this award for singing all about what makes Montana a great place to live.
“The music I do is very Montana,” he said. “People say write what you know, and I know about Montana. Maybe it tends to get overlooked sometimes compared to Texas or California, but Montana is my favorite place and it’s what I sing about and what I celebrate — be in the landscape, or the people. It’s just, as an artist, what I feed off of, this wonderful place we call home.”
This award also is an exclusive one as Gustafson and his band are one of only three musical performers being recognized this year. The song they’re being awarded for is “Where Horses Are Heroes,” which was released on the group’s compilation album “Song of the Horse.”
Gustafson said he’s encouraged by the fact that the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has started to expand it’s scope to more modern types of music, whereas he said in the past his work would have been considered too “modern” to be even considered for the award.
“The purpose of the Western Heritage Award is to promote western culture and they’ve acknowledged that the west is changing so you know, maybe that’s why they did give us a nod and that’s great,” he said. “We’re one of those western bands not doing all traditional western music. We’re trying to reinvent western music a bit and take it into the 21st century.”
Getting back to the type of music that inspires him, Gustafson said he’s always been especially touched by music that represents culture and the geography around the musicians at the time.
“My favorite kind of music I listen to celebrates the place where the artsits are from, whether it’s New Orleans and the Cajun music, or the Chicago blues, I think I love to hear when artists are celebrating their place, or their home.”
Later this year Gustafson will again perform in China representing Montana for a cultural diplomacy function.
The group played in China in 2013, also, but Gustafson said this time will be different because Max Baucus is currently the US Ambassador for China.
“Now that (Baucus) is ambassador we have that Montana link in common so we’ll play for Max and the embassy on one of the evenings so that’ll be fun,” he said. “I love cultural diplomacy in general because music is such a powerful medium and our music seems to be universal in a sense that people might not understand every word I sing, but they get the feeling of our music, and I know with the yodelling part especially. It’s something I cherish, having the ability to represent Montana and it’s music in far away places.”