July 21, 2017
There are country music stars who sing about cowboys and then there are real cowboys who sing country music. Chancey Williams is the latter. Growing up in Moorecroft, Wyoming (population: 1,063), Williams is a second-generation saddle bronc rider and a self-described "ranch rodeo kid." He competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo as well as the college national finals. But it was during college he felt the pull toward a different kind of stage.
"I thought I'd be a saddle bronc rider forever," Williams confesses. While rodeoing, he started the Younger Brother Band in high school and continued into college. "We started getting hired more and it was a lot of fun. It got to be just as much fun as getting on saddle broncs. I got to where I was doing both, and maybe not excelling in both, as much as I should. Then my dad said, 'You should pick one and do it right.'"
Williams focused on music and applied his ranching work ethic to his new dream. "The whole band, we're all Wyoming kids," says Williams, "and we were raised to work. My folks started their ranch from scratch and now they are very successful ranchers and I try to do the same with my music. Nobody gave that ranch to my parents; they earned it. Nobody's gonna give this music thing to us. We're gonna have to earn it.
"Anything we've ever done in music, we've done ourselves. There's not a huge music scene in Wyoming. Everything we've done, we've had to learn on our own and go get ourselves."
Williams had already released three albums on his own, but he knew he wanted a recognized producer for his next project. And Williams knew he wanted Trent Willmon for the job. Willmon, a singer-songwriter in his own right, has produced a variety of acts including Cody Johnson and Kevin Fowler. "I just tracked down his number and cold-called him," Williams says with a laugh. The brazen move worked and he flew to Nashville for a meeting.
"Trent's a real cowboy, too. He ropes and trains horses and all sorts of stuff. As soon as we started hanging out, we really clicked." The collaboration seems to have paid off. Williams' album, "Rodeo Cold Beer," reached No. 7 on the iTunes Country Music chart. Their common rodeo backgrounds resulted in several songs including the title track.
"Basically rodeo cold beer is lukewarm beer that's been sitting in the cooler all day or behind the beer stand," Williams explains. "I texted Trent that idea and when I got down there, we wrote it.
"I wanted it to kind of sound old school, like a Waylon Jenning's song. That's how we came up with the melody. It still sounds new and fresh, but it has the feel of that twist of old country music in it."
As his career continues to grow, one thing remains true. Willaims will keep making music that reflects his western lifestyle. "We're from Wyoming and I'm a ranch kid. It's hard to sing about stuff that's written for the south or for dirt roads and stuff. If you're a real cowboy, you're not really singing about stuff that other people are singing about. You can't cut just any rodeo song. Not all songs about rodeo are written right. I'm not going to sing something that's not accurate. I've got songs that have been pitched to me before and I'm like, 'Man, you'd never hear a cowboy say that. I can't sing that.'"
That authenticity keeps the fans coming to his shows and Williams has a packed tour schedule that stretches from North Dakota to Nevada. His previous rodeo life has helped him transition to the life of a touring musician. "When we were in rodeo, we'd bounce from town to town and sometimes do two rodeos in the same day. It's about the same with music." Chuckling he adds, "I do miss riding broncs, but it's nice to be onstage and know I'm always gonna get paid."
Watch Chancey Williams & the Younger Brother Band's music video, "Down With That."