Alberta natives Kaley, Katie, Brandi and Krista are out to turn the tables on the country music world and show the guys that they can rock—and party—just as hard. Sure, there are plenty of strong female country artists in Daisy Dukes out there, but try to name another self-contained unit that plays their own instruments and writes songs as potent as “Jim, Jack, Johnnie & Jose,” the new feminist anthem “Mansplainin’” and the band’s current roof-raising single “Pony Up.”
There’s plenty of more proof on Nice Horse’s aptly titled full-length debut album, There Goes The Neighborhood (emphasis on the neigh!), on which the quartet pools its abilities with explosive results. Hot on the heels of the group’s EP, A Little Unstable, Nice Horse once again worked with producer Jeff Dalziel (Washboard Union, Brett Kissel), along with the legendary Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) on a couple of tracks. The growing buzz surrounding Nice Horse led them to be named a CMT Fresh Face Feature Artist, accompanied by a world premiere of the video for “Pony Up.”
That song, co-written by the band along with Emma-Lee and Todd Clark, accurately sums up the whirlwind that Nice Horse has been in since forming, emphasizing their passion for making music together, and offering a message that you don’t need money to have fun. The genuine bond the ladies share comes across even stronger in the video, which also showcases their high-energy live show.
Having four writers in the group led to the enviable problem of choosing from a wealth of great ideas for There Goes The Neighborhood, and there’s admittedly still a “creative hangover” lingering from an initial Hawaiian excursion. As Brandi, who handles bass duties, explains, “We decided to have a girls’ weekend where we planned to just sit around having some laughs while drinking Mai Tais. By the end of it we had 30 songs written!”
It should be underscored that all four members had been friends with their own individual projects prior to forming Nice Horse—Brandi and drummer Krista had a duo while they both earned Master’s degrees in Music, guitarist Kaley had put out a solo album, and banjoist Katie had fronted the alt-rock band Jakalope on top of her solo career. But once their collective chemistry ignited, they all immediately recognized the unlimited potential. In short order, Nice Horse assembled their team—The Sakamoto Agency (bookings) and Coalition Music (management/label)—which led to showcase performances at the CCMAs, JUNOfest, Big Valley Jamboree and opening for the Kentucky Headhunters, among others. They’ve also been named finalists in Alberta’s prestigious Project Wild as well as the Storyhive video competition.
“We have such a long history together and are very comfortable sharing the stage with each other,” Krista says. “We’re friends on and off stage and I think it comes across in our performances. We have a lot of fun and the audience can feel that.”
That camaraderie was certainly demonstrated from the opening date of their first major tour as special guests of Canadian music icon Tom Cochrane, as Katie recalled, “I remember looking out at the audience of a few thousand people and thinking how cool it was to get do what we love.” Needless to say, Nice Horse made a few thousand new fans that night, and on many more nights thereafter.
Yet, along with the stellar songs on There Goes The Neighborhood, what sets Nice Horse apart is each member’s unique personality. Some may draw comparisons to the Dixie Chicks’ musical chops, or the Runaways’ take-no-prisoners attitude, but nothing about Nice Horse is contrived. They’re simply four wild Mustangs with no intention of ever being broken. With that spirit of camaraderie as a foundation, the goal from the outset was to give everyone a turn in the spotlight while simultaneously highlighting their impeccable four-part harmony. Kaley recalls one particular moment that indicated their instincts were right and they had indeed hit upon something special.
“We were playing on Canada Day and afterward a dad came up with his two young daughters who said they were really impressed by seeing an all-girl band. Up until then, at least for me, this was just about having as much fun as possible. But after seeing the reaction of those two girls it suddenly occurred to me that it could be something bigger, and that we could make more of an impact than we thought.”
They’ve had their share of surprised reactions as well from people unaccustomed to seeing an all-female country-rock band, but they manage to take those in stride with their infectious humour. It’s partly to be expected when you’re breaking new ground, and in some ways the women of Nice Horse see themselves following in the platform-heeled footsteps of the Spice Girls by offering their own version of Girl Power, albeit with a rootsy twist.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a good time, then Nice Horse is more than willing to take you along for the ride.