What is the relationship of the singing cowboys of the movies and the working cowboy singer?
The popular singing cowboy of the movies of the 20s through the 50's was based on America's romance with actual cowboys. As time went on, Hollywood, and Nashville for that matter, strayed further from the real life occupation. Both traditions, the folk and popular are intertwined and have their own value. Why the Cowboy Sings explores the artistic inspiration of life that's accompanied by the tune of land, animals, and an ancient pastoral tradition. We find the life on the range more interesting than tin pan alley songs written by folks that had never stepped foot in the open West - Hal and Taki
Why is the subject of cowboy singing pertinent today?
The film also takes a universal theme of not only why cowboys sing but why all of us sing or don't sing in contemporary life. The great western writer Wallace Stegner wrote that we need wilderness to combat "our termite lives." As producers who seek meaning, we fear that through the frenetic existence that defines modern life -- a constant bombardment of entertainments -- that many of us no longer hear our own voice in the song on the radio. As kids of the sixties and seventies we know the power of seeing the world through a song. This film is a cry from the wilderness, from a group of people whose way of life, whose very song now hangs in the balance. It's our view that art is nothing unless there is something at stake - Hal and Taki
What prepared you to take on this subject?
My life has been dedicated to bringing out the art of everyday life in the West. In 1980 I founded the Western Folklife Center, an organization dedicated to documenting and honoring the traditions of the American West in all its diversity. We are best known for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, which has arguably started a grassroots arts movement in the rural West. Why the Cowboy Sings has been a step in my life's work, working with lots of help from others - Hal
What have you learned most from this project?
The thing I learned that's made the biggest impression on me came from simply spending time with the ranchers we filmed for this project. I'm an outsider to this life, having grown up in the suburbs of the east coast. And for me, music was always something you bought at the store or heard on the radio. But that's not good enough for people like Larry Schutte, and Glenn Ohrlin, and Henry Real Bird and Stephanie Davis. For them music is something you make yourself…something that comes from the inside, not the outside. And for me there's a lesson in that that'll stay with me for a long time. - Taki