Calgary country band breaks down some barriers with CCMA nominations and wins
The band was formed on a beach in Hawaii almost seven years ago and now Nice Horse is riding a wave of success.
Something special was sparked between Brandi Sidoryk, Krista Wodelet, and Katie Rox when the trio of friends went on a songwriting trip to the island together in 2015.
“We just wanted to go and hang out for the love of being together and writing songs,” Sidoryk says.
“And we came back with a lot of songs. We just wrote non-stop there and we kind of realized that there was something magical about us together.”
Guitarist Tara McLeod joined a couple of years later and the lineup of the all-female Calgary-based country group was set.
The foursome recently won the Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) for Video of the Year and Sidoryk was named Bass Player of the Year.
It still feels a bit surreal for the band, which never even expected to be nominated.
In fact, the members weren’t in attendance at the awards gala, which took place the night before the televised CCMAs.
Nice Horse had agreed to play a show in Moose Jaw months before the CCMA nominations were announced, so the group found out about the wins in the tour van in the middle of the night on the way back to Calgary.
Sidoryk says getting any sleep that night was difficult due to the excitement of the wins and the anticipation of playing the award show the following night with fellow Calgarian Lindsay Ell.
A weekend of firsts
It ended up being a weekend of firsts for the band, which Sidoryk says was very special.
“It was the first CCMA award that we won, first time we ever played the Saddledome, first time we were on the award show. It was overwhelming how many firsts we got to accomplish,” she says.
Wodelet says they were proud to be a part of Ell’s performance, which centred around inclusivity and featured Calgary drag queen Kaos and a video backdrop displaying the words “Trans rights are human rights.”
“It’s not something you see traditionally in country music. I think this genre gets a really bad rap for being not very inclusive. And that’s certainly changing and Lindsay is kind of at the forefront of it at this point,” Wodelet says.
Sidoryk adds it was a match made in heaven because Ell’s values align with those of Nice Horse, which supports and represents the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
“It’s something that we as a band have always really been quite vocal about and have really tried to embody in everything that we do,” she says.
Breaking down barriers
While only Sidoryk took home an award, all four members of Nice Horse were nominated in their respective instrument categories.
Wodelet believes that hasn’t happened since all members of Prairie Oyster were nominated 31 years ago.
“Having all four of us nominated in these categories, as women who have come up working really hard in country music, to have it happen this year really makes me excited that now we’re actually seeing the change,” Sidoryk says.
She adds her award for Bass Player of the Year belongs to the whole band.
“The reason we are the musicians that we are today is because we are constantly pushing each other to grow as artists and as musicians. The fact that we are there pushing and supporting each other to be better, challenging each other to be better, is why we’re all there.”
Wodelet had her own milestone as the first female nominee for Drummer of the Year.
Upon hearing of her nomination, Wodelet couldn’t think of another woman ever in the drummer category, so she combed the archives and even had a friend double-check.
“It’s 2022 and I’m the first woman nominated here. It’s a little bit unbelievable but at the same time, it felt like a really huge honour for me,” she says.
“And to be clear, in all of those musician categories — guitar, bass, specialty instruments, drums — you can count the number of female nominees on one hand. I might have been the first in the drummer category, but there are not many in any category.”
Wodelet says it felt nice to be recognized even without taking home the award.
A win for indie musicians
Another major feat was the group’s win for Video of the Year for the single “High School,” which Sidoryk and Wodelet directed with no previous video editing skills.
“We watched a lot of YouTube tutorials,” Wodelet laughs.
“We bought Final Cut Pro. That was the bulk of the video budget. I think we made this video for under 600 bucks. It was green screens and editing software.”
Wodelet adds the win was extra special since the video award often goes to a major-label act.
“It’s really hard to break through as an independent in categories like Video of the Year and it was particularly stacked this year. It felt like a real win for indie musicians. I can’t believe we managed to break through on that. That was really cool.”
Sidoryk says the video was made during the pandemic when the band members were living in different parts of the country, so they had to get creative.
Positive spirit and attitude
Fellow bandmates McLeod and Rox also started building and producing a podcast over the pandemic.
Sidoryk says it is a testament to how the group took things by the reins and made something positive out of a bad situation.
“It might be this video and the skills that we learned to do this video that are really being recognized, but to me, it’s recognition of all of that,” Sidoryk says.
She adds every member of Nice Horse took the time to learn something new and get out of their comfort zone during the pandemic so that the band could survive.
“That spirit and that attitude is why I love music.”
Support from fellow musicians
Wodelet says every independent artist they know reached out with congratulations following the CCMA wins, adding the local country music scene is warm and welcoming.
“There’s just so many up-and-coming and emerging artists who are doing incredible things in Calgary. And I feel like we all kind of have been able to band together in a way,” she says.
“You do feel like everybody is lifting each other up and celebrating each other’s wins.”
Sidoryk says they also receive support from bigger artists from the Calgary and Alberta music scene.
“A lot of those top tier musicians in the Calgary scene have been so open and welcoming to supporting and mentoring and being our cheerleaders throughout our career, which also is special,” Sidoryk adds.
“Having that relationship between emerging artists, and the upper echelon professionals… that doesn’t always happen in every music scene either and every music genre, but I do find in the Calgary country music scene wow, does that ever happen.”
This past weekend, Nice Horse took home the award for Group of the Year at the YYC Music Awards for the second year in a row.
The band is currently working on new music recorded this past summer and will likely be playing some live shows throughout the fall and winter months.