Ian Munsick's youth in Wyoming was the picture painted by the '90s country songs where ranching was revered, and the lyrics glorified the Great Plains and the country lifestyle that went with it. His healthy respect for cowgirls is born of life experience, so when veteran songwriter Phil O'Donnell suggested the title "Long Live Cowgirls," Munsick was in with both boots.
Out now, "Long Live Cowgirls" is Munsick's new collaboration with Cody Johnson that celebrates cowgirls and the ranching lifestyle in which both men are rooted. The ballad embraces the western side of country with a fiddle and acoustic guitar that evokes the feeling of hard work and open spaces. Vocally, Munsick explores the high end of his range while Johnson brings the cowboy sound that makes him one of country music's most beloved artists among classic-leaning fans.
But, Munsick said the song couldn't have happened without O'Donnell and their co-writer Aby Gutierrez.
"Phil is one of the few guys in town that really understands the cowboy way of life and appreciates that lifestyle," Munsick said of O'Donnell, who has written songs for artists including Blake Shelton, George Strait and Chris Janson. "Aby just has a really fresh way of looking at things, and he knew I wanted to write something outside of the usual Music Row way of writing."
The chord progression came just as easily as the "Long Live Cowgirls" title. The guitar part is what Munsick has played for years to check his tuning. The way it sounds transports him back to the Wyoming ranch where he grew up. As soon as O'Donnell said the title – Munsick knew his tuning riff had to go with it. But it sounded like a waltz.
"As artists and as songwriters, you know waltzes are notorious for not making money," he said. "They're pleasant on the ears but hard on the pockets."
Munsick wanted to write what serves "Long Live Cowgirls," threw a minor chord in the chorus, went into his falsetto and was "just kind of off to the races."
Song lyrics include: Well, she rode in them wagons when the wild west was won|Took the canyons and badlands and made them her home| She's boots on, LeDoux songs, snaps on her pearls|Long Live Cowgirls
"They were the first ones to come west and making that trip in the wagons; you know that had to be a hard, hard way of doing it," Munsick said. "How they've evolved over hundreds of years is a testament to their strength. They're still out there right now; that was the main point that we wanted to get across at the end of the song."
Munsick has been a fan of Johnson's for at least a decade, and when he had a recorded version of "Long Live Cowgirls," he immediately thought of Johnson. Munsick's wife Caroline opened the conversation. Munsick and Johnson are touring together, and when Caroline saw Johnson in the hallway after one of their shows, she complimented him on his performance and told him about "Long Life Cowgirls." Johnson asked Caroline to text him the song and said he would go to his bus and listen to it immediately.
A few minutes later, he found Caroline and told her that he wanted to be on the song but asked to tell Munsick personally.
"Cody pulled me to the side, and he's like, 'Dude, that song is amazing,'" Munsick recalled. "He said, 'We need more of those songs out in the world, and I would love to be on it.'"
Munsick said Johnson is in his "top two or three dream collaborations" and that it's a "dream come true" for him to sing on "Long Live Cowgirls."
"It's one of those songs that is like, 'Man, there's only a few artists that could really pull this off, and he was our No. 1 choice," Munsick said. "I hope that everybody can draw their own connection to it. Cowgirls are real people. They enjoy the little things in life. Even though they're this larger-than-life character in our history, they're still out there every day working hard, having fun, and loving people."