Album reflects band’s growth in songwriting and sound
By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Since its first recorded album in 2004, band members of Cowboys in Sneakers feel that not only has their songwriting evolved, but the quality of music has improved, as well.
In their newly released album entitled “Change of Heart,” the five musicians share this evolution with their fans.
Musicians in the making
Cowboys in Sneakers (CIS) began 18 years ago with three friends, Marc Keith, Andy Rosenquist, and Kirk Asplin, all of Cokato, jamming out in a garage.
Later joining were Steve Keith on bass, Travis Melvie on percussion, and Jay Asplin on keys. Jay has since moved out of state.
The genre played by CIS is hard to explain, even by its members. Its music, though, is influenced by local and regional bands.
“It’s Minnesota quality, but it’s also our style,” Rosenquist, said.
Some of the band’s musical influences include Scott Laurent, Dashboard Saviors, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty.
Marc came up with the band’s name. Since they are small-town guys playing rock music, “Cowboys in Sneakers” seemed to fit.
Throughout the years, the band has opened for nationally-recognized bands such as Blackhawk, Trick Pony, Josh Turner, and the Gear Daddies.
They have also opened for Minnesota bands including GB Leighton, Johnny Clueless, and Billy’s.
The friendships and knowledge gained by working with these established artists has been extremely helpful in their musical career, Rosenquist explained.
Local bands like the Crow River Band and Backroads have also been extremely supportive and great friends, he added.
Group evolves, records second album
The band is really impressed with how this second album came out.
“Where we were at and what came out of it is really amazing,” Marc said.
Rosenquist, who wrote seven of the 12 songs on the new album, says the band members have had so many more life experiences since their first album, and they are able to share that in these new songs.
Rosenquist likes the fact that each song is open for interpretation and they are not necessarily autobiographical, and his fellow band members agreed.
“I like [the newer songs] because they are more abstract and people feel they can relate to them,” Rosenquist said.
There is diversity in the album, with songs ranging from slow ballads to the big tent revival.
As Rosenquist put it, “the songs range from murder to meeting Jesus.”
The production process for “Change of Heart” was much more advanced and detailed than the first album the band recorded titled “Something Alright.”
This album was produced, engineered, and mixed by Patrik Tanner, who is “a musician in his own right,” said CIS drummer Marc Keith, who also was the one who found Tanner.
Marc has been a fan of Tanner’s, who has also produced two Martin Zellar albums, “Scattered” and “Many Moods,” among records by other artists.
“He is very talented,” Rosenquist said.
Though the band would agree that Tanner was an integral part in creating the album, Rosenquist was the one to make it happen.
“Andy was the driving force,” Marc said. “If it wasn’t for him, we might be having this interview ‘someday.’”
Following the first album, which was basically a recording of songs performed in studio, the band felt they were missing a step in the process.
They found that having a producer work with the band through each of the songs would make a real difference in the song and sound quality.
“The songs developed into how we wanted them to sound,” Rosenquist said.
The sound of the album is a bit different than what fans are used to hearing at the local taverns, however.
“When we’re [at the Iron Horse], we’re playing for everybody else. When we are at the studio, we are playing for ourselves,” said Steve Keith.
A ‘change of heart’
The album’s title was something that the band stumbled upon following what could have been a tragic event.
It was the day of mastering, one of the final steps before being sent to production.
Marc began having chest pains and was taken by ambulance to Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Though all the signs were pointing to a heart attack, the doctors found nothing wrong with him.
So, the band decided it would play on the “heart” theme in the album title, Rosenquist said.
A year earlier, Marc also had a change of heart about continuing to be a part of the band.
Marc decided it was in his best interest to leave the band, but soon found out that he missed the camaraderie with his fellow band members.
“Playing is secondary,” Marc said.
“It’s getting together with friends and making music. That’s what’s so cool about the album it’s a permanent record of what we’ve created together.”
The title also fits nicely with the songs on the album, Rosenquist said.
Some of the track titles are, “Now that You’re Gone,” “Half of What I Am,” “Who’s Going to Catch You,” and “Take Me With You.”
There is one thing the band failed to do and that was give “thanks” to all those who supported them throughout their careers including, family, friends, and their fans. They especially appreciate the support of their wives.
“They commit as much as we do to it,” Rosenquist said.
The band isn’t expecting the album to go platinum, or even aluminum, as Andy said on his Facebook page.
“We’ll be thrilled to break even,” he said, not only for the cost of producing the CD, but also for the amount of time put into it.
To purchase “Change of Heart”
The album can be purchased for $15 at the Iron Horse Grill and Saloon, Thirsty’s Tavern, Kirk’s Travel Plaza, and Holt Motors. Songs will also be made available on iTunes.
The band is also hoping to have a CD release party. Sign up for e-mail updates and concert information on their web site, www.cowboysinsneakers.com, or join the band’s Facebook.