Notable Interview: Get to Know Cowpuncher

We sat down with Ryan Kelly of Calgary’s Cowpuncher to get the what’s what on their notable Northern Rock party of five. Catch them Thursday, March 28, at The Republik with HighKicks and Friday, March 29, at Wine-Ohs. Check out their website and their Facebook page for all of their upcoming shows.


We have five guys in our commando unit. Matt Olah sings lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar. Harley Hoeft plays the upright bass and does backup vocals. Jeff Sulima is on the skins. Scott Martin plays a mean electric guitar and I (Ryan Kelly) play the baritone guitar.


We’ve been developing a signature Northern Rock sound – a blend of stoner rock, honky tonk, country and psychedelica.

Homegrown or Transplants?

We proudly consider ourselves a Calgary band and try to represent that whenever we tour. Scott and Jeff grew up here, Matt is from Kamloops, Harley is from Saskatchewan and I’m from Medicine Hat. Matt recruited everyone in Calgary from different projects and this city has been our home base from the start.

Latest album and where we can get it:

Last December we released a two-song 7″ and it can be bought at shows. We personally stamp the album covers on the spot with our ink logo when you buy one! The vinyl comes with a digital download for anyone who wants to listen to it on their MP3 players. 

All of our albums are available on iTunes. And our website lets you stream all of our music online for free! 

We are in the process of finishing a new full length album and have started writing the one that will come after that.

Favourite venue to play in Calgary:

There are so many great venues in Calgary to perform at – The Republik, Broken City, Distillery, Palomino, Mikey’s Juke Joint, Ship & Anchor, Commonwealth, Blues Can and Wine-Ohs are just a few of the stages that we usually can be found on. Last year we did a sold out show at the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, which was a major milestone. 

The Twin Butte Country General Store near the Crowsnest Pass is a hidden gem for a lot of touring bands and it holds a special place in our hearts. The owners bought the Waterton Opera House and have re-opened it as a live music venue. Whenever we’re in that area it feels like a second home.

How does Calgary inspire your music:

Most of us wear cowboy boots year-round so that’s a start! We began as a roots and country act and that Western style of music permeates a lot of what we do, especially with the baritone and upright bass. 

The independent music community in Calgary is small enough where a lot of the bands know each other. A segment of musicians, bar staff and their friends play rock and roll softball in the summer together. It’s tight-knit and supportive! 

Last year’s SLED Island and the Calgary 2012 / Cultural Capital of Canada events were galvanizing. The situation looks positive with the new Folk Festival Hall and National Music center openings.

Where’s your go to spot for pints:

Matt’s front porch! Or the Ship patio. We love our Fireball Whisky.

What is your song writing process like? What do you write about?

For the most part Matt will come to us with lyrics or an idea and the rest of band will flesh out parts and arrangements together. We sometimes split the week up with separate guitar, vocal and writing rehearsals. Harley has started bringing his writing into the picture and you can already hear some of that at the new shows. 

Our album ‘Call Me When You’re Single’ had a lot of heartbreak. Some of the new stuff is very story based. One of our newest songs, ‘Lonely Guitar Players Healing Circle’, came out of some jams we were doing in my apartment.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a band?

Do it! And practice your ass off! The electric guitar isn’t even a hundred years old. Be a pioneer for rock and roll’s sake!

What is the biggest challenge in attracting an audience?

Getting the word out in advance goes a long way. 

What part of Calgary culture do you bring to other cities you play in?

We were playing Vancouver and Kelowna recently and noticed that those cities don’t have beards the way Calgary does. We bring the facial hair!

Photo courtesy Allison Seto