As songwriters we all have many inspirations and influences. Oftentimes these influences do not necessarily work together. Having the freedom to create music in different genres and styles is one of the joys of a prolific songwriter. One such artist is our recent discovery Raf Sanchez who is launching a new project Cowpoke with a new EP.
We caught up with the genre-fluid songwriter for a dive into his new music. Enjoy the interview:
First off, what is the story behind the name Cowpoke?
What’s up, IndieBandGuru. 👋
I have a running tab of band names on my phone. It’s almost become an inside joke with my friends. Someone will bring up a really obscure phrase in conversation, and they’ll shout, “new band name, called it!”
Cowpoke has been on that list for a while. I recently moved from New York City to upstate New York. Before the pandemic, I good chunk of time traveling between the city and Western NY. So, I would often have a single bag, a jacket, and a guitar with me. At the same time, I took cheap trains and buses around abandoned parking lots and old traveling stations. The solace in those places made me think of what a modern-day traveler would look like. I became a Cowpoke, you could say. And the word fit this solo project well sound-wise.
How would you describe the sound of this project?
I’d say it’s a blend of mid to early 2000’s indie/songwriter/folk music, with a few teaspoons of ambient rock tossed in. The arrangements are fleshed out a bit and wide but warm and subtle. I tried to keep tracks to a minimum in Protools while tracking. Like, each track really needed to be there for me to keep it.
Which artists have influenced your music most?
There’s definitely a strong indication of my love for Iron & Wine and Sufjan Steven’s for this project. But there are sprinkles of Sigur Ros that pop up at the instrumental ending or “This Time I Swear”. And early Bon Iver in the unhinged vocals in the bridge of “It Feel”.
With two other successful musical projects over the years what prompted the new sound of Cowpoke?
I think you’re kind to say successful! I’m still very much making the music I want to. But I can get really stretchy as a musician because I play multiple instruments and listen to so many styles. With my electronic band, Pikoe, I’m starting to lean into an even more vibrant, bright, chaotic blast of sound for our new (to be released this year) singles. And with Hunting Stories, my folk band I lead with my brother Jose Sanchez, I’m taking a back seat — singing lead on some songs, playing drums, and sharing vocal duties with a few other singers.
Cowpoke music is special because it’s just an expression of just me — it’s stripped back and less collaborative than my other work. So, there’s plenty of space with the variety of sound I make to have 3 verticals. It helps me subdivide and not worry so much when I want to create an indie club banger with Pikoe, a rock song with Hunting stories, and a sweet unplugged folk track with Cowpoke in the same week. It’s a lot of work to manage 3 projects, but I have enough writing to fill them all up. It’s never been about ideas for me as much as the time and patience to put them in a record and polish them up.
We hear these songs were recorded years ago. What can you tell us about the debut release?
These songs definitely sat dormant for a few years. I recorded them in my bedroom in Brooklyn when I lived there with roommates with not-so-great equipment and the best recording conditions. There was a certain honesty I captured; I think while tracking this way that I would’ve lost booking time in a professional studio.
Someone once told me that a recording is a “snapshot of a period of time in your life,” and I’ve always liked that description. It took a few years, though, before I was comfortable enough with this record’s exposed vibe to feel comfortable releasing it. I needed the space away from it, you could say.
How do you hope to connect with the listener through this record?
This is a project inspired by the little moments you have alone when you’re staring out a bus window or laying down in bed and looking at the ceiling—those alone in a car in the driveway hours. I’d love it if it could be the soundtrack to those intimate moments for others. There have been so many artists that have shared their peace and personal feelings with me in their music that have helped me through hard times. So, I’d love to pay it forward and do the same.
Share some advice for other artists creating different styles of music?
I’d say to make the music you want to make, the kind you want to listen to. Don’t make things or adjust your sound because you think something is trendy or cool. There’s always room to explore and play with different genres and toolboxes. But don’t feel forced to dig into stuff you’re not inspired by because you think what you make isn’t “hip enough.” If you’re having a good time and honest with your voice, people will feel that and gravitate toward it. And as long as you connect with at least one other person, that’s all art is really for.
What does the future hold for Cowpoke?
I have other songs and singles ready to go. I’m making some additions to my little recording studio, Egg, this spring and looking forward to tracking all summer long and releasing more music this year.
A cowpoke debut show is long overdue, so as soon as it’s a safe and responsible thing, we’ll be playing that in Rochester, NY, where I currently live.
Long and short. More music, more intimate performances, and more art and connection. Peace and love. Thanks for having me.
Keep up with more Cowpoke on his INSTAGRAM.