(Lander, WY) – Earlier this month, 28-year-old Christian Wallowing Bull won the 4th annual Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition. He moved here in March 2021, and though new to Wyoming, his roots in this area go much deeper.
Below is a transcript of an interview with Christian that has been edited and condensed.
County 10: Where did you live before moving to Lander?
Christian: I came from Missouri; I was in between Kansas City and St. Louis and doing music with friends. I’m originally from Crow Agency in Montana, but my mother’s family is from Wind River, so I’ve got ties here; I just don’t know them.
C10: Have you been able to connect with any family here?
C: I think everybody was kind of estranged from my mom, Felicia Marie Wallowing Bull. She married a Crow man, which is how she ended up in Montana. That was my dad but they both have passed away since, so I don’t know anyone. I’m sure she had ties here still, but losing her was very different. I didn’t know where she was located.
A few years ago, I was just really determined to find my mom. I wasn’t even there when they buried her. I was very estranged from my family, but of course, I wanted to find her. So I made it out here. It’s the craziest thing because we have a Wallowing Bull cemetery; I think we’re a pretty prominent family here. However, Native cemeteries are not on Google, so you can’t just Google Map it, and there is no address to the cemetery.
A few years ago, I just Google Mapped Ethete and zoomed in and found the specific cemetery we went to one time before when I visited. At first, I ended up going through the cemetery, I think it was the Sacajawea Cemetery in Fort Washakie. So I went there first and searched every headstone trying to find my mother’s name. I did see some Wallowing Bulls, but I couldn’t find her, and we ended up leaving. I came back at some point, and I had this thing; I don’t know if it was just, I just felt it very strong, but I found it on Google Maps. When I got there, my mother’s cross was really old; I don’t think anybody maintained it because their family was estranged. Since I’ve been back, I have been renewing her burial grounds and tending to her grave.
C10: When did you start writing/playing music?
C: I picked up a guitar when I was 15 years old; it wasn’t until the last five years that I started to think maybe I can do this for a living.
People my entire life, especially my foster mother, who is still in Montana and is an incredible woman, always told me to sing when I was younger because I had a really deep voice. I feel like she, is definitely one of my greatest inspirations, she always told me “you should sing, your voice is beautiful, you need to sing.”
I was actually a drummer when I was really young; that was my passion. I remember thinking drums were the coolest thing, and I didn’t like any other instrument. I just wanted to be this hardcore drummer.
I was about 15 years old, my sister played guitar, and I remember waking up one day, and not ever having a desire to play anything string before that point. I remember just waking up one day and going to my sister and asked her to teach me a few chords on the guitar. For the next three years, I did not put my guitar down.
I don’t know what happened, I was a full-on drummer who didn’t want anything else to do with any other instrument. I just woke up and it fell in my lap. I didn’t take any lessons, I’m self-taught, played by ear.
The writing came because when I was young, Christian Parrish who’s Supaman and grew up in Crow Agency as well, would visit Lodge Grass and play shows. I want to say I was probably 10 or something, with drumming I wanted to be a Native American rapper like Supaman.
I remember he came and did a writing workshop with us and back then my lyrics were so cheesy but I actually wrote a lot of hip hop, rap music as a kid, and then I completely switched over to the singer-songwriter genre, and that’s my favorite genre.
The reason I started writing music was actually because of Supaman, I wanted to be a rapper. I recorded some and he actually invited me to a studio to hang out with him. He took me to a show in Browning, Montana; it was actually very embarrassing because I was 11 years old, and had never performed before, they turned the music on and I choked up in front of everybody. But that was my start to writing.
From age 10 to about 15 years old when that one day, just picked up a guitar my genre just kind of naturally flowed into what it is now.
C10: What is your favorite song that you’ve written?
C: “Land of Wolves” from the Warrior – EP. That’s the one I feel represents me as a singer-songwriter.
“Rachel” is very near to me – she’s not anybody that I know. That name just felt very appropriate for that song. The song actually, it’s about my family and personal life, but also other people that I know. It’s kind of a collaboration of ideas, of my personal life, loss, things like that. (“Rachel” was named best song at the 2021 Singer-Songwriter Competition).
“Land of Wolves,” that I feel definitely has the most “crunch.” It’s really fun to play. I feel like it represents who I am. I’ve definitely been through some hard times and even been locked up a few times, but just kind of was a wild dude.
I feel like my music definitely gets inspiration from the land; this territory is beautiful. I remember a few years back when I first came through the Wind River when I was trying to find my mother, my heart was so attracted to this range. Driving through here, I knew I wanted to live here. It took me a little bit of time, but to live here and write the music that I’m writing, and I feel like the music even sounds kind of Western somewhat and has a kind of country-ish grit; that’s not my genre, but definitely inspired by the territory, it’s so beautiful here.
C10: When did you release your first album?
C: The Warrior – EP is the first album and was released in March 2020.
I felt like I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who have just always encouraged me. There came a time, right before I released the Warrior – EP I didn’t really have music out and I asked what am I doing with my life? I need to do something.
People would hear me – I would play a lot of open mics and just random places, bars, coffee shops, and people were like, “man, your stuff is really good.”
I’ve had so much support. I wouldn’t be here, especially at this point, honestly, if I didn’t release music. It came to a point in my life where I felt like I was waiting for an opportunity; it’s not like stuff like that falls out of the sky, you actually have to go after it. The best thing that I did for myself, especially at the beginning of 2020 was deciding I’m going to do this.
I have a studio in my pocket with the iRig. It’s crazy that I’ve had all of this attention for having just recorded on my iPhone. I do have a friend in Washington who helps me produce and mix everything.
With the ease of recording on an iPhone, I’ve released three albums with the fourth on the way; averaging a release every six months since March 2020.
C10: How were you introduced to the singer-songwriter competition?
C: Adam Kirkpatrick introduced me to it. I’m just so grateful for him. So my idea in coming here was obviously for family. Everywhere that I go, I’ve played lots of places, bars, coffee shops. So since I’ve been here, the idea for me to get into the music scene, I’ve been following everything on Facebook, reaching out to people, and then I heard about open mic at Tony’s. I go there, maybe every other Thursday and Adam was the one who really helped me out there. He heard me play at an open mic. He was like, “Man, you really should consider going to Ten Sleep for the competition.” I am currently connecting with a lot of artists across the state now and getting offers.
It’s definitely been one of the greatest things that have ever happened to me. Winning, doing what we love, especially for me as a Native American man who grew up on a reservation, and went through a lot of hardships. It’s music like “Land of Wolves” and “Rachel” that is in some ways, especially like my album covers and things like that, I love representing the Native people.
There’s a song that I had in my lineup at the competition, it’s called “Standing Bear.” I read his story and he fought for his people bravely and was an advocate for his people, and so that song is kind of loosely based on that. That’s kind of how I want to represent myself in my life as a young Native American artist, especially representing in Wyoming, not being too far from where my mother’s at.
Listen to his favorite song below.