People from 10: “I know I have a lot of family here; I just don’t know who they are ‘
(Lander, WY) – Earlier this month, Christian Wallowing Bull, 28, won the 4th Annual Wyoming Songwriter-Song Contest. He has only been in the area since March 2021, and although new to Wyoming, his roots there run much deeper.
Below is a transcript of an interview with Christian which has been edited and condensed.
County 10: Where did you live before you moved to Lander?
Christian: I am from Missouri; I was between Kansas City and St. Louis and I was making music with friends. I’m from Crow Agency, MT, but my mom’s family is from Wind River, so I have connections here; I just don’t know them.
C10: Were you able to come into contact with a family here?
VS : I think everyone was a bit removed from my mother, Felicia Marie Wallowing Bull. She married a man Crow, that’s how she ended up in Montana. It was my father but they have both been deceased since then so I don’t know anyone. I’m sure she still had ties here, but losing her was a lot different. I didn’t know where she was.
A few years ago, I was really determined to find my mother. I wasn’t even there when they buried her. I was very far from my family, but of course I wanted to find them. So I made it here. It’s the craziest thing because we have a Wallowing Bull cemetery; I think we’re a pretty big family here. However, native cemeteries are not on Google, so you cannot just Google Map, and there is no address of the cemetery.
A few years ago, I simply mapped Ethetes on Google, zoomed in and found the specific cemetery we went to once before during my visit. At first I ended up going through the cemetery, I think it was Sacajawea cemetery in Fort Washakie. So I went there first and searched every gravestone trying to find my mother’s name. Saw some bulls wallowing, but couldn’t find her and we ended up leaving. I came back at one point, and I had this thing; I don’t know if it was right, I just felt it very strongly, but I found it on Google Maps. When I got there, my mother’s cross was really old; I don’t think anybody kept him there because his family was separated. Since I am back, I renew his cemetery and I take care of his grave.
C10: When did you start writing / playing music?
VS : I bought a guitar when I was 15; It wasn’t until the last five years that I started to think maybe I could do this for a living.
All my life people, especially my foster mom who is still in Montana and is an amazing woman, always told me to sing when I was younger because I had a really deep voice. I feel like she’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations, she always said “you should sing, your voice is beautiful, you gotta sing”.
I was actually a drummer when I was very young; it was my passion. I remember thinking drums were the coolest thing, and I didn’t like any other instrument. I just wanted to be that hardcore drummer.
I was about 15, my sister played guitar, and I remember waking up one day and never wanted to play strings before then. I remember waking up one day and going to my sister to ask her to teach me some chords on the guitar. For the next three years, I didn’t put my guitar down.
I don’t know what happened, I was a full-fledged drummer who didn’t want anything to do with any other instrument. I just woke up and he fell to my knees. I didn’t take any lessons, I’m self-taught, played by ear.
The writing came because when I was young Christian Parrish, who is Supaman and also grew up in the Crow Agency, would visit Lodge Grass and perform shows. I mean I was probably 10 or something, with drums I wanted to be a Native American rapper like Supaman.
I remember he came and did a writing workshop with us and at the time my lyrics were so old-fashioned but actually I wrote a lot of hip hop, rap when I was a kid, then I I completely switched to the singer-songwriter genre, and it’s my favorite genre.
The reason I started writing music was actually because of Supaman, I wanted to be a rapper. I recorded a few of them and he actually invited me to a studio to hang out with him. He took me to a show in Browning, MT; it was actually very embarrassing because i was 11 and had never played before, they turned on the music and i choked in front of everyone. But it was my beginning of writing.
From the age of 10 to about 15, when that day I bought a guitar, my gender naturally changed to what it is now.
C10: What is your favorite song that you wrote?
VS : “Land of Wolves” from Warrior – EP. He is the one who represents me as a singer-songwriter.
âRachelâ is very close to me – not someone I know. This name seemed very appropriate for this song. The song is actually about my family and personal life, but also about other people I know. It’s kind of a collaboration of ideas, of my personal life, of loss, things like that. (âRachelâ was named Best Song in the 2021 Songwriters’ Contest).
“Land of Wolves” which I think has the most “crackle” certainly. It’s really fun to play. I feel like it represents who I am. I certainly went through some rough times and even got locked up a few times, but I was kind of a wild guy.
I have the impression that my music is definitely inspired by the earth; this territory is magnificent. I remember a few years ago when I crossed the Wind River for the first time trying to find my mother, my heart was so drawn to this range. Passing through here, I knew I wanted to live here. It took me a little while, but living here and writing the music that I write, and I feel like the music even sounds a bit western and has a kind of country-ish grain; it’s not my type, but definitely inspired by the territory, it’s so beautiful here.
C10: When did you release your first album?
VS : The Warrior – EP is the debut album and was released in March 2020.
I felt like I was very lucky to be surrounded by so many people who always encouraged me. There came a time, just before I posted the Warrior – EP I hadn’t really released any music and asked what am I doing with my life? I need to do something.
People would hear me – I was playing a lot of open mics and just random places, bars, cafes, and people would be like, “Man, your stuff is really good.”
I had so much support. I wouldn’t be here, especially at this point, honestly, if I didn’t release some music. It happened at a time in my life when I felt like I was waiting for an opportunity; it’s not like stuff like that is falling from the sky, you really have to pursue it. The best thing I’ve done for myself, especially in early 2020, was decide I’m going to do it.
I have a studio in my pocket with the iRig. It’s crazy that I got all this attention for just recording on my iPhone. I 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 and the fourth is on its way; on average one outing every six months since March 2020.
C10: How did you present yourself in the competition?
VS : Adam Kirkpatrick introduced him to me; so grateful for him. So my idea in coming here was obviously for the family. Everywhere I go I have performed in a lot of places, bars, cafes. So since I’ve been here, the idea for me to get into the music scene, I followed everything on Facebook, I contacted people, then I heard about the open mic at Tony’s. I go, maybe every other Thursday and Adam was the one who really helped me there. He heard me play into an open mic. He said to me, “Dude, you should really consider going to Ten Sleep for the competition.” I am currently in contact with many artists across the state and receive offers.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. Winning, doing what we love, especially for me as a Native American who grew up on a reserve and went through a lot of hardships. It’s music like “Land of Wolves” and “Rachel” which in some ways, especially like my album covers and things like that, I love to represent aboriginal people.
There is a song that I had in my competition training, it’s called “Standing Bear”. I read his story and he fought for his people with courage and was an advocate for his people, and so this song is kind of based on that. That’s kind of how I want to represent myself in my life as a young Native American artist, especially in Wyoming, not too far from where my mother is.