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Some names say it all. You hear it once, and you understand everything. This applies ot the band COWBOY SOUL. It sounds like an oxymoron. The two words seem to have nothing in common with each other, at least in the terms of the overall marketing of country and western music. COWBOY SOUL is a band with a sound that get's just about everyone's foot tapping. In an age where arguably the best rapper out there is a white guy from Detroit, MIKE MANN and his band of rockin' cowboys challenge the notion that country artists are only of the blonde-blue-eyed stock. COWBOY SOUL has arived and their message is two-fold; Country Music is for everyone and "Let's have a good time!"

COWBOY SOUL is in the studio putting the finishing touches on their debut CD; a fine collection countrypolitan blues-rock with a near-perfect soulful groove. One would think that an all-black country band would be a gimmick in itself, but there are no gimmicks here. It's great music that gonna get everyone excited about hopping onto a pick up truck, drinking beer, two-stepping and slowdancing till dawn.

MIKE MANN recently spoke to ROCKWIRED about the band, the music, the message and the forthcoming CD. Here is how it went.

COWBOY SOUL is a new name for you guys. What brought on the change?
I don't know. COWBOY SOUL is the kind of music that we always play, unlike MIKE MANN AND THE NIGHTRIDERS. Now that I think about it, people would always come up and ask me what the name NIGHTRIDERS meant. They were under the impression that it had something to do with the Ku Klux Klan, which isn't what it's about. It was named for the slaves who had to get up in the middle of the night and run. That was how I came up with the name. I thought that in changing the name, it woulld cut down the questions and all of the confusion and get tot he heart of who we are as a band.

How did this group of people get together? How did it begin?
We began as a theater group. A young lady came to me and asked if I could write some country songs for a play she was putting together. I played her some stuff I had written. She liked what she heard and asked me to come and do them in the play. I got a couple of friends of mine together and played a s a trio in this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic play.  We played around LA, in schools and at all of these community centers. From doings those shows, we were offered gigs, the band expanded. The first addition was the bass player and next was the drummer and the keyboard player and lead guitarist

You guys have a CD in the works. Or is it completed?
It's finished. There's still some tweaking that needs to be done, but for the most part, it's finished.

What can you tell us about it?
This is something we've wanted to do for a very long time after doing so many live shows over the years. We wanted to get in the studio and hopefully make a few anthems for ourselves and let people know what COWBOY SOUL is all about. We wanted to create something different but something that was true and unique to the band.
All of us have had a part in this from playing, to recording, to producing and everything so we're very excited about it.

Are there any songs from the CD that stand out for you in particular?
WE LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC is a favorite of mine. I grew up in Iowa. I guess you could say I'm a small town fella who grew with farmers and ranchers around me. Being black, people don't realize that a person like me loves country music or thet I grew up with it a lot,  and this song states that people like myself love it. It's a great thing for everybody. "North south, east or west we just wanna know who parties the best!"

Being a black country band, what are the responses like to your live shows or even when you mention it to someone?
That's two totally different things. When you mention it to someone, they glaze over or it goes over their heads,
not necessarily in the educational sense. It's more like they don't think about it. It's kind of an incongruous type of thought; black cowboys and country music. Once they see us, they become fans for life because they figure out what we're all about. I get different reactions all of the time.

As a band what do you want an audience to walk a with after seeing and hearing the music?
"Wow, that was fun!...Wow, like to see that again!" I want them to have a good time and realize that Country Music is everybody's music. I want them to go "Wow, this music is for everyone... I can do the two-step, the tush-push or the electric slide to this if I wanted to." I came across an article where GEORGE JONES had said that people don't do songs anymore about pick up trucks and drinking beer, and on this new CD, we've  got a couple of songs that touch upon that.

This is just me talking but, it always seems to me like country music isn't marketed for everyone. Do you think that's true or no?
That is true.Here's the thing- If you're a country record label, you advertise out there to your core market but if there are blacks that are into country music, they will find it, so the label won't feel like they have to put their money on ethnic or urban stations. That's just strictly a marketing perspective and I can understand why they wouldn't market to other ethnic groups but I liked what they did a few years ago with RHYTHM, COUNTRY & SOUL, where it paired people like CLINT BLACK with the POINTER SISTERS or ELTON JOHN doing something that's untraditionally him. Every once in a while country music reaches out to people, maybe unbeknownst to them. It seems like country music is just trying to stretch out and diversify and it does reach over the edge just a little bit. But in a city like Los Angeles,you won't hear about any of that until we (COWBOY SOUL) come out and advertise the fact that country music is okay for everybody.

Growing up, what was in your record collection. What artists got to you?
Great question! Believe it or not it was the BEATLES. I love the BEATLES and I think they captured every great riff that a musician could ever want in his whole life. I also loved The JACKSON 5. I loved the image of these young guys making it big and coming from Indiana. Another person I loved was ISAAC HAYES and the deepness of his songs. His songs seemed to talk about the times. And of course, I loved the country music that I heard on the radio, song likeKISS AN ANGEL IN THE MORNING, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD to C.W.
McCALL's CONVOY to JOHNNY PAYCHECK.Growing up, I loved radio.I've been a fan of radio for forever.

You even became a radio personality.

In what capacity? Country? Top Forty?
I've done just about everything. I got started in Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa. I worked in Waterloo Iowa doing all top 40 stuff and at the college station I could play whatever I wanted to played alot STEELEY DAN and EAGLES. After that, I was at KLWW Cedar Rapids Iowa and then WLCY-FM in Tampa Florida which became Y 95. I stayed there for a year and then went up to Phildelphia, to work at the station that brought the BEATLES to the United States and at the time, they were trying to recreate that  old rock n roll atmosphere. After that, I moved to Texas to work at KULF Top 40 and started spinning stuff like LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. URBAN COWBOY had just come out and KULF was AM when AM was still king of the road. I went to my first FM station in Houston which was 98 KFMK. It was all Top 40 and Oldies. My first urban station was MAGIC 102 and then came to Los Angeles and worked for  STEVIE WONDER at KJLH. From there it was KACE and THE BEAT, Then, I went back to working with STEVIE again. He saw me in concert called me up and asked if I'd work with him again. So, I've been working for him ever since for about 3 years now.

Songwriting. How does that work in band like COWBOY SOUL?
Originally, when we first started out,we all came from such diverse backgrounds like jazz or rock like Mark Drummond, our guitar player from Greenwood Mississippi. I wrote the songs in the begining and in the next couple of years I'd sit down with the band write songs. Keith would come up with a bass lick or a line and we'd throw out a title, work on the music and dedicate some time where we could work on that song.
We've come up with some great songs. Mark Drummond is coming in with all kinds of great songs and it makes me feel bad sometimes (laughs)

Are you live shows limited to Southern California at the moment?
Right this very second, yes. We've played Vegas before, all the way up to the Sacramento California State Fair, the east side of California in places like Riverside and Rialto. We've done some shows in San Diego for some T.V. appearances and some Harvest Festivals all over the state. We've been staying pretty busy here in California. We're looking to get out of town and go to different states. Alot of things are coming up for us. It should be a great year for us. I'm feeling it.