Prairie Wildfire’s latest single – the song that debuted at No. 12 and went up to No. 8 on internet radio station Bluegrass Jamboree – was written by a 12-year-old and another 14-year-old at inside a very covered basement.
Buffalo natives Sage Palser and Tessa Taylor, who make up two-thirds of the bluegrass squad, along with Morgan Blaney, wrote “West Virginia Train” out of boredom. The two were hanging out and decided it would be fun to write a song.
“Sage looked at me and said, ‘Well, this is a bluegrass song, so it must be depressing, and it must be about someone leaving someone else'”, Taylor said with a laugh. “From there I think we just started pchords and all of a sudden there was a song there.
The group recorded the finished product at Nashville, Tennessee’s Slawdawg Studios earlier this year. After signing a one-time deal with Copper Mountain Records, “West Virginia Train” was released by radio DJs, including David Pugh’s Mountain Bluegrass show on Bluegrass Jamboree.
“It’s so crazy now to hear this cut version play out across the country at the Bluegrass Jamboree when I still remember the day we wrote it, when we were little,” Taylor said.
Taylor, Palser and Blaney simultaneously juggle a growing music career that requires traveling back and forth to Nashville and communications with their West Virginia-based label with a full program of classes and extracurricular activities. Taylor is in high school and a varsity volleyball player, and Palser and Blaney study music at their respective colleges, East Tennessee State in Johnson City, Tennessee, for Palser and University of Northern Colorado for Blaney.
Blaney had to drop off her part of “West Virginia Train” separately from her band mates when she couldn’t make it to Nashville during spring break. While the registration process is more enjoyable as a whole group, Blaney said, he is happy the group is able to communicate and work together even when they are spread across the country.
And receiving text messages from friends and family telling them their song is on the radio, the group said, is “a bit unreal.”
“I do it with people that I feel like I’ve known my whole life,” Blaney said. “And I trust these people and I know them really well. It’s hard to know what stage we’re at now and how big or how big it will be; there is nothing to say.
David Stewart, owner of the Occidental Saloon and producer of the group, has known and worked with the three “since they were puppies,” he said. They grew up on the saloon stage, barely able to reach the mics when they first started playing.
Stewart has said he’s mentored many young musicians from bluegrass to the West, and it’s always clear who’s motivated to be successful in the music business. In the case of Prairie Wildfire, whose oldest member just turned 21, they are already pros.
“It’s wonderful to watch them grow into music and songwriting and to watch them work on harmonies and perfect their instruments,” said Stewart. “They are going to do wonderful things.
Stewart, an accomplished musician and songwriter himself, put the band in touch with their recording studio and label. Palser, Blaney and Taylor also often play with Stewart and have featured on some of his songs.
He and the band plan to travel to Nashville in November – if student schedules are busy – to record an album.
Palser, who is only four and a half hours from Music City at his school in eastern Tennessee, is studying Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots music with a concentration in audio production with the goal of eventually working as a as producer and engineer. Working with a professional studio and label with Prairie Wildfire, said Palser, is “a step forward.”
“It’s completely different from what we’ve done before,” she said. “It makes me feel a little closer to what I want to do.”
Karen Blaney, once a self-proclaimed mom whose primary responsibility was to buy dinner and book hotel rooms for tween concerts, is now the manager of a group of professional musicians.
“I still do a lot of communication, problem solving and booking,” she said. “But the girls are all either out of high school or about to be, so they write their own music and they set their own practice schedules and I kind of enjoy being in the background and to train. “
The musicians, who got their start at the Buffalo bluegrass camp, which Karen now directs, are now teachers there, mentoring the next generation of young musicians. Although Prairie Wildfire made a name for itself outside of Wyoming, the group still attributes their success to the Johnson County music scene.
“My parents aren’t from Wyoming, so I like to think every now and then what would have happened if they hadn’t moved to Wyoming, to this tiny little town, because I probably never would. been in music. ” Morgan said. “I learned to play bass at bluegrass camp. You meet people that you play music with, and these are people that you would never have been friends with otherwise, and I think that’s a very beautiful thing. This inclusive and community nature has really influenced the way we think and play.