Bronc rider Kaila Mussell has been immortalized in song by Canadian songwriting legend Ian Tyson.
As the only female to ride broncs in the professional rodeo circuit in North America, Tyson’s new song, Saddle Bronc Girl, is an ode to her uniqueness and strength.
Here are some of the lyrics: “She’s a saddle bronc girl/ She is one of a kind/ Drives a beat-up chevy hatchback/ and it moves her down the line/
“Big bronc awaitin’ in a town just up ahead/ Better hold on tight/ Get tapped off just right/ Saddle Bronc Girl.”
Tyson is coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre Nov. 14 for one memorable performance.
“I consider it a big honour that he’s written about me,” Mussell tells The Progress. “It’s a little
She says that Tyson managed to encapsulate her life quite well, especially since they only met for one afternoon in Kamloops a few months ago.
“He said it was the furthest he’d ever driven to write a song about someone,” she says.
Tyson, in his late 70s now, lives on a ranch in Alberta and he travelled from there to meet her in May. Kaila’s mom, Cindy Mussell is friends with a mutual friend of Tyson’s, and it was through her that the Saddle Bronc Girl song came about.
“He was really down-to-earth,” Mussell says of meeting Tyson in person. “We talked and found out we’re from quite similar backgrounds.
She grew up in Chilliwack on the Skwah reserve as part of a family for whom rodeoing is a way of life. She spent about five years in Texas, before returning home to Chilliwack a couple of years ago.
Tyson’s prodigious music career started in the 1950s with Ian & Sylvia, and has flourished through the years, to his more recent albums like Songs from the Stone House from 2011.
“Ian used to work on a ranch in Harrison Mills and we’ve been to the same rodeos through the years, and know some of the same people.”
They talked about her early years of rodeo competition in Canada, followed by her break into the Pro Rodeo circuit in the U.S., and even touched on her injuries like dislocating her shoulder, undergoing surgery, and then re-injuring the same shoulder.
The 33-year-old is at a crossroads of sorts, deciding which way to head in the future.
“The song couldn’t have come out at a better time,” Mussell says.
One of the lines from the song seems to echo this reality: “Hey Kaila! Hey Kaila, whatcha gonna do?/ How far are you gonna go to make the dream come true?”
The song has only been out a few weeks. The video can be viewed at http://youtube/Xv6TK_0aRjE.
“But anyone who’s heard it who knows me really well, it makes them tear up,” says Mussell.
She found it pretty meaningful, “especially the line about travelling the rodeo road and choosing the warriors’ way,” which is a reference to her Sto:lo ancestry.
Mussell has been through the wringer with professional rodeo in some ways, trying to come back after a series of injuries.
“I’ve been through a lot with my sport and it’s been challenging,” she admits.
Most people would be surprised to discover she’s had to bankroll her own career since joining the professional circuit in 2003, without the financial backing that some rodeo stars enjoy.
“Realistically it’s like an expensive hobby,” she says.
Her time at home has been good for personal reflection and physical recovery, and she has been mulling over whether to put “a cap” on her 11-year career or keep going.
In the meantime, Mussell has been busy “rehabbing it pretty good” and getting ready for rodeo next season. Just in case.
She made it to 50 or 60 rodeos this past year.
“Home is home, but it’s not necessarily where I belong,” she says candidly.
The old drive is still there, and she’s feeling a little itchy to make a move.
“It’s not all been a piece of cake. I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way, but I am still capable of a lot more.”
Ian Tyson, Monday, Nov. 14 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, $48, doors 7 p.m. Showtime 7:30 p.m. 604-391-SHOW (7469)) or www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.