For Beni Paulson, there is a special kind of music that hits bull riders just right.
And he feels his band, Breaking Eight, lives up to it.
The fact that the group of North Dakota and Baker musicians have already played in Las Vegas at the Professional Bull Riding Championships means they have already arrived.
And with the loosening of the COVID-19 shutdown, their schedule has picked up, playing in Mandan July 2 and at the Country Fest in New Salem a week later. “Our schedule is fairly limited right now,” he said. “We are working on shows this winter in Las Vegas and others, but it is so hard right now. We don’t know if they are happening or if it will be canceled.”
The band, which specializes in rodeo rock, has also been selected to play at the Fallon County Fair in mid-August.
Raised in Killdeer and living on a spread north of Richardton, Paulson says both rodeo and music have been a big part of his life.
The name of the band, Breaking Eight, is a bull riding reference. “I used to be a professional bull rider. It (the name) had kind of a ring... a cadence to it. It is hard to find names because all of the good ones are taken,” he added with a chuckle.
He said the band has a web page already. “We have a good presence on Facebook and Instagram.... Twitter. We got it all.”
The band started up several years ago. “We are a pretty new band,” Paulson explained.
“We pretty much do our own music. We started the band to do our own stuff.”
The band recorded its second album in Nashville six months ago, he said.
“Music born on the back of a bull is kind of our slogan because it signifies we are high energy. I used to be a bull rider and Jerilyn was a rodeo competitor as well,” he explained.
The group got together because they all wanted to write music and do original music on rodeo and the western way of life, he said.
“I knew Ty (Taylor) and Luke (Smillie). We all played together in previous bands throughout the years. We happened to be in western North Dakota anyways. “I moved from Killdeer seven years ago,” he said.
The final piece to the band puzzle would come from the Montana border town of Baker, Paulson explained. “Jerilyn (Wiseman) was going to school at Dickinson State University. I had read a bio of her because she was a rodeo student that said she was a competitive fiddle player.
“I did a little asking around and a little research on her to make sure she was a decent person. Once I determined that, I called her up and asked her if she would be interested.”
Paulson said “she is kind of the superstar of the group.”
The band had been traveling, including performing at the PBR Finals in Las Vegas, but the travel has been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“We set off on this expecting big things, so there has been no surprises to me that it has been working out, but we have gelled really good as far as writing music. We have learned and grown in the songwriting department – as a team,” Paulson explained.
He added that the band’s music videos for “Lost and Found” and “Still Around” show what the band can do. “It is very representative. The video companies and us are getting more efficient doing these videos as well.”
In addition, the band is seeing some international interest with some of the downloads, he said. “Eventually, when the world opens up we are going to solicit tours in other countries. We are kind of waiting for things to happen, but we fully expect to be touring everywhere.”
Wiseman came to Baker to stay years ago when her family returned to Fallon County where they had ties, allowing her to finish up her final two years at the high school and competing in local rodeos. Her events were barrel racing, team roping and breakaway.
After graduation, she went on to Dickinson State University and spent four years there on the Blue Hawks’ rodeo team. She majored in Ag Business and had an associates degree in Equine Marketing.
Being on the rodeo team in Dickinson was a special time, she explained.
“Some of my very best friends were on that team. The reason I chose that team over other places was because of the morals that coach instilled in his students. A lot of people can make you a successful athlete, but he does such a successful job of helping people not only become successful athletes , but also helping them find their faith. I just kind of yearned for that, I guess. I am so thankful for that relationship I have with him. He is a giant blessing I have in my life,” she said.
“I kind of grew up with rodeo. I was fortunate. My parents rodeoed my entire childhood. I was on a horse from the very beginning,” she explained.
Wiseman took up the fiddle a few years later when she was six years old. That choice would eventually lead her to Paulson and Breaking Eight who were looking for a fiddle player at the time.
“My best friend when I started pre-school started playing and I thought it was a cool thing,” she added.
“I was really fortunate. I had a phenomenal teacher named Scott who had played all over the country. He was really good, but my biggest inspiration, as far as a big band, was Jimmy Mattingly with Garth Brooks.
“He is phenomenal. His tone is just beautiful and he plays some really cool stuff. There is a newer band called Flatland Cavalry and they do some more melodic type fiddle stuff and kind of get bluegrassy. Those would be my two biggest inspirations,” she explained. Flatland Cavalry is slated to play July 23 in Billings.
It was her friendship with another member of the Dickinson State University Rodeo Team which led her to the North Dakota band which was looking for a fiddler at the time.
“We were pals and he was working for a guy named Ben Paulson, who was a PBR world finalist. He (Paulson) would come by and talk to the bull riders on the team. I knew him and he knew me, but we didn’t really communicate,” she recalled. Paulson told her friend that he was really looking for a fiddle player and didn’t know where to find one. Paulson said they (fiddle players) were pretty few and far between around here.
It was her friend, Justin Ward, who supplied the connection.
“Justin said Jerilyn plays the fiddle … and lied through his teeth for me,” she said with a chuckle. “He (Justin) had never heard me play. He then messaged me on Facebook that night (June 2018) just to see if I would be interested. I said yeah.”
A few months later, Paulson sent Wiseman some songs that he had been thinking about. “I got together with him in September. He lined up a rehearsal for me with the whole band. We played together and they decided I was in,” she said.
“I had to learn about 50 songs in less than a month before we headed to Vegas for the PBR finals. It all was pretty fast but it has been a lot of fun.”
While in college, Wiseman said she saw herself returning to Baker after graduation and working. At the same time she had been gravitating away from music because it was not fun anymore.
“Then I met this great group of people. They have become four of my very best friends in no time flat. It (music) has gotten to where it is a lot of fun again. I have gotten more passionate about it. I didn’t see myself doing anything other than staying around here and trying to raise some horses, train some horses, rodeo and work at the bank.
“I am getting to do the best of both worlds at this point,” she said. “I play music and go see places, meet some great people.
“I didn’t see this coming – playing in the band. It was definitely a push from God in the right direction.”
One of her first gigs with the band was the trip to the PBR competition in Las Vegas. “That was my second show with them,” she said. “My first one was the night before in North Dakota because they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out on stage. I think they wanted to know if they’d have to cancel my plane ticket,” she added.
“I was the last piece of the puzzle. They had already been playing before I joined. It is crazy how close we have gotten in the last year and a half because they have all known each other for 10 or 20 years. They have been playing music together, on and off,” she said.
The lead guitar player, Ty, lives the furthest away in Stanley. “He is just crazy good on the guitar,” she said. “He is just a joy to be around and quickly became one of my very best friends.”
The drummer, Luke, is from Regent in Hettinger County.
“All of the guys have become very close to me” Wiseman said.
“We’re really lucky. There is no bad chemistry. We call each other every day and talk. It is really nice.”
The band already has two albums online, the first (Breaking Eight) was released in February 2019 with the second (Double Down) put out in May 2020.
So far, Wiseman said it would be hard to pick out a favorite song, but she has a couple that stick out in her mind. “Wildflower... the way it all comes together. Ty and I had been talking and he played this guitar lick. I just loved it because it has that bluegrass feel to it,” she recalled, adding that she had grown up around bluegrass music.
“I like it because it is so upbeat and the singing part is fun. The fiddle part to it is my favorite part about it... and the guitar lick.... hands down. It has a cool feel. Ty did a great job and we all had these big ideas for it … and it all came together,” she said. “It was like four little train wrecks rolling into one and it all worked out perfect.”
Another song, Lost and Found, has also made a big impression. “It is just so soothing to me. The fiddle part turned out so pretty.”
Wiseman said she likes all of the songs. “Its like, cool, we get to play this song again,” she explained. “They all have been a lot of fun.”
Wiseman is currently working as a loans officer at the Bank of Baker.