Fort Bragg soldier balances music passion with Army career
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Every third Friday of the month, patrons of On After sports bar on Bragg Boulevard can find Chris Munson strumming a guitar, covering songs and singing his own music.
Munson, a sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division, balances his passion for music with an equal passion for serving in the military.
“I think it’s weird, but Chris Munson the musician is not Sgt. Munson — they’re two separate things,” Munson said recently between warming up for a gig. “It’s just the professionalism that comes with it.”
Chris Munson the musician has recorded songs that have had airplay on the radio across the Carolinas. He also was a Carolina Country Music Awards nominee this year.
A native of Kellyville, Oklahoma, or what he describes as “the middle of nowhere,” Munson grew up listening to a lot of country and classic rock music stations in his mother’s car.
By the time he was 11, he and his older brother started picking up his grandfather’s guitar.
Several DVDS and “Guitar World” magazines later, Munson was part of a band in high school. By the time the school talent show rolled around his senior year, he was dabbling with singing and writing music.
With a family history of military service — all of his uncles served in various branches and his grandfathers also served — Munson joined the Army Reserves in 2009 while at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
After completing basic training, he met fellow musician Chance Anderson while at Oklahoma State. Munson auditioned to play guitar for a gig for Anderson’s band.
“It turned out I’d play lead guitar for him four years after that, but still was not signing up front. I kind of sang harmonies here and there,” Munson said.
He played for the band for three to four years. That time coincided with his six years in the Reserves and included a deployment to Afghanistan.
In 2015, he became active duty and joined the 82nd Airborne Division as an infantry soldier by October that year.
After a 2017 deployment as a heavy weapons squad leader, Munson started to focus on how he could balance music and his career as a soldier.
He switched to a facilities management position with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division to allow him more time with his family and to pursue his musical interest.
After returning home from his deployment in 2018, Munson talked with his wife, Amanda, about wanting to play music again.
He started playing open mic gigs in the Fayetteville area and was told to stop by On After to talk with the owner, “Bear,” who is a veteran.
After a few auditions, Munson’s slot became the third Friday of each month.
Munson said he’s enjoyed the support from Fayetteville residents, as well as the veterans, soldiers and his command sergeant major and battalion commander who attended some of his shows.
It was “Bear” who introduced Munson to disc jokey Christy Andrulonis, known as “Sweet Tea,” and the founder of the Carolina Country Music Awards.
“Bear” sponsored Munson’s recording time at Sound Land Studios in Red Springs with Robby Lee Van Hoy. He recorded his first single, “Keep Me Saying Yes.”
“You learn to put the catchy things in there, but you want to capture the message of like it’s really relatable because at some point anyone has felt like that,” Munson said of how he approaches songwriting.
The Carolina Country Music Association is comprised of radio stations in North and South Carolina and features local artists in monthly competitions where they have the opportunity to have their songs played on the radio.
Munson, a father of four, gathered his children — Katy, who just turned 7, 5-year-old Parker, 4-year-old Noah and 3-month-old Wyatt, in the car to hear the song.
“My daughter was like, daddy is that you? And so I’m like, ‘Yeah that’s daddy on the radio,’” Munson said. “That was one of those instances — every father wants their kids to view them as a hero . . . but for them to see that, for them to see when daddy goes and leaves for the night and plays somewhere on Friday night or Saturday night and he’s gone, there’s actually a reason for that.”
That single was nominated as Single of the Year for the Carolina Country Music Awards held Jan. 26, and Munson was a Male Artist of the Year nominee.
Though some of Munson’s influences include country music — he considers Merle Haggard “the greatest” and likes Vince Gill, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Munson doesn’t consider himself 100 percent a country artist.
“Right now I’m really big on there’s this reemergence of classic Americana music,” he said.
“And you mix all of that together, throw a little country with it, throw a little blues on it and that’s just pretty much what I do.”
Munson plans to stay with the Army until retirement to allow him to continue providing for his family.
“When I retire and all my children are grown, then I’ll pursue music at whatever level I can. But for now, it’s something that as long as it can be allowed within my career in the Army, I’m going to play music anywhere I can,” Munson said. “I don’t ever want it to feel like a job.”
Munson’s music can be found on Spotify, iTunes or Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon music and YouTube music. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram @CMunsonMusic.
Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com