Friday, June 30, 2017
Steve Moakler has been making a name for himself in Nashville for 10 years now—and on his new album, he's returning to his roots in WesternPennsylvania.
Steel Town is a country record, but the stories it tells and the characters it elevates are very much rooted in Pittsburgh—the Steel City—and its surrounding areas. For Moakler, this homecoming is paired with a liberation, one where his songwriting and his performing are a full reconciliation of who he is. "I've had the title Steel Town in my head for a long time. But I've been very intimidated; where I'm from means so much to me, and there's a lot of pride in Pittsburgh and in the Rust Belt. I wanted to honor that.
"This is my fourth album, but it feels like in a lot of ways, it's the first time I'm ever going back and talking about the earlier chapters of my life and where I'm from."
With songs like the easygoing country-radio hit "Suitcase," which revels in love's ability to open up one's appreciation of life's simpler pleasures, and the crackling barroom singalong "Love Drunk," Steel Town represents a performer and songwriter who's coming into his own.
Moakler moved to Nashville in the mid-2000s and has released three albums on his own. But it was penning songs for other artists—Dierks Bentley's "Riser," as well as tracks for Ashley Monroe and Kellie Pickler—that got him energized to create the songs that would make up Steel Town.
"There was a period of time when I was making my own independent records where I wasn't sure if I wanted to really pursue what we call in Nashville 'the artist route,'" he recalled. "So I said, 'I think I just want to write songs. I need to just take that pressure off and just fall back in love with writing music, because that's what's got me into this whole thing in the first place.' When I did that, I feel like all of a sudden, I started to love the songs I was writing more than ever before. I started to recognize my voice and realize what was unique about my style and my story."
Callbacks to Moakler's Western Pennsylvania roots are all over the album. The boisterous rocker "Siddle's Saloon" takes the listener right back to Moakler's grandfather's house, where his family would gather.
"'Siddle's Saloon' is inspired by my grandfather's bar in his basement. His nickname was Siddle (to this day we have no idea why), and he and his brothers had a concrete trucking company. He was just a good-timin', blue collar guy, and he loved bringing people together. So he bought an old actual bar, repainted it, and they got two kegerators in there, and he installed a booth and stools and all kinds of cool Pittsburgh memorabilia.
"It was the hang," Moakler says. "It was where he hung out with all the neighbors. My mom and her siblings hung out there when they were teenagers—that was where they partied. I have memories of sitting down there, watching Steelers games. My uncle bought the house, actually, and it's still there. It's kind of a family tradition—I just got a house, and I put a bar in my basement and remade the Siddle's Saloon sign, but put 'South' underneath it. It's a very special place. When someone says the word 'family,' that's where I see my family."
The expansive, slide-guitar-assisted "Wheels" offers a broader perspective on Moakler's journey, drawing parallels between the way life "don't slow down, the speed picks up" and the simple machine. Written with Caitlyn Smith and Gordie Sampson, "Wheels" seizes on specific imagery to create a universally relatable song—the country music ideal. "It was the
kind of song I always wanted to write," says Moakler. "We write heartbreak songs and love songs and hometown songs, and those are all great—they're really hard to write really well. But I think it's really cool that we could tell a story as big as life with one simple word."
Steel Town was produced by Luke Laird, a fellow native of western Pennsylvania. "I can't imagine making the record with somebody else," Moakler says of Laird, who co-wrote "Suitcase" (with Barry Dean and Thomas Rhett) and the ruminative "Just Long Enough." "Being from western Pennsylvania, Laird knew exactly what 'Steel Town' means. He was the perfect partner for therecord."
That recognition of how much Moakler was influenced by his home is the product of being in Nashville for a decade, as well as the result of a keenly honed instinct about people and their relationships. Moakler's insight into not just himself, but the world at large, animates the songs on Steel Town, making it a fiercely personal project that will resonate far and wide.
"When I first came to Nashville, I wasn't thinking about where I was from—that didn't cross my mind," Moakler recalls. "All I was thinking about was where I was going. I think that's perfectly normal for an 18-year-old; you're running as fast as you can and ready to conquer the world.
"It's taken being this far into my life to really understand where I'm from, and how much I'm a product of it," says Moakler. "I don't think I could've written a record called Steel Town and understood what that meant right after I left. It's taken 10 years to appreciate where I'm from and to have been hundreds of other places and to realize what's so unique about my hometown. I left a long time ago, but they imparted all this stuff into me. And that's what I have to bring to the world."
Talented. Charming. Unstoppable. America first became acquainted with the Country music trio Restless Road while watching Season 3 of The X Factor USA and these... are just some of the words that immediately came to their minds. The breakout act didn’t just leave a lasting impression on audiences, but also mesmerized the show’s judges including Simon Cowell and Kelly Rowland. "X Factor" of course refers to that undefinable and innate "something" that a star simply embodies. And fans and tastemakers recognize that Restless Road has got it times three.
Zach Beeken (20), Garrett Nichols (19) and Jared Keim (22) each bring their own “All- American” experience to a transformed Restless Road. Evident in their self-taught musical skills, these three guys do share one important thing in common above all else: determination. Zach’s very first job was pollinating corn on a farm in Iowa where he discovered his love for Country music and taught himself how to sing. Garrett on the other hand, grew up in Alabama and was involved in everything from school musicals to baseball. One day at age 12 though, he picked up an acoustic guitar and never looked back. Also at a young age, Jared’s community watched in awe as he performed on stage at his local church in Missouri; he found his calling before he could tie his own shoes. Into his teens, Jared trained himself on the guitar, piano and drums. “Getting together to write or record is great because we all grew up with the same hard- working attitude and approach our music in the same way together,” says Zach. It’s this dedication and positive outlook that’s responsible for so much of the group’s success.
One of Restless Road’s biggest accomplishments to date is landing at #1 on the iTunes Country Chart. With a Country spin, the group covered one of the most popular songs of 2013, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” and quickly realized that they had a growing and passionate fan base to satisfy. One of these fans was legendary music manager Johnny Wright. Wright has helped launch Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and Jonas Brothers (to name a few), so he thoroughly understands what it takes for a group of guys to be successful and began working with Restless Road in 2014. With Wright’s ear for talent and Restless Road’s capability, this Country “man band” (as they refer to themselves) was ready to show the world what they could do and took their live show on the road in 2015. The group has since toured nationwide, secured a coveted performance slot during NASCAR’s AAA Texas 500 Weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, brought down the house at Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James fashion line launch party, opened up for songstress Demi Lovato and contributed their talents to an annual Country Music Hall of Fame fundraiser event. Jared sums it up well by explaining, “We’re three guys who have something to prove. We love what we're doing, we're real and we're going to carve out a place in music history for ourselves.”
All acts are booked using RMA Presents. Check out their website for more details. http://rmapresents.com/
Check back here often to stay update about the upcoming concerts during the event.
Saturday, July 1, 2017