“Authentic,”“honest,” “from the heart.” That’s how we would describe Steve Moakler’s latest album, Steel Town. While the project does not necessarily have what traditionalists might call the “real country sound” that harkens back to the days of Ernest Tubbs or Tammy Wynette, what it does have is the undeniable truth and storytelling element that is ever present in timeless country songs. From the small town camaraderie, hard work, lost love, and life stories, Moakler extensively covers the diverse lyrical themes that make a song “country.”
CMchat recently spoke to the 29-year-old about his album, artistry, life, faith and more. What was the inspiration behind “Steel Town?” What job would he be in if music weren’t in the picture? What was it like writing the Dierks Bentley cut, “Riser,” with Travis Meadows? Read along. We assure you you’ll get to know the Highway Find Tour headliner better than you do right now!
On the track selection for “Steel Town”
We wanted to make a record that painted a full picture. We picked the strongest songs that laid it all out there… Songs about heartbreak, new love, broken-in love, my hometown, the hard working folks who raised me, looking back, growing up etc. It’s all in there! I cut out all the song titles out on pieces of paper the size of fortune cookies and kept sliding them around and listening through until we achieved the best listening experience, start to finish. I always want to make records that you can listen to the whole way through
“Wheels” as the lead single.
Well, half the songs on this record are about looking back, and the other half bring you to the moment. Wheels is a song that does both at the same time, so we felt it was the most powerful way to portray what’s waiting inside the rest of those tracks. It’s also my favorite song on the record…
We hope to release another single on Sirius XM’s The Highway, but we don’t have any plans to release a song to FM radio on this project.
On the direction of “Steel Town” – a ballad-less project with many feel-good, uplifting songs.
Yeah, I guess “Summer Without Her” is the closest thing we have to a heartbreak ballad, but it ends up kinda rocking haha. We just wanted to make a record that sounded honest, real, and emotional. These songs are the things closest to my nerves I guess. We realized after we put the songs together, that looking back on growing up in Western, PA was a really strong thread throughout it. The theme kind of revealed itself to us after we got into it.
The song that receives the biggest reaction at shows.
Well, “Suitcase” is usually one of the most electric moments in the show because it usually gets the whole room singing. And that’s tough to beat! As our tour went on though, I noticed more and more people singing along to the whole record, which is so fulfilling.
On songwriting and writing his own music.
It’s important to me to constantly write music, and I think I’ll always lean hard toward my own songs, but I don’t feel the need to exclusively record my own. Being a songwriter first, I know how rare and special great songs are and I’d consider it an honor to record someone else’s if it felt true to me.
What country song he wish he would’ve written.
Man, there are so many!! “The House That Built Me” is toward the top of the list. It’s so timeless and universal.
The day he wrote “Riser” with Travis Meadows.
That was a really special day… First off, I didn’t think I was qualified to write it! I don’t feel like I’ve survived that much, especially compared to Travis. He insisted that I write it with him because of my optimism. I absolutely love the song, and I found it healing to write and to perform. We never dreamed of the reach it would have, it’s been one of the most humbling and crazy things to be part of. The experiences that people share with me with that song always keep me going and remind me of what’s important.
The alternative career path.
Haha, I don’t know… I might be a high school history or english teacher. Those classes and teachers were a big deal in my life… Might have done that and then a landscaping job in the summers. I like cutting grass.
On his time in Belmont University
I had a great experience, it was only 2 years long, but it was important. There is so much talent there… It was both humbling and inspiring to be around. It was a kick in the butt for sure! I spent so much time writing songs and playing music with some incredible people and musicians, I’m definitely better because of the time I spent there. It was also an all-natural networking thing WAY ahead of the curve. I made friends with people who had the same passions as me, and now those guys & girls have become band-mates, producers, publishers, songwriters, agents etc. We all cheer each other on. The challenge for me was staying focused and motivated to do my schoolwork! Haha I was so fired up about music that I ended up dropping out and chasing the dream a little early.
Advice for people wanting to pursue the Music Business
I would say don’t go looking for handouts. Work hard, be passionate, and people will start to notice and want to be part of what you’re doing.
One thing he would change in the industry if he could
Oh man… that’s a tough one. I might change how quickly it changes! It evolves so quickly, and I’m kind of a slow learner.
On staying rooted in his faith in this crazy life
I have an amazing wife, old friends, a great family, and a great God. Those things hold me together and remind me what it’s all about.
Favorite bible verse
Hard to say a favorite, I should probably pick one! One that stuck out to me this morning is:
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid.”
You have to walk into a REAL spooky, haunted house one day. Which female country singer would you drag along with you?
Haha probably Miranda Lambert… She seems like a tough cookie.
Favorite show to watch as a kid?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Thanks for the interview, Steve! We should’ve dug deeper… What’s your favorite pizza topping? Who’s your favorite TMNT? Talking about cookie, what’s your favorite cookie? Ha! We digress…
If you need a song to embolden you to push through life’s trials, “Wheels” and “Suitcase” does a great job at that. Looking for a feel-good, uptempo jam for your summer parties this month? Press play on “Siddle’s Saloon” and “Love Drunk!” Other favorites of ours include “Gold,” and “Hearts Don’t Break That Way.”
“In a Steel Town, you learn how to bend and not break. How to hang in, how to cut lose, how to find a way.”
So folks, if your musical appetite has been whet, go pick up a copy of “Steel Town” below! Not only will the first track tug at your heartstrings (we love it when a song does that!), it’ll also leave you wanting more.