NORFOLK (WAVY) – Virginia-based American band The Steel Wheels is the true definition of road warriors. They recently stopped by the Roper Performance Arts Center in Norfolk for a concert promoted by Tidewater Friends of Acoustic Music.
“We were pretty regular for most of the years, somewhere between 100 and 125 shows a year,” said singer and multi-instrumentalist Trent Wagler.
However, that was before the pandemic. In 2020, live music practically stopped for Wagler’s band.
“We played 4 or 5 shows in 2020, we were really closed,” Wagler said.
With few shows on the books for 2020, Wagler and his band decided to seek inspiration from their fans to write new music.
“We started a program called ‘Everybody’s One Song’, it was basically like commissioned music,” Wagler said. “The most significant thing we did was write songs for people’s stories.”
And stories of life during the pandemic poured in with Steel Wheels fans across the country.
“People sent us everything from my son just had a baby and I can’t travel to see them and I can’t be there I want you to write a song or the wedding we had planned with 250 guests now is just me and my husband and could you write a song, ”Wagler said.
The end result, over 50 songs, two material albums and a podcast that delves even further into the stories that have been submitted.
“We interview the person who told us their story, we try to record the moment when it was when you first picked up the song, how you felt your story in song.”
The Steel Wheels have been on the road since September, playing songs from their vast album catalog while navigating the lives of independent artists without the backing of a major label.
“We own the rights to our own music, which is very important in terms of controlling the art you create,” Wagler said. “I don’t feel like there is an arrogance in the fact that ‘we will always be independent no matter what’ because who knows? If there was a good partnership where it made sense, we would allow any door to open.
But for now, it’s a comeback to life on the road for one of the toughest touring groups in the country.
“You are a truck driver who plays music at the end of the day. “
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