Whiskey Riff Exclusive: Steve Moakler Talks Taking Us Back to His Roots with New Record ‘Steel Town’

Steve Moakler has been making a name for himself in Nashville for 10 years now, but on this new record, we’re starting to see a whole new side of him as he reflects on what made him who he is, and looks forward to the future.

His new album, Steel Town, is out now and The Highway Finds Tour kicked off yesterday, but we’re thankful the country star still managed to find some time to share some of the details behind all of the excitement with us.

So the Highway Finds Tour just kicked off, what are you most excited about for that?

I’m really excited to get to play the songs on our new album. There are six songs on this record we’ve never really played before and it’s really exciting just to watch them fully come to life in front of a crowd for the first season. I’m really excited for the comradery among Drew Baldridge and Smithfield. I don’t know them very well yet, so I’m excited to break in the hang and make some memories together out there.

What’s one thing you absolutely need to have with you on the road?

I like having a drink in my hand. In the morning it’s a cup of coffee, I’ve actually gotten really hooked on this coconut water.

Is it Billy Currington’s?

No it’s not, I would like to have his! I don’t know where I can find it. But there’s this Vita Coco stuff. At night and during the show I have a couple beers. I’m really simple, I don’t need too much. I love having drinks along the way, it’s kind of my road companion.

What’s your drink of choice?

Yuengling beer. It’s also from Pennsylvania like me. It’s the oldest brewery in America and I love it.

I hear most of the inspiration for your new album, Steel Town, has come from your hometown in Pennsylvania.

Yeah, this is my fourth album but in a lot of ways it feels like my first album. Part of that is because this is the first record where I’ve really dove into the chapter one material of my life. It’s been painting a picture of the place and the people and the moments that I had growing up, so it seemed fitting to name the album Steel Town.

I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about the first single off the record, “Wheels”, and that one definitely paints a perfect picture.

Thank you! Yeah, “Wheels” is probably my favorite song on the record and I think it’s the perfect one to lead off the record with because half of the record is looking back and thinking about my roots and the other half is really looking at the moment, and really trying to appreciate everything that the moment has. I think “Wheels” is really the heart of the album because it’s both of those things. It’s looking back, but it’s the kind of looking back that spurs you to come right to the moment and say “man, this moment is going to be over and done just like all these other ones and what am I going to do with it, how am I going to make it count.”

I know there’s already a lot of buzz about the video…

I LOVE the video. As we were writing the song, I could see the video in my head, which doesn’t always happen. It’s really powerful and I can’t wait for people to see it. I’m glad there’s a little buzz about it already.

Can you spill any details about it?

I can just say that a lot of the scenes were shot in a mechanic’s garage over in East Nashville. It’s been there since the early 80’s, I drive by it every day and I never even thought to go in there but it was so cool to step into that garage and meet the guys that fix these old cars, they only work on old classic cars. It was a really cool homebase for the record.

Do you have a personal favorite song on the album or one you’re most excited for fans to hear?

Well there’s a song on there called “Siddle’s Saloon” that I really wanted to be on the record and it was a late edition. My road band came in and played on it and it’s a song about a bar in my grandfather’s basement. His name was Robert, but his nickname was Siddle, and he and his brothers had a concrete trucking company and he’s just a good-timin’, blue collar guy who built this bar in his basement. It was a place that my family and the neighbors, have been gathering since the 70’s, and I wanted to tell the story of it and kind of invite people to sit down at it. So it’s a really personal song to me, but it’s a really fun, rockin’ song. It’s probably the most rockin’ song I’ve ever done. I mean, usually the rockin’ songs aren’t the most personal, but this is kind of cool because it’s both. And just because it’s so personal I’m excited to share it with people.

You’ve been in the industry for awhile and there’s definitely been a lot of change over the past few years, do you find it hard to stay true to your roots?

In my case, I’ve gotten closer to my roots every year. When I came here as an 18 year old, I wasn’t thinking about my roots at all. I was freshly uprooted and running as fast as I could towards the next thing and I had big stars in my eyes about what could happen and what it could all become. I think my career has been a very slow build and it’s given me time to reflect on my roots and really kind of go back to them musically. It’s also naturally part of growing up, the older you get, at least in your 20’s, you suddenly realize how much a product I am of my roots. I had my head up my butt completely as a 19 year old kid and I didn’t have the perspective to zoom out like I do now. I’ve clung to my roots more the past few years.

Can you tell me a little about Free the Birds?

It’s something my friend Tim and I started in 2012. I had just heard about the human sex trade and it completely broke my heart, and for awhile I thought what can I do about it? You feel kind of powerless, and I just thought what if I did something? I wanted to gartner support and awareness, so I started to build bird houses in my basement, which was just a hobby at the time, and we started to sell them online and all the proceeds go to different non-profits that fight to end human trafficking. To me the bird house is a symbol of the refuge these girls deserve. We’ve had partnerships and other celebrities paint houses and we’ve raised more than $25,000 so far.

I absolutely love that. Are you going to try to incorporate the idea into the current tour?

Well, when we were playing smaller venues I could always see the birdhouse sitting there at the back, so I never worried about anybody stealing it. But now that there’s more people and more commotion I’m trying to figure out how we can reinvent the idea.

If you’re not working on music or on the road, where might we find you?

Either at home hanging out with my wife Gracie, that’s my favorite place to be, or we have our own Fiddle Saloon in my basement, so we have our friends come over. I also love going down to the river. There’s a park nearby that’s in Nashville but feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, and that’s where I go to ride my bike and pray and get a peace of mind.

Is there anything else you want fans to know about you?

How much I appreciate them. I’m so thankful I get to make a living doing this. I’m so thankful for the new fans and the people who have stuck with me from the beginning and watched my records evolve. It’s the reason we keep doing this.
Don’t forget to download Steel Town, and check out all of the places Steve will be stopping along with Smithfield and Drew Baldridge on The Highway Finds Tour here.

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