The Steel Wheels

Quick Q and A with Trent Wagler (The Steel Wheels)

All the buzz about The Steel Wheels is most definitely warranted.  They have been selling out venues up and down, and back and forth this land of ours.  The band has also been asked to play at some of the most prestigious festivals around: Merlefest, Moab Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, Ann Arbor Folk Festival, Stagecoach and the Fayetteville Roots Festival.  Their music caught the ears of the good people at National Public Radio and they dubbed their sound as “Americana, made by hand.”

The band calls the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia home.  This incredibly talented four-piece string band manages to transport their audiences by playing some of the most natural and organic music ever heard.  They take their traditional music that is so close to their souls and magically transform it into something that is as compelling and relevant as anything I’ve ever heard.

You can check out the band’s website here.

Catch some of the special magic of The Steel Wheels by watching this fabulous video of “Red Wing.”

Another spectacular video for “Rain” gives you another taste of the band’s music.


The Steel Wheels at Merlefest, April 2014

 How long have The Steel Wheels been playing together?  

We first played a show together in 2005, but we truly formed The Steel Wheels in 2010 and have been touring since then.

Were you directly inspired by any particular musicians whom we may or may not know?

Some you may know: Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, Grisman and Garcia, The Band

Some you may not: Mennonite Hymnal, Henry Wagler

Your style is described as Americana.  How do you define that term?  

I think we’re best described as Classic Americana or Americana Roots/String Band music. We borrow from the early styles of U.S. music.  That’s mountain music, blues, old-time, ballads, a little Cajun and Irish influence all seen through our 21st century lens.

What is it about your music that gives it its unique flavor?

We pay tribute to the aforementioned styles, but we’re writing from our own experience.  We’re not a “period” band. The best music you can listen to is true to itself and its performers. We strive to be as authentic as possible and hopefully that works for people.

It’s interesting and quite exciting that you have developed relationships with other independent type business people to sell coffee, beer, and those absolutely stunning mugs!  Was this a brainchild of the band or did the individual entrepreneurs approach you because they were fans of your music and felt that it would be a good way to reach a demographic who would be interested in their products?

These partnerships all developed naturally out of relationships we’ve made as a band.  In most cases we were friends with the businesses first. Then, we saw and loved their products and wanted to partner with them to promote their work as well as ours.  The mugs, for example, are made by a lifelong friend of Jay Lapp, our mandolin player.

Just like we want our music to sound and feel authentic, we prefer to keep our partnerships with business owners we really know and believe in.


Tell us about the Red Wing Festival.  How did that come about?  

We have spent the last 4 years touring the country seeing some of the best bands in the world. We wanted to bring some of what we’ve seen to our home: the Shenandoah Valley of VA. We also knew if we were successful we could build a reason for more of our friends and fans to come to our home and join us every year for a celebration of music at the festival.

When you play a show, you get the chance to construct an evening of music and all the artistic choices surrounding that evening, but when you create a festival it gives you a bigger palette to communicate who you are and what you’re about. The different musicians and activities included are a certain kind of artistic statement.

What’s your favorite thing about festival season?

We get to see great music and collaborate with other musicians.

Have you toured outside the United States at all? If so, what is the audience’s reaction to your music?

So far we’ve spent a good amount of time in Canada. The audiences up there have been amazing. We’ve talked about Europe and Australia, but nothing has come of it yet.

If you had any words of wisdom to impart to aspiring musicians, what would they be?

Play anywhere and everywhere you can. Music is music. On the porch, on the street, or on a stage. And put your heart in it, or your wasting everyone’s time.