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 Western Pennsylvania.
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 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 are 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.”