The Steel Wheel’s genesis dates back to 2004, when lead singer/guitarist/banjo player Trent Wagler, standup bass player Brian Dickel and fiddler Eric Brubaker were college students in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which sits in the Shenandoah Valley, an hour’s drive from Charlottesville. As undergraduates, Wagler played bass and Dickel guitar in a punk-leaning alternative band, but over time they developed an interest in acoustic music, as Trent learned flatpicking and began writing songs, while Brian studied guitar making at a school for aspiring luthiers. They began performing casual gigs as a duo, and it wasn’t long before Brubaker began playing with them, expanding the nascent group’s sound with his fiddle and bass voice, which enriched the harmonies. Once Wagler crossed paths with mandolin player Jay Lapp on the local folk circuit, the lineup was complete” although none of them realized at the time that these four like-minded friends had begun the process of becoming a going concern. After making an album together under Wagler’s name, they continued to play informally for the next half decade, while also recording a 2007 LP as Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels. Concurrently, they worked day jobs and started families. Finally, they took the leap of faith, throwing their lots together as The Steel Wheels, a band name redolent of steam-powered railroad trains, America’s industrial age and the buggies of their Mennonite forebears.
When the Steel Wheels stopped by to sing a few songs for Folk Alley, they were out on tour for their latest album, ‘Leave Some Things Behind.’ The theme of the songs are tied to leaving and going and moving on. The album was recorded in Virginia – close to the stomping grounds of most of the band, who call the Shenandoah Valley home. The group is very tied to place, finding inspiration in the mountain music and natural surroundings that color life in Virginia and producing the annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival. The band stepped out of its habitat to visit Beehive Studios in Saranac Lake, New York and record cuts from the ‘Leave Some Things Behind’ for Folk Alley.