They say the only thing consistent about change is…well, that it changes. Whether through design or destiny, that’s a precept the SteelDrivers know all too well. Throughout their career –one that encompasses four highly acclaimed albums and any number of awards and accolades –the band has demonstrated the ability to adapt to change with unwavering persistence. Their’s is a lingering legacy defined by quality and consistency. It’s one in which they’ve never stopped looking forward, successfully marshalling their resources for wherever that trajectory takes them.
Richard Bailey (banjo), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), Mike Fleming (bass) and Brent Truitt (mandolin) have been musical colleagues and friends for more than three decades, which is to say nearly all of their adult lives. They were bringing their instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills to various bands, ad hoc gigs, picking parties and recording sessions long before The Steeldrivers first came together. That happened in 2005 when Nashville veteran Mike Henderson and Stapleton, a young gun on Music Row, had co-written a batch of songs that felt right for bluegrass instrumentation. Some casual get-togethers with Bailey, Fleming and Rogers led to a run of shows, a deal with historic Rounder Records and critical acclaim.
In a story now well-known, Stapleton hit a streak of rocket-ride success as a solo country artist, and the Steeldrivers resolved to continue on, maintaining the overall soul-grass feeling of that founding voice without hiring a clone. Henderson stepped aside as well, with many things on his plate.
While Steeldrivers 3.0 rehearsed and started playing shows, Rogers, the band’s dynamic fiddle player and harmony vocalist, leaned hard into developing new material. “Having been known as a songwriting band, I felt like it was still what the band needed to do,” she says. Indeed, original, band-written songs were as much a part of the Steeldrivers origin story as its infectious grooves and its R&B leanings. Those first rehearsals and shows with Stapleton/Henderson songs included “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey,” “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” (which was covered by pop star Adele), “Sticks That Made Thunder” and other certified band standards.