Introducing Country-Folk Duo Steel Blossoms
This week we’re thrilled to introduce to you popular indie musicians Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser, known to their fans as the country-folk duo Steel Blossoms. These two ladies regularly put on fun and entertaining shows at the local venues here in Nashville. If you haven’t already been lucky enough to see them perform, just listen – that’s Steel Blossoms you’re hearing right now.
In this interview, they talk about the way they met, how their music together evolved, and their love of house concerts. Read on…
Tell us about yourselves.
IndieMusic Nashville: Tell us about your childhood. Where did you live? How did the place you grew up and the people there inspire your career in music?
Steel Blossoms: Both of us grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, a little south of Pittsburgh. Surprising to most, there was a huge country music scene there with lots of local talent. We each started performing in church, and our communities welcomed us with open arms. Every squeak and wrong note was still encouraged, and I think that’s where we learned to be okay with making mistakes.
IndieMusic Nashville: How long have you known each other? How did you meet? What inspired you to make music together?
Steel Blossoms (Sara): We met sometime around 2008. Hayley was in high school and I was in college. The first time we met, we were both performing, separately, at a festival. Then we met again when we both opened for the same artist at a CD release party.
Eventually, around 2011, Hayley started performing with my band. At that time, we were known as “Girlz in Black Hats”. We were a completely different style than we are now – we primarily focused on singing cover songs. Hayley and I quickly realized that we had amazing on-stage and singing chemistry together.
We also really wanted to make it a career instead of just a hobby. So, after three years of singing together, we decided to move to Nashville and the rest is history!
How did you choose your Steel Blossoms genre?
IndieMusic Nashville: Did you consciously choose your genre, or did it come naturally to you?
Steel Blossoms: It most definitely came naturally. We both started out singing and playing primarily the songs we heard on country radio, and mixed in some of the classic country songs from the last 30ish years.
It wasn’t until we started writing songs together that we found our own unique style. We call it “mainstream folk”. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s probably because it doesn’t really exist!
When we moved to Nashville and started documenting our experiences through journaling and songwriting, we found our own unique voice. It’s quite different than the voices on mainstream country radio, even though that’s what we both grew up listening to. It’s a unique way of storytelling that sort of just fell into our laps. We love it!
Tell us about your instruments.
IndieMusic Nashville: What instruments do you play?
Steel Blossoms (Hayley): We both play Breedlove Acoustic guitars – we LOVE them! Also, we both play piano, but don’t incorporate it in our shows. And Sara plays the fiddle! In high school marching band, we both played the clarinet. Glad those marching band days are behind us!
We’d like to hear about the Steel Blossoms creative process.
IndieMusic Nashville: What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Why have you chosen these themes? Do you think these topics will change over time? Have they changed over time?
Steel Blossoms (Hayley): The main themes/topics we write about are the events and emotions we’re going through in our own daily lives. This changes as we age and as we have experiences that change our perspective. We always try to go into a writing session with a “real” account of feeling or experience in mind. We are very opinionated and vulnerable in our writing, exposing raw feelings and relatable, humorous stories. Our goal is to make our audience think and feel something, whether it’s sadness, anger, or delight.
A Day in the Life of Steel Blossoms…
IndieMusic Nashville: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time and place for rehearsals, or do you just do it “when the spirit hits”?
Steel Blossoms (Sara): It’s the strangest thing… I hate to say this, but we rarely practice. A lot of new songs that we learn are first requests by the audience. We’ll try a song on the spot and if it goes fairly well, we add it to our set. I think it’s worked for us because we don’t ever try to perform a song exactly like the recording, so trying it on the fly has allowed our creativity to drive the performance. Hayley and I tend to already be incredibly fast learners and we have a natural chemistry together on stage. It’s often like we are reading each other’s minds!
IndieMusic Nashville: What do you like to do outside of music? Is there a hobby you turn to in order to rejuvenate your creativity?
Steel Blossoms: We watch a lot of TV! Our current favorite is “New Girl”. We get a lot of comedy inspiration from that show. When we need a pick me up, that’s our go-to! We also love “Friends”, “Grace and Frankie”, “Scandal”, and OF COURSE, “This is Us”! When there’s nothing going on in our personal lives to write about, we draw inspiration from fictional characters. In fact, our song “I’m Still Me, You’re Still You” was written based on two “Grey’s Anatomy” characters!
What is Steel Blossoms doing currently?
IndieMusic Nashville: You invite people to download a few free songs. That’s very generous, why do you choose to do that?
Steel Blossoms: Yes, we love giving people the option to hear our music for free. We either have them sign up on our website, or live at one of our shows on a clipboard with paper and pen. It’s sort of a “try before you buy”. The four free songs we give away are our early songs but they’re still able to give an example of the type of music fans would be getting if they purchased a newer album. It also helps encourage people to follow our journey by becoming a part of our email list.
IndieMusicNashville: Do you do house concerts? Do you like them? Why?
Steel Blossoms: Yes, we primarily perform house concerts when we travel. We LOVE them. It is so much more personal than playing in a loud bar with people who are mostly only present to consume food and alcohol. House concerts give musicians leverage to control how their music is presented and received. We are involved in every step of the process with the host, down to the invitations and set up of the room.
IndieMusic Nashville: Tell us about the house concert you did that was your favorite.
One of our favorite house concerts this past year was in Janesville, Wisconsin. Every aspect of that concert was as perfect as you could ever imagine. Weather was great, there were around 40 people in attendance, all 40 of them paying attention and reacting to our stories just the way we’d hoped. Also, every audience member had their own seat and knew exactly what the purpose of the concert was because the host prepared them. That’s key! We are going back again this July!
IndieMusic Nashville: Which songs do you perform most frequently?
We almost always end our show with our crowd favorite original, “You’re the Reason I Drink”. No matter how much our songwriting evolves over time, that song has remained the most requested original song!
IndieMusic Nashville: What’s the most heart-warming thing you’ve been told by a fan at a concert?
Steel Blossoms: We remember performing in Columbus, Ohio, last summer to a group of friends and family of all ages. During two of the songs towards the end, we noticed a woman crying silently to herself, but also smiling and clapping for us. She came up after the performance and said that our song “I Don’t Wanna Love You Anymore” had hit every emotion of how she was feeling about her recent divorce. Then, after hearing us perform “Be Okay”, she said that it spoke to her and somehow, someway, she knew she was going to get through the struggles she was having. It was so touching to hear how our lyrics had affected her.
IndieMusic Nashville: Do you have any upcoming shows or tours?
Steel Blossoms: Our next big house concert tour is coming up in May!
IndieMusic Nashville: Do you have merchandise for sale? Where can we get it?
Steel Blossoms: Yes! Our music is available to purchase on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and Google Play. On our website, we have physical CDs, t-shirts, and signed photographs!
Check out Steel Blossoms’ website: www.steelblossoms.com
Listen to more of Steel Blossoms’ music:
If you haven’t already had a house concert starring these two lovely and fun ladies, do it! You’ll be so glad you did!