A few years ago, singer-songwriter Steve Moakler thought he might be ready to call it quits on his career as an artist.
"I reverted, in my own headspace, to just be a songwriter," says the Pittsburgh native who subsequently landed several cuts with other artists including Dierks Bentley's uplifting "Riser."
But it was when Moakler, one of Rolling Stone Country's Artists You Need to Know, gave up the idea of making his own music that he found his voice.
"When I let go of that desire," he says, "the songs that came through, came through clearer and stronger and more cohesive than they ever have. I fell back in love with this simple process of songwriting and that was when the artist emerged and it felt like the cart was behind the horses again. Now I am fired up again."
One of those songs is the heartfelt new tune "Steel Town," the first song from his EP out Friday, March 11th. The wistful, midtempo acoustic ballad pays tribute to the resilient people of his hometown just south of Pittsburgh: the factories they work in, the bars they unwind in, and the solace they take in their community.
"I knew I wanted to write a song about growing up in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, but I also knew that I would have to play it for the people I grew up with someday and I really wanted them to be proud of it," says Moakler, who brought the title to co-writer Casey Beathard to help bring it to life.
"Pittsburgh is an amazing place full of hard working, passionate, beer drinking, warm and welcoming people," he says. "It was a great place to grow up and the older I get, the more I can see how much it has shaped who I am and the more I hope it shapes who I become."