Can Steel Blossoms do for country music what Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa have done for Pittsburgh hip-hop? | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Can Steel Blossoms do for country music what Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa have done for Pittsburgh hip-hop?

click to enlarge Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley
Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley
Hometown girls Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley are joining the ranks of Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile, pushing the boundaries with untraditional lyrics and busting up the boys’ club of the current country scene.

The Americana duo, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, is mostly a honky-tonk group with some folk mixed in. There are even some rockabilly and cow-punk vibes on new tracks like “Trailer Neighbor,” about a gossiping woman next door who knows everyone’s business.

“I like to say that I might have grown up on a street of trailer neighbors,” says Prosser. “I’m from the South Hills and everybody knows what’s going on in everybody else’s lives all the time. There’s not really any secrets.”

“Hayley is my trailer neighbor,” says Zebley.

The bandmates and friends often finish each other’s sentences. “It was instant chemistry between the two of us when we were singing and we just kind of knew right away that we had something really unique together,” Zebley says.

The two met at a music festival in 2008 and, years later, quit their jobs as elementary school teachers to move to Nashville and pursue a music career. Since then, they’ve become full-time musicians, touring the country at house shows, which they love because they’re “super personal and intimate.” No, they don’t peek in people’s medicine cabinets while they’re there, but they do sleep there. “It’s one of the great parts of it,” says Zebley.

CP chatted with the duo before they return home this weekend for an album release show on Fri., April 26 at Hard Rock Cafe.

Why the name Steel Blossoms?

Zebley: We wanted to pay tribute to our roots. We like to say that Pittsburgh is really where we blossomed. It’s where we met, it’s where we both grew up, and it’s where we really blossomed as people and musicians.

You guys list Kacey Musgraves as an influence. Do you think she’s opened doors for other women country artists to be a little edgier?

Both in sync: Oh yes, definitely.

Prosser: She is our queen. We modeled a lot of our writing after her ... She pushes the envelope and we kind of like that she doesn’t play the radio game and doesn’t try to please everyone all the time. She just does her thing.

She’s singing about real things and for us. We would hear her songs and we’d be like, “Oh, we can say that in a song?” and it gave us the freedom to do that.

Is there anything you’d like to write about but you’re afraid the country audience wouldn’t accept? I’m thinking back to when the Dixie Chicks were boycotted after talking about George W. Bush. Do you think the scene has changed since then?

Prosser: I think a lot of people are scared to sing about politics or be open in their political views, but for us, I wouldn’t say that there’s anything really that we’re scared of writing or singing about. We have a song on the album called “Heroine” and that was kind of the first time where we were like, “Alright, we’re going to do it. We’re going to write a song about our personal experiences with friends and loved ones who have struggled with addiction.” So yeah, I think other people might be afraid of us writing about things like that, but we’re definitely not.

Have you guys faced any sexism in the music industry so far?

Zebley: Oh yeah.

Prosser: [Country music] is such a male-dominated genre. Americana music is a little more open. … I think especially for us being girls and looking young, that has definitely been a struggle.

Zebley: That has actually worked not in our favor. … A lot of people don’t think we know what we’re doing. We show up somewhere and the guys will be like, “Where’s your band?” And we’re like, “It’s us, we’re the band,” and they judge us before they give us a real chance.

Prosser: I just recently got married and hundreds of people have asked me, “Well, what are you going to do when you get married?” and I’m like, “What do you mean?” and “Is your husband going to be OK with you going on the road?” That really sticks a knife in me.

How do you deal with that?

Prosser: I always make the joke, “Well, I didn’t ask him to quit his job, so he’s not asking me to quit mine.”

You have a lot of young female fans. Do you think of yourselves as role models?

Prosser: I would like to hope that we’re role models to say that girls can really do anything. They can go out and chase their dreams and they don’t have to stay home or be the housewife.

Zebley: Or they can move away and pursue something strange!

What do you guys hope people get out of your music?

Prosser: I would say freedom to express themselves and to be who they want to be.

Zebley: And I think a sense of humor. You have to have a sense of humor in life or you’ll never make it through life. We aren’t afraid to laugh at ourselves and to make fun of the problems of the world or to point out a problem or something in ourselves that we’d like to change.

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