Steel Blossoms come home from Nashville
The Steel Blossoms — a country-music duo whose Western Pennsylvania roots inspired their name — have no typical ambitions or touring schedules.
Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley, who now live in Nashville, are coming home Dec. 23 for a concert at Club Cafe on Pittsburgh's South Side, which celebrates the release of “Country Enough,” the group's first full-length album.
The pair don't aim for the Top 40 and radio airplay, as their folksy country music falls outside the typical mold. But it would be nice and is possible at some point, says Zebley, 27.
“There's definitely a formula happening in Nashville now with what it takes to make the radio, but I see that changing very soon,” says the native of Dawson, Fayette County. “I wouldn't count that out, but it's not what we're going for at the moment. … We love what we do so much.”
That thing the Steel Blossoms love doing is their unusual hallmark — not touring to perform shows at typical music venues. The women's typical performance, besides a weekly gig at a Nashville bar, comes in the form of private house concerts for 20 or more people. They travel around the country, often booking several private shows in the same region to maximize a trip.
“We play in people's living rooms and backyards,” says Prosser, 24, of Jefferson Hills. “We play all our original music, and we tell the story at the beginning of the songs. It's a really intimate concert. Right now, that's definitely our main brand.”
The Steel Blossoms have performed for a family in the Chicago area, a retirement community in Florida, a horse farm in North Carolina and many other areas. The hosts met the duo while vacationing in Nashville and heard them play there.
Prosser met Zebley in 2008, when both were playing in different regional bands, and ran into each other regularly. At the time, Prosser was a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School. Zebley called Prosser and asked her to fill in when the singer of Zebley's band, Girlz in Black Hats, was sick. Then, when Prosser was attending Shippensburg University, Zebley asked Prosser to try out for the singer position; the previous singer had quit. Prosser happily joined Girlz in Black Hats, which played around Western Pennsylvania and developed a strong fan base.
But Zebley and Prosser both longed for more, and decided to move to Nashville in September 2014 and form a new duo called the Steel Blossoms. Their new act is modernized storytelling music that mixes a little bit of country, a little bit of folk and a little bit of Americana, they say. Prosser does the lead vocals, and Zebley does backing harmonies and plays the fiddle. They both play the acoustic guitar.
Before forming the Steel Blossoms and moving to Nashville, both women completed their college degrees — Zebley in music education at Westminster College, and Prosser in early childhood education. Teaching may be an unusual background for musicians, but provided a good foundation, Zebley says.
“We think our teaching degrees completely helped what we're doing now, because we're so comfortable with performance and public speaking,” she says.
The duo's first album — “Country Enough,” released in November — follows a six-song EP. The new album features nine tracks, all co-written by Prosser and Zebley with some other songwriters in Nashville.
They love the life down in Tennessee, but relish the chance to return home.
“There's just so much going on all the time, and people here are so, so kind,” Prosser says. “We love it. There's so much opportunity to perform here.”
Kellie Gormly is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.