Blossoms of Steel, Songs of Gold
Hayley Prosser has never seen Ghostbusters.
Her bandmate, Sara Zebley, “literally had no idea that there were different Ghostbusters.”
Frankly, I didn’t know what to do when I heard these statements. I was prepared for an amusing discussion on Gatekeepers, Slimer and whatever happened to Rick Moranis when I was stopped by a generational gap pop culture brick wall. Before I could stop and contemplate how long I had spent on this earth, they redeemed themselves quite well.
But we’ll get back to that later.
Perhaps instead of watching eighties movie staples, Hayley and Sara were busy chasing their dream of playing the kind of music they like for a living. The two ladies are currently an Americana/folk duo who go by the name of Steel Blossoms. Based in Nashville, they have been charming local and nationwide audiences alike with their tales of life, love and the struggle to be authentic to themselves in a world where laptops make the music and pop/rap music dominates the charts.
Nothing expresses this sentiment more than the title song off of their debut LP Country Enough, where Hayley sings “if I could rap maybe I’d be country enough,” in between lyrics that pay homage to classic country artists like Hank Williams. They seem to possess a knowledge of the world that they live in, yet still keep the music pure, all while pulling it off with the confidence and wit of a younger Dolly Parton.
Though the music feels right at home at Nashville, you would never guess that the Steel Blossoms were not born and raised in the South. In fact, Hayley and Sara both hail from the land of Western Pennsylvania, where they were both playing in different bands. In 2008, Sara and Hayley met each other at a Western Pennsylvania music festival, and things just clicked. Although they didn’t team up to form a band at that moment, Sara knew that she had found a “partner in crime,” when she met Hayley.
Later down the road, Sara's band, Girlz in Black Hats, the “z” in Girlz standing for Sara’s last name Zebley (it was an all girl band formed by the Zebley family), needed a lead singer. Remembering her “partner in crime,” Sara reached out to Hayley, and the rest is, as they say, the remainder of the sentences in this article.
Eventually, however, some of the girlz in the band traded their black hats for starting families so it came down to Sara, Hayley, and a dream that led 570 miles south of Western Pennsylvania. Hayley was always planning to head down to Music City after she graduated college, while Sara was working a full time job as an elementary music teacher and had just ended a long relationship.
The ladies were at a crossroads in their life, a “now or never” moment where the fork in the road had never been more apparent. Hayley’s determination helped Sara to see that they both wanted this dream, and were both willing to do what is necessary to achieve success in the music industry.
And the rest, as they say, is still the remainder of sentences in this article. I can’t say “history,” or that kind of ends the article here, and there’s more to read, so be patient.
On August 29, 2014, Michael Jackson would’ve been 66 years old (rest in peace). When asked what their favorite song from the King of Pop was, they both said “Billie Jean,” the classic song off of Jackson’s beyond legendary Thriller album. Also on August 29, 2014, the remaining Girlz in Hats That Were Not White moved from Western Pennsylvania to Music City Nashville, home of the Tennessee Titans and a growing traffic scene.
Three days later, they renamed themselves Steel Blossoms, a name forged from the fires of rebranding and a more apt name to describe the duo who brings the sounds of bluegrass and folk to the land of concrete and various metallic alloys that is paved with asphalt. In a move designed to not leave their old fans behind who are not yet aware of the change in band names, Sara and Hayley still take the time to occasionally update their old Girlz in Black Hats Facebook page.
After listening to a few of their albums, which are free to listen to on the band’s website, it is clear that Steel Blossoms are one of the better transplants to come to Nashville from Pennsylvania over the years. My fifth grade teacher was from Pennsylvania, and I’d rather listen to songs like the relentlessly catchy “This Town” than have my books pushed off of my desk because my teacher thought I couldn’t get ready for class soon enough. Of course, his mom threw his clothes out of his bedroom window when he was younger, because he didn’t get them in the laundry soon enough so I guess it’s nurture over nature?
Anyway, once they arrived at Nashville, their days were filled with networking, forming business relationships, and connecting with one fan at a time. The old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” comes into play here, as the Steel Blossoms’ message reached enough people to get their debut EP, Year Number One, 100% funded by pre-orders from their ever growing fan base.
Though they appreciate the love the people are giving them, sometimes they are given some unwanted attention while on the path to stardom. “Someone once asked me if my boyfriend was okay with me playing music in bars. I think he was doing it to find out if I had a boyfriend but it ended up just really offending me,” remembers Hayley. Sara mused over the time when someone told her “If I were 19 years old, I would ride you like a bull.” Her response? “I think I laughed and rolled my eyes as I walked away.”
Men, am I right?
Lines like that are the reason that some ladies drink, in which case they can enjoy the Steel Blossoms track “You’re the Reason I Drink,” where the song’s heroine is pestered by a male antagonist who complains about her imbibing habit. She turns the issue back in his direction, suggesting that he is the cause of her problems. While also being a humorous song to listen to, it also rings true in a world where women bravely tell their stories of how they were mistreated, only to be told the problem is all their fault.
On a side note, you can show your support for Steel Blossoms by going to their live shows and buying “You’re the Reason I Drink” wine glasses. The glasses used to be available online, but they are temporarily only available live until they figure out how to ship them without having them break. I have a former boss who used to tell me his employees were the reason he drank, so I might have to catch them live and get a Christmas present for him.
And honestly, what is the big deal about Tootsie’s?
Why do the tourists want to be dropped off on fifth avenue right by Legends Gifts, so they can walk to that crowded purple building of legends?
According to Hayley and Sara, “It is legendary, and at one time, a lot of really important people went there. People go there because they’re hoping to see big stars. Big stars unfortunately don’t go there anymore unless it’s for publicity.” And here I thought it was all about that trendy Nashville show.
When you go Downtown, either for Tootsie’s or the Preds, you might see The Steel Blossoms eating at various BBQ joints on or off Broadway. They rarely go onstage with empty stomachs, and Sara is “never disappointed by Rippy’s pulled pork nachos,” while Hayley is either craving Jack’s BBQ or her “new favorite” Martin’s BBQ.
They have definitely made Nashville their secondary hometown, though Hayley confessed that she had never been to Dollywood, though she wants to visit someday. Sara’s unfulfilled “touristy” ambition? “I think I’d probably become part of a Bachelorette party and get really really drunk while shouting ‘Wagon Wheel’ and ‘Chicken Fried’ at the top of my lungs… oh wait, ooops!”
This self aware humor can also be found in songs like “Twenty Something” and “Casey,” a (hopefully?) fictitious story where a girl named, of course, Casey, runs around town, flouting her Master’s degree while making enemies with her special brand of childhood trauma insanity. “Being crazy shouldn’t be a top priority,” the duo sing to warn her in this (again, hopefully?) cautionary tale.
Well, what is next for this duo?
“‘Slim Pickens’ is our bluegrass/rap name. Grass rap is on the brink,” joked Hayley and Sara, though Hayley admitted they would like to record a song with a piano on it, something they haven’t done yet. Sara chimed in, stating “I would play my clarinet, saxophone or penny whistle for sure. No questions asked.”No questions would be asked indeed, since the Steel Blossoms are an up and coming band whose career is “blossoming” in the industry on their terms, building a passionate fanbase off of handshakes, personal stories, and songs laced with memorable melodies.
Well, since this is Live Laugh Love Nashville, I had to ask the ladies what comes to their minds when I say the three magic words:
LIVE: “Do the things in life that you actually want to do. You only have one life so you may as well make it a cool one.”
LAUGH: “Laughter really is the best medicine. Laugh about every mishap. Or Chris Farley. It’s a toss up.” (The reference to legendary SNL comedy alum Chris Farley is how Hayley and Sara redeemed themselves for having never watched Ghostbusters, in case you were wondering)
LOVE: “Love yourself. You are the only person you can count on. If you don’t love you, who will?”
And the rest, as they will say, will be history.
See? Aren’t you glad you were patient enough to stick it out and read the article until I finally say history?
So much social media, isn’t it great?
Written by Charles Bridgers IV for Live Laugh Love Nashville