Rusty Steel is a musician originally from Erwin TN but his band was discovered in Rogersville by Tower Music Group and he has signed a recording label.
Previously his band has played a lot of venues locally in Hawkins and surrounding counties but Rusty has previously toured as the opening act with Warrant, Quiet Riot and LA Guns. Rusty can play every instrument there is as well as sing.
But he got his big break 6 years ago while playing for free at a fundraiser for a child with cancer at The Rogersville City Park. “Believe it or not, we almost didn’t make it that day. We had food poisoning the night before but knowing it was to help a sick child we went anyway.”
Brian Kirk of Tower Music, which is affiliated with Sony CDX Orchard, was passing through town with his family. They stopped hearing the music coming from the park and Brian decided to check out the band. Brian gave the sound guy his business card. Rusty had no idea who he was as they had drawn a large crowd. But he took the card very seriously and called the number with no answer. He called again and again, about 12 times and started to think he was being blown off. But his call finally was returned and Rusty was asked to come make a demo.
A Lot Of Scams
However, in the music industry there are a lot of scams out there and Rusty was leery. “Most record labels that want your money are scammers. I said I’d come but I wanted to be paid for my time and they agreed. We actually negotiated the pay then. That’s when I started thinking this was the real deal. The next weekend I was in the studio making a demo recording. And I was paid. They called me back a few days later and we did it again. And again.” At that point Rusty was offered a contract for a record deal.
Though Rusty’s band previously specialized in 80’s rock, at the recording studio Rusty noticed he was given lyric sheets for country songs. “Kids make the next generations happen in music.” Country music has grown in popularity. Rustys demo music is a combination of 80’s tone with country lyrics. And apparently this was the right choice as his first single, “Who I Am Who I Ain’t” hit the country charts and rapidly moved from the bottom 250 to 77. His second single, “Shelter” has recently hit the charts too and is climbing even faster than his first.
“We’ve played at some pretty big places but here we were playing in the little park in Rogersville and we landed a contract. After I had my Attorney look the deal over, it was determined legit and I signed. Two weeks later I was in Nashville working on my first single.”
“Covid Could Have Taken It All Away”
As things were looking very promising, Covid arrived and hit the record industry hard, compromising Rusty’s dream of becoming a star. Rusty tells The Review, “A deal of a lifetime and Covid could have taken it all away. A lot of bigger labels went under and many smaller labels sold out. A lot of deals were lost during Covid. We got lucky with a new independent label without big expenses and we made it.”
There have been sacrifices made during Rusty’s career as a musician though. As Rusty’s played the nightly venues and made demos there was travel and late hours. Rusty is now divorced and co-parents his 5 year old daughter. Rusty tells The Review, “My career cost me my marriage but we have remained as friends and co parents.”
Recently Rusty has spent some time in Nashville currently interviewing with radio stations that are playing his music. He gave away his autographed Yamaha guitar at WLX 97.5. “I walked in unannounced and they just so happened to be playing my song.”
Tower Music Group is currently scheduling a year long tour which will include Rusty’s band. This time Rusty will not be the opening act as a brand new uprising country music star. Meanwhile Rusty is still playing locally. “This little town has been amazing. I have a song on Spotify, “One Traffic Light” and it reminds me of Rogersville. I will never forget that day in the park. We still have some local bookings before we tour and we can’t wait to see you all.”
Local Bookings Posted:
November 18, Sidetracks in Bristol
December 4, Fox and Hound in Newport
December 10, Wild Wing Cafe in Powell
December 17, Rebel Yell Bar and Grill in Church Hill
December 18, Honkytonk Hakes (acoustic)