A new podcast is available on our website called We Made You A Song – it’s a collaboration between WMRA and Harrisonburg’s The Steel Wheels - detailing the band writing and recording songs that were commissioned by fans of the band during the pandemic. WMRA’s Tina Owens recently spoke with the group’s lead singer and host of the podcast Trent Wagler. She asked him to describe how this idea was created.
Trent Wagler: It was sort of in that early part of the pandemic when it was becoming clear that things were going to be shut down maybe for a little while and our touring was shut down and we were trying to think of ways we could stay busy, stay creative - thinking about songs as ways to possibly create a new kind of connection that also meets that need or hope for us to be able to be creative. It turned us from trying to create connection with a thousand people at a festival to pinpointing one and saying tell me your story and we'll try to sing a song back that reflects it back to you.
WMRA: I think every songwriter has their own unique process in writing songs. But in this case you were working with ideas and stories from other people. What were the challenges of taking someone else's ideas and turning them into a song for you and your band?
TW: I think that the biggest challenges were trying to get out of my own way, my fears and insecurities would immediately reveal themselves as like, oh no, what if I signed up for? Who am I to try to put words to someone else's story and they're going to hate it? And just all of those all of the negative self-talk that any of us can do so I needed to get out of my own way and that way and just sort of trust your own intuition.
WMRA: All of the songs are so unique and it is fun and touching to hear the stories that are behind each song. And that's where the podcast comes in. The podcast is called We Made You A Song. It's actually a collaboration between the steel wheels and WMRA – our General Manager Matt Bingay does production for the podcast. What have you learned about yourself in going through this process?
TW: There's a lot talked about the loss of connection and all the losses of 2020 and I think for me maybe what I've learned about myself is how much I love stories and storytelling and to me the losses of 2020 were mostly of quantity, the amount of people, the a mount of places and the amounts of experiences that were missed and lost and shut down are many and so this experience of turning instead to you know, when you don't get that chance to be on a festival stage and play for a thousand people instead turning to one person and saying tell me your story. I do see our music and what I try to do with songwriting, I feel so kind of bashful to say this because it feels a little bit self-indulgent or putting myself on a pedestal in some way, but I want it to be useful to people. I don't want it to just be a pretty fleeting thing. But I want my true mission or hope for the music that we make is that it deeply becomes part of people's experiences and it can actually in some small way be helpful and useful in their little journey wherever they're at. And so in that sense, I think this whole project felt like it had a real mission to it in the sense of telling real stories and trying to hand those off to the listener.