Steelism on New Album's Influences: 'We Kind of Have Two Sides to What We Do'

For Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum – who comprise the eclectic duo Steelism, their performance at Thursday (July 3) night’s Nashville Dancin’ presented by Dollar General gives them a chance to play in their home city. “We are so thrilled to be playing at Riverfront,” Fetzer told Billboard. “We’re playing with The Apache Relay and Promised Land Sound, which are two really good friends of ours. They both have came out with some really fantastic albums in the past year. So, we’re excited about the bill.”

Doing a show in Music City offers a chance for the duo to get their adrenaline flowing. “Playing Nashville is great because I feel that if you can win people over there, you can win them all over the entire country. All the best musicians in the country are all right here. I think some people might be scared to play here because of that fact, but it gets us going. We definitely love it.”

It’s an exciting time for the duo, who have just put the final touches on their upcoming disc, "615 To Fame," which will hit stores on September 16. Fetzer said that they recorded the album in two musically unique locations. “When we started the process of recording the album, we were in Nashville, but we wound up finishing it in Muscle Shoals. That’s where we met Ben Tanner, who engineered it. He also plays keys with Alabama Shakes, and he’s one of the founders of Single Lock Records, our label. The other founder is John Paul White of the Civil Wars. We have surrounded ourselves with a great team, and are looking forward to the release,” he said.

Musically, Fetzer admits their influences run deep and wide. “Spencer and I have always been sidemen in different bands, in addition to writing all around town. Our passion has always been steel and guitar. My favorite band in the entire world has always been Booker T. and the M.G.’s. We always had a running joke about starting a band like that,” he admitted, “and now it’s become our main project and passion.”

As for his musical partner, Fetzer says that Cullum’s biggest influence is one of Nashville’s most revered instrumentalists. “Pete Drake is Spencer’s favorite steel player,” he told Billboard. “We covered one of his old tunes called ‘The Spook,’ which is sort of like a psychedelic steel tune. He was very much ahead of his time in terms of the sound and the tone of a steel, like his fuzz steel work. He was the first to use talk box, which we use sometimes. People don’t know that before Peter Frampton used talk box, Pete Drake did it first.”

Listeners can expect to hear those influences all across "615 To Fame," says Fetzer. “The whole project has been based on our interpretation of 60s instrumental music and film music. We kind of have two sides to what we do. We have a party band sound, where we focus on Booker T. and the M.G.’s, then we also have more have of a Lalo Schifrin soundtrack sound – a mixture of dance music and '60s soundtracks. It’s different, but we hope the fans will like it as much as we do!”


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