A new chapter for The Steeldrivers

In the wake of Mike Henderson’s exit, Steeldrivers fiddler/vocalist Tammy Rogers shared some thoughts yesterday on the next chapter of the band’s evolution.

She said right up front that Mike’s announcement caught the band completely off guard.

“It was a surprise – something none of us were expecting. Not sure I have completely absorbed it yet!

I love Mike – he is a great friend. We had played music for years, and I was honored when he called me for The Steeldrivers when the idea first came together.

My opinion is that he wasn’t prepared to give over so much of his life for the band. Mike had always said that the whole idea was to get together with friends, play some tunes and find a local gig once a month. In his wildest dreams, he didn’t think it would grow legs and be as big as this – none of us did.”

She thinks that something similar was at the root of Chris Stapleton’s departure in the Spring of 2010.

“Looking back, I realize that Chris didn’t grow up dreaming of being in a bluegrass band like I did.”

But time stops for no band, and she and the rest of the current lineup are regrouped and looking towards the new year, and a new record. Original members Mike Fleming on bass and Richard Bailey on banjo remain, along with lead singer/guitarist Gary Nichols who had stepped in for Stapleton.

“We’ve been trying to wrap our brain around what the next version of the Steeldrivers will be. The good news is that over the past 2 years, Gary has developed into an amazing stage presence – and a fabulous singer. He is totally behind the band, and our vocal trio is 100% there.

Fortunately we have an awesome guy stepping in on mandolin, Brent Truitt, who has been our only sub over the years when Mike Henderson couldn’t make a show. He’s had such success in the studio, and as a producer, that we never thought he might be willing to make a commitment to the band.

We are selective in accepting dates, and both Brent and the band feel certain that he can maintain his studio work and make all the dates with us.”

Truitt has had quite a career already in bluegrass, recording with superstars like Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton, and touring with The Dixie Chicks. His Nashville studio has tracked hit albums for Blue Highway, Lonesome River Band, Tim O’Brien and more. As a producer, his credits include successful projects for David Grier and Jon Randall.

Rogers said that Rounder Records is behind them, as are their agents at KCA Artists, and they hope to get started in the studio early next year.

“We have about 50% of the material chosen and arranged. It’s just a matter of compiling our thoughts and getting the rest of the songs together. We still have a couple that Mike and Chris wrote that we are looking at, and Gary and I have a few in the mix as well.

We hope Mike and Chris will continue to and songs to the Steeldrivers. Maybe we can get Mike to guest on the CD on the National – that would be awesome!

Perhaps he will assume a Steeldriver emeritus role. That would be a cool thing.”

Look for Truitt with The Steeldrivers starting in January 2012.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.