High school friends Bo Steele and Ben Rubino make up The Band Steele. In 2014, a video of Bo singing went viral and Fire River Records signed the duo to a multi- album record deal practically on the spot. Just over four years later, the two of them are starting to make a name for themselves in country music and hoping that 2019 will be a career year for them. I got the chance to talk to them about how they met, why they would describe their music as “mixing moonshine and sweet tea”, why they chose to dedicate the music video for “Sit Awhile” to the military and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say!
For those who might not have ever heard of y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?
Ben Rubino (BR): Me and Bo actually met in high school. He was playing at the talent show; he was in 9th grade and I was in 8th grade. I played guitar and me and my brother were in a little band, or thought we were [laughs]. When we heard Bo sing, we invited him over to the house and we started writing songs immediately. He had a video go viral on YouTube that really lifted us up to the next level and that caught the attention of the record label we’re with now. So far, we released a full record and we’ve been doing a radio tour for our current single. That’s kind of a quick history.
So then what happened to your brother?
BR: My brother ended up going college and this lifestyle wasn’t really his calling. He still plays his music in church and stuff. I don’t know, being out here on the road is hard. He’s got kids at home too, so it’s hard to be out here with all that.
Gotcha. Who came up with the name for the duo and where did it come from?
BR: We had a bunch of band names coming up when we were younger. We also just really liked the word ‘Steele’ and how that sounded. Eventually, we settled on The Band Steele because we’re usually with a band and me and Bo have been together for a long time. We were thinking about just “Steele” but we wanted to put The Band part in there because to make it different, kind of like The Band Perry. There are not a lot of bands out there that are like “The Band Perry” or “The Band Steele.”
I know you guys have said before that you don’t believe in genre barriers, despite typically being classified as a country duo. So how would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you produce?
Bo Steele (BS): I would say swampy and fun. Honest. That’s probably the best thing I can say. We sing honest music. It’s real and its stuff we see and live.
BR: I would say the same thing. I was thinking the same word, kind of swampy and Southern. We grew up on a lot of Southern rock and that’s a lot of our influences growing up in Alabama.
BS: We sound like mixing moonshine and sweet tea [laughs].
That’s such a great description. So good. I want to ask you guys about your latest single, “Sit Awhile”, which was just released to country radio. What inspired this song?
BS: We were writing for the album and we had some writer’s block, so we were like, “Let’s get a few beers and go down to the creek and see if we get inspired.” We got down there and Ben was like, “What if these trees could talk?” We started giggling and goofing around. Then about halfway through the horseplay, things got serious and the words just started pouring out. I just kind of realized it was about my step-father, my little brother’s dad, who passed away. Then not too long after we wrote the song and released it, Ben’s mother passed away and [she] pretty much raised me too. I mean, I lived with the dude my whole life. It helped us get through that time and we wanted to help other people.
And what a better group of people and a more deserving group of people than the military. We [dedicated] the official music video to them. The lead actor in the music video is a veteran himself, which is really cool to be able to do. The response from it has been amazing.
BR: We finally hit a million streams on Spotify. The single seems to be going really viral in the military community. The comments on YouTube and Facebook have just been a lot of military telling us it’s been helping people with PTSD and depression. Music has kind of become a whole new thing for us in that way. It’s really helping people instead of being your typical party song. It means a lot to a lot of people and they mean the world to us. It’s been incredible. I think that’s what songwriting is all about. It’s just a dream come true for that to happen to us.
Kind of going off the songwriting process, what was your songwriting process like for this? Did you guys write this by yourselves or are you big on co-writes?
BS: Me and Ben have always written together, so for this first album, it was important that this first album be straight from our hearts. So we wrote this whole album by ourselves. But our process is crazy. All the things we have though, all of the little ideas and guitar noises we record with our mouths on our phones so we don’t forget them. We throw them all in a big pile and sit there until stuff starts coming out [laughs]. But it’s always fun.
Were there any major changes made to “Sit Awhile” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
BR: No, actually. I can’t recall exactly about whether a few words were changed, but a majority of the song is actually true to the demo. The lyrics and the melody didn’t change at all, I don’t think.
BS: Yeah, it was one of those songs where we knew from the start that this was right. But once we got into the studio, we got to work with some amazing musicians and they put their twist on it. Some of the best dobro [guitar] sounds I’ve ever heard are on there. That was what made it different.
You guys were just talking about how the music video for this song serves as a dedication to our military. What made you want to not only dedicate this to the military but also have the entire concept for the video be about the military, especially because like you guys just said this song started out as a joke down by the creek?
BR: We grew up with military in our family and we’ve always supported the military. I think one of the main things is that with the song being about people who’ve lost each other, the military deals with that every day. We wanted to use our platform that we have and our following to reach as many people as possible and spread awareness about the military.
BS: Yeah, same thing. And we wouldn’t be able to play music if it wasn’t for them. It’s important to us to let them know how much we appreciate them. There’s no words or songs that could do it justice, but we try our best to show how much we appreciate them.
I know you guys are also gearing up to embark on a military base tour throughout the country. Talk a little bit about that. Have you guys ever done this before?
BR: We’ve been doing a lot of stuff for USO. As we’re on our radio tour, we’ve stopped in and I think we’ve already visited 4 or 5 bases. We’re going to be going to Fort Bragg soon. I think pretty soon we’re going to be doing a strict military tour so we’re going to be hitting a lot more bases. I do think it’d be a dream come true to play the USO and travel overseas.
I know you guys are still promoting this single, especially considering that it just went to country radio, but do you have any plans to release another single or album any time soon?
BS: Yeah. We’re actually, in the next week or so, going to be in the studio recording, laying some stuff down. We’re always writing, but this past month we’ve really focused on writing and we’ve got a bunch of new stuff coming up. Hoping to get a new single out by spring. We can’t wait; we always love writing, but it’s the best feeling when you get to share it with people.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
BR: I’m always nerding out on gear, like audio gear, guitar gear. I’ve been diving into this Axe-Fx III, which is a guitar processor that I love. A lot of the demos that we do, I record them on my laptop, so I have a pretty good bit of gear. Also, a lot of people don’t know this about me but financial books, on investing and stuff, I nerd out on that so bad. I have so many audio books on finance, real estate… Ah. I could nerd out for days on that.
BS: It works out for me too because at night when he wants to listen to it, it makes me sleepy [laughs]. But mine would probably be wildlife, animals in general. I read a lot of biology books and snake books and all kinds of stuff. I am [also] obsessed with living in a small cabin with no power and living off the land. I want to do that. Constantly trying to figure out how to survive in the woods [laughs].