When it comes to rising country stars, Steve Moakler is both a breakout artist and a Nashville vet. His debut country single “Suitcase” is currently earning him the attention of country fans, and he’s touring with Kelsea Ballerini and Billy Currington, but he’s also been writing and releasing songs for years. In fact, Steve was one of the writers behind Dierks Bentley’s standout track “Riser,” from his album of the same name.
We chatted with Steve about all of that and much, much more. Get to know Steve in our exclusive interview:
NG: Your debut country single “Suitcase” has really been your breakout song. What made you choose that song?
SM: A few months after my wife Gracie and I got married, we went on a cross-country trip in a ‘72 Winnebago. While we were traveling we had demo recording of the song, which was written by Luke Laird, Barry Dean, and Thomas Rhett and we couldn’t stop listening to it. Gracie had just quit her sales job and I was playing concerts in people’s backyards. We were pretty broke but having the time of our lives…”Suitcase” kinda became the official soundtrack of our trip, it just resonated so deeply with both of us. It seemed to perfectly sum up how life felt at the time, and it still does.
NG: You’ve been in Nashville for 10 years, but are just now being listed as “One to Watch.” How did that change happen?
SM: I don’t know…my career has been a very slow but steady climb. When I was 18 and 19 I thought things would happen so fast, but I’m honesty glad I was wrong – and I definitely was! I feel like my songs have slowly gotten better over time and the people I work alongside have too. I’m enjoying music more than I ever have before and feel incredibly grateful.
NG: Your EP was just released on March 11. Can you describe it in 3 words?
SM: Natural, uplifting, emotional.
NG: Do you have a favorite song on the EP?
SM: From a personal standpoint, I love “Steel Town.” It’s the first song I ever wrote specifically about where I grew up. From a fun standpoint, “Love Drunk is my favorite. Hard to choose!
NG: Can you talk about what it was like working with Luke Laird on the EP?
SM: It’s a blast working with Luke…we’re both from PA so we have a fun connection through that and we joke around a lot about where we grew up. He has a really laid back style of leadership that makes everybody (including me) feel really comfortable, free, and creative. I think that’s one of his greatest strengths…I look up to him so much professionally and as a person so it’s been a thrill for me to work alongside him.
NG: I know you just made your Opry debut. What was that like?
SM: Playing the Opry was incredible…I was so nervous for the weeks leading up to it. I knew it would be magical, but I honestly was caught off guard by how emotional I felt when I stepped into the circle during the intro of my first song. It took me a second to get myself together. I’m really happy with how it all went and I hope I can play it again sometime soon.
NG: You’re headlining a Spring tour. What are you expecting from that now that you’ve had some mainstream success?
SM: I don’t exactly know what to expect, but I’m really excited! Hopefully there will be a few more people at the shows…that will definitely help us pay for gas and hotels! I look forward to meeting some new people and making some new friends out there. I’m always grateful when new people discover my music and jump on board.
NG: You wrote “Riser,” the title track from Dierks Bentley’s last album. How did Dierks get the song and what was it like having someone like that record and release a song you wrote?
SM: I wrote that song with Travis Meadows and our publisher Jeff Skaggs pitched it to Dierks’ producer. It was a huge thrill for us. It’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written and it’s so fulfilling to have had a true artist like Dierks embrace it the way he has. It’s very surreal and inspiring.
NG: If you could have any artist record a song you’ve written, who would you want that to be?
SM: Man, hard to say! Eric Church has influenced me more than any other country artist, so that would be crazy cool. I think he’s only cut one outside song ever so my odds aren’t looking too good. It would also be SO cool to have a Kenny Chesney cut.
NG: You’ve written and recorded a ton of songs prior to “Suitcase.” If someone was to listen to only one of your songs, which would you choose for them?
SM: If I only had one song to play for someone, it would probably be “Riser.”
NG: What’s a song by another artist that you wish you had written?
SM: First one that comes to mind is “Raise ‘Em Up” by Keith Urban featuring Eric Church. That song is a masterpiece!
NG: What’s next for you?
SM: Out on the road with my band for the Suitcase Tour right now and enjoying that ride. I’m also playing a few shows with Billy Currington and Kelsea Ballerini in May that I’m excited about. When I’m in town, we’re finishing up my full album and getting the last batch of songs ready. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it!