Interview With SteelCity
With Roy Cathey, Mike Floros, and Jason Cornwell
Shannon W - How did each of you get your start in music?
Mike Floros - “I got into music at a very young age, I was 13 years old and I had just moved to Ohio. I moved in with my grandmother and she knew that I was one of those kids that needed something to fill their time. So we went to a local music store and she bought me a little, cheap guitar and Peavey amplifier. From there I started playing guitar in the middle school band. It became my love and then I got my first real guitar when I was about 18 years old.”
Roy Cathey - “So Shannon, I got started in music when I was around 14 or 15 years old and, at the time, I was friends with all types of people. I had a friend who had a band and I went to see them rehearse one time and I accidentally found out that I could sing and from that point on I kept singing and honing my craft. So I got into music by accident and that’s how it started.”
Jason Cornwell - “I had a group of friends who were really into Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and bands like that - I was around 12 or 13 - and we all learned our instruments together. There were three guitarists and I was the only guy willing to switch over to bass. We had auditioned a few guys and they were either weird or older than us and I just said, ‘Look guys, I’ll do it until we find another guy’ and I got so many gigs doing that so I kept going.”
Mike - “Everyone always needs a bass player. Good bass players are hard to find. Guitar players are a dime a dozen, we’re everywhere.”
Shannon - Since each of you are from a different part of the country, how did all of you end up in a band together?
Mike - “Questions for Mike… So the first SteelCity album had a completely different lineup. We all had day jobs and our old bass player was elevated to president of his company and that left little time for SteelCity. His best friend was our drummer, so they both left around the same time. They were a package deal and I knew if one left, the other’s foot was out the door too. Our singer had a band in Italy and he wanted to focus on that and he also had solo material. So here I am - Tony (Stahl) and I are the only remaining members of SteelCity - and our label really brought the idea to bring in Jason, BJ, and Roy. I give John Kivel all the credit in the world for that. So that’s how it ended up happening.”
Roy - “So it’s kind of a Frankenstein-type project.”
Mike - “It’s really cool to have these guys in the band, I’m like a kid at Christmas. I’m playing in an all-star band with all these guys and I’m having a blast doing it. We’ve had a lot of good things happen since they’ve joined and I feel really blessed and appreciative of that. Okay, I’m done, anyone else? *laughs*”
Roy - “Well the project was the brainchild of Mike and John Kivel of Kivel Records, when it first started. Everyone happens to be geographically in different parts of the country, but with modern technology, we make it work. Everybody cut the tracks in their local recording studio - whether that be their home studio or a studio nearby - and it was pieced together and that is the beast that is Mach 2. It turned out fantastic.”
Jason - “I would say the same. It’s definitely come together great. And I do really appreciate the time we get to hangout. Thankfully, I spend a lot of time on the west coast so Mike and I get to hangout quite a bit. It really came together well. Actually, we were talking about Tony earlier, I was doing a gig in New Jersey and I needed a keyboard player so I sent him the songs and he got onstage and killed it. He learned an entire set, no rehearsals or anything. I mean the random chemistry has been really great.”
Shannon - What is your goal for Steel City?
Roy - “This is Mike’s baby, his project. I think I could speak for Jason that everyone really likes how the project came together and there is a very good chemistry amongst everyone. I think right now we want to take this as far as we possibly can. We’re doing some really good sales overseas, we signed with a really great management/booking agency (Brad Lee Entertainment), we have a great label behind us (Perris Records). So things are moving in a positive direction once we can get through this pandemic. We are planning on doing more shows in the future. I think we are going to navigate the waters as smartly as possible but we want to take SteelCity as far as possible. How’s that Mike?”
Mike - “Pretty much what I was going to say, it was pretty awesome. I feel so fortunate to be in this band together with these guys. As Roy said, we’re very lucky that we’ve got a great label behind us and Brad Lee Entertainment does a lot of fantastic shows throughout the year. Not so much this year because of COVID. We’re really looking forward to getting some more shows under our belt because we’re all really proud of the record and we’re all excited about it. For being in the midst of a pandemic, we’re doing pretty well. But there is no substitute in my mind, and I think the other guys would agree, for promotion through live shows. We just want to do as much as we possibly can. We hope in the Fall and Winter that we can shift gears and really focus on playing live shows.”
Jason - “I’m totally excited. I’ve known Brad Lee for a while and I’m definitely excited to have him on board. I met him about 2 or 3 years ago. One thing that’s great about Brad is he supports a lot of new talent. All the members of SteelCity are not new to the industry, but we are all in a new band.”
Shannon - What is the biggest lesson each of you have learned being part of the music industry?
Roy - “Ah. The music industry is a very tough industry. You have to have thick skin, you have to get used to a lot of rejection, and most of all, you have to hustle. It’s a different entity now than it was back in the day and I can say that because I was around back in the day. It’s the wild west out there right now and it’s a tough time for a lot of musicians especially with the pandemic going on. Touring and merchandise sales are the largest aspects of their income and that’s really being affected right now. All I can say is if you want a career in music, you should get a secondary career as well. You’ve gotta hustle man.”
Mike - “It’s funny that you mention the second career because when I was younger my dad was an amazing jazz keyboard player and he forced me to get a career. He told me to make sure I get a degree and pursue music later. I listened to his advice but I was determined to do something in music but by the time I graduated, grunge had hit. One thing I could take from that is music comes full-circle because here we are and our music is kind of coming back into popularity. Not even just among people our age, but younger generations, as well. I count my blessings being able to do this. The one thing you have to remember is to be true to yourself and your craft and sometimes that involves making some tough decisions for the benefit of the band.”
Roy - “Yes.”
Jason - “The biggest thing is that everything looks great on paper. I’m not gonna rag on anyone but we’re all veterans. I finished music school at Berklee, and I moved out to L.A., did shows, landed a record deal, and it didn’t really work out so I moved back East. You really can’t count on anything in the industry but back then there was a little more security, I think. You do what you love and we all love music so you’ve gotta make it happen. We’ve all had record deals, we’ve all toured, we’ve all had big dreams, and we’ve accomplished a lot of them but the biggest thing, for me, is I’m still out there, I’m still striving and I’m happy to be playing with these guys.”
Mike - “Yeah, most definitely.”
Shannon - If there is one thing you’d want people to know about SteelCity, what would it be?
Mike - “Roy has a fantastic beard. It’s beautiful. That’s my answer.”
Roy - “It’s a well-groomed beard.”
Mike - “In my mind, we’re all blessed to be part of this band and we all love playing music. We appreciate the people that come and see us play, we appreciate the people that support the band.”
Roy - “The band has some really great players, some great songs and really captures the energy of the vibe of the era and genre. I’m super pleased with Mach 2 and the fans have responded well to it. If people wanna know that the band is about they should pick up the CD.”
Jason - “I have to agree. The record is great. Coming from my location - the east coast - it’s got a really great, retro, 80s feel but it’s also got the 70s, Boston-feel. I’m proud to represent it and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Mike - “The really cool thing is it came out organically. I love 80s music and I always will and it definitely sounds like an 80s record for sure. But growing up I loved the 70s bands, I loved Boston and Bad Company and Heart. Those bands were my jam growing up and whether these guys realized it or not, we’ve got a seventies vibe in the album.”
Shannon - Anything else you’d like to include?
Roy - “Thanks for having us, Shannon. I appreciate it very much.”
Jason - “Yeah, thank you!”
Mike - “Thank you to everyone who supports the band.”