While writing what would become their newest album Wild As We Came Here, the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA-based roots band The Steel Wheels gathered inspiration from a wide range of sources, including literature. That influence is especially evident on a new song, the gritty rocker “Broken Mandolin.”
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The song was inspired by a specific line in Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See: “They pass shops stuffed with hanging meats and a drunk with a broken mandolin on his lap…”
“It was one seemingly insignificant passing image in the novel that I kept ruminating on,” the band’s Trent Wagler says. “I just couldn’t leave that image alone. I was prodding and picking at it for weeks. Finally the itch unfolded into a song. It’s really a testament to Doerr’s writing. There was something dark and haunting about the scenery laid out, but I chose to see the broken mandolin as a hopeful image. This person, drunk and on the street, was still hoping to make music, with his broken instrument.”
Wild As We Came Here is out May 5. Listen to “Broken Mandolin” below.