If you’ve listened to the opening track “Steel Town” on my new EP, the first thing you’ll hear is a voice that isn’t mine, or even someone’s in the band. The voice is Jim Kapusta’s. Jim is a retired steel worker living in Venetia, Pennsylvania. The clip is a recording of Jim giving a tour of a now-abandoned steel mill called Carrie Furnace that he worked in for 18 years. My producer, Luke Laird, also from Western PA, came up with the concept for the intro and searched until he stumbled upon Jim on YouTube.
I haven’t met Jim yet, but to be honest, from the moment I heard him speak, he sounded like family to me. My grandfather passed away when I was young, but Jim’s voice sounds like what I remember of him and his friends. My grandpa and his brothers had a concrete block trucking company called “Lytle Brothers Trucking.” They would haul concrete block all over Allegheny County in diesel trucks delivering the makings of future walls and foundations by the ton. After a long day, they would pull up a stool at my grandpa’s basement bar – Siddle’s Saloon – and have a couple cold beers to unwind. I can imagine Jim Kapusta sitting right there with them.
There is a grit, a passion, and a sense of humility in Jim’s voice that inspires me. I could listen to him talk all day... somehow it reminds me of who I am and what I’m made of. They don’t make a lot of steel in Pittsburgh anymore, but they made so much for such a long time that I’m convinced it’s left over in the people and passed down through the generations.
To me, Jim represents the spirit of a steel town. My friends and I didn’t grow up working in steel mills, but we were raised in shadows of people like Jim who did. Their values and ways have made marks on our lives that we can’t undo, and I am thankful for that. There are inevitable hard times in life when it’s really helpful to believe that maybe you have a little bit of steel inside you.
Jim and his wife, Mary Ruth, are coming to our Pittsburgh show on April 16 at The Rex Theater and I can’t wait to meet him! I’m honored that he was willing to be a part of my record. Jim, I look forward to seeing you in Steel Town, USA. I’m gonna sing my heart out for you.