Wagler said he and his bandmates would like to avoid that kind of success. They want to keep pushing themselves, keep writing new material and developing their body of work. Large-scale success could happen, he thought, and they are by no means running from it, but they're hoping to find it on their own terms, and so far, they haven't done bad.
Since they started, Wagler and company have set about building an audience one fan at a time. They've logged tens of thousands of miles in their van, increased their presence on the music festival scene and even landed an appearance on "Mountain Stage" in 2011.
"We had a great time on 'Mountain Stage,'" Wagler said. "We really loved the space, the Culture Center Theater. We're really looking forward to being back."
They've also steadily released records. The band's sixth full-length album, "Lay Down, Lay Low" came out in the spring. A song from the record, "Rain in the Valley," was featured as NPR's song of the day.
The band members, Wagler said, draw from their individual musical leanings as well from the musical heritage of the Shenandoah Valley. Appalachian music, string band and bluegrass are just part of the local DNA.
It's more than music; it's a culture. The people are very friendly, but Wagler said there aren't a lot of places for bands like The Steel Wheels to play.
"I wouldn't say there's a huge scene right here," he said. "When I think of a scene, I think of someplace like Asheville or Austin, where there's so many musicians seeping out of the walls that you see great music wherever you go."
Still, he thought the valley was a good incubator for artists who play Americana and a nice place to call home.
"I feel the area is more of an exporter of music than a scene."
And that's not a bad thing, he thought.
This year, the Wheels made some solid strides toward reaching more people, he said. They toured, they got themselves on a few new festivals and released a new record, but they're already working ahead.
"We've got two different musical projects we could be working on for next year," he said. "New music: it's just the lifeblood of our band."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.