By his own account, Jay Lapp was quite the trader in his younger days. He also had a BB gun.
These two elements of Lapp’s boyhood would lead to a crucial swap.
“I was lucky my friend was in the market for a BB gun,” Lapp recalled with a laugh. This same pal had an electric guitar that was soon in Lapp’s possession.
Years later, Lapp doesn’t regret the trade.
“That was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “...That started a sense of direction where I felt very passionate about music.”
Friday night, the former Maple City resident will bring his music to downtown Goshen.
Lapp is part of Americana group The Steel Wheels, scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. at The Goshen Theater, 216 S. Main St. The show is part of the LVD’s concert series.
In addition to Lapp on mandolin, guitars and vocals, Steel Wheels consists of Trent Wagler (vocals, songs, guitar, banjo), Brian Dickel (bass, vocals) and Eric Brubaker (fiddle, vocals).
Lapp and Wagler met in Virginia around 2004 when Lapp was on tour with Goldmine Pickers. The two connected musically and personally, and Lapp later invited to Wagler to Goshen to record Wagler’s first album. Lapp and Wagler went on to record some albums as a duo and commenced touring.
“We just sort of kept on trucking,” said Lapp, who now resides in Ann Arbor, Mich. “The band just sort of grew naturally. We didn’t try to force anything.”
Lapp joined the Harrisonburg, Va.-based Steel Wheels full-time in 2010, the year the group came out with its “Red Wing” album. He views “Red Wing” as the launching point of touring more and realizing the band’s goal of playing music for a living.
“So 2010 was really a breakout year for us,” Lapp said. “We’ve been on the road consistently the past two years.”
In 2010, The Steel Wheels garnered five nominations from the Independent Music Awards. The group’s “Nothing You Can’t Lose” won that year’s IMA award for Best Country Song. The Steel Wheels’ latest album is “Lay Down, Lay Low,” which Lapp describes as a culmination of where the band has been and where it’s going.
Where The Wheels have been includes eclectic listening on the part of its members. In Lapp’s case, in meant growing up in a family where everything from classical music to Doc Watson to the Beach Boys to the Mamas and the Papas was heard. In his early teens, Lapp got into classic rock including Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.
He also remembers the soundtrack to his family’s move from Virginia to Indiana when he was 8 years old.
“My dad and I were riding in the U-Haul truck,” Lapp said, “and I’m not kidding you that we listened to Credence Clearwater Revival’s greatest hits on repeat the whole 11-hour journey. ...That’s a lot of CCR, but at that age I just couldn’t get enough.”
The Wheels generally tell people they’re an Americana band. Lapp also describes the group as a string band that is nontraditional in the way it composes songs and the variety it brings to the table.
“We really draw upon our tight, four-part harmonies,” he added. Lapp noted that he and his bandmates are all ethnic Mennonites who grew up singing four-part harmonies in church.
“It’s very vocal-based,” Lapp said of The Wheels’ sound, which also incorporates elements of blues, bluegrass, rock and gospel.
“We take old stuff, old tradition, and I feel like we brand it with our own sound,” Lapp said.
If you want to go
Event: The Steel Wheels will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at The Goshen Theater, 216 S. Main St., Goshen.
Tickets: Advance tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for children age 12 and younger, or $18 for adults at the door. Tickets can be purchased online in advance at www.goshentheater.com/events.
To learn more: For more information about this or future concerts, call 574-202-4361.