The out songstress is ready to show Dallas ‘What’s Mine’
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Anne Steele knew at an early age that she would be a performer, and she pursued her calling with success. Her musical career has included gigs as a recording studio artist, cruise ship entertainer and award-winning NYC cabaret performer. Career goals achieved, as expected.
What Steele never anticipated, however, was that she would also become a wife and parent. And about that, she simply couldn’t be happier.
“There are not a lot of sad songs in me anymore,” says Steele, who brings her What’s Mine tour to Dallas on Feb. 27. “It’s funny: When Adele’s CD came out, I keep thinking about how she can still draw on so much sadness even though she’s with someone. She’s happy. She has a baby and life is good. She can still find that. I don’t know if it makes me a shallow person, but I can’t really find that anymore.”
For her Dallas debut, Steele intends to introduce herself as any singer might — through her song choices. Expect the vocalist, who is married to R Family Vacations co-founder and SMU alumna Kelli Carpenter, to perform mostly a selection of upbeat tunes, including pop covers, standards and original songs from her 6-track EP What’s Mine, some of which Steele wrote herself.
“This is all new to me,” Steele says of songwriting for the EP, a process which, incidentally, was influenced by the VH1 reality series Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project. “I had in my head that I wanted to write a gay anthem and I wanted to write a love song about Kelli. I ended up doing neither because she [Perry] kept saying, ‘Don’t force yourself to write something. Just write what you know.’”
On the spot, Steele took Perry’s advice to heart. She began thinking about her youth in a small Indiana town. She recalled feeling as if she didn’t quite fit in there, despite not being sure why. Steele’s payoff was shockingly immediate, and the exercise produced the EP’s title track.
“I turned off the show,” Steele recalls. “I sat down, and I literally wrote the song right there. I had been struggling to write, and I wrote it top to bottom, right there. That’s what What’s Mine is about — knowing eventually I would find what was mine: my people.”
And it is to her people that Steele attributes most of the credit for her career success. Through cruise ship gigs and cabaret performances, the singer has built an ardent LGBT fan base — interestingly, one more centered on gay men than lesbians.
“I hate to limit it because it’s certainly not only gay people, but I have a strong gay following,” Steele says. “I am super proud of that. I would say that it’s not so strong in the lesbian community. I am generally drawn to gay men. I feel like gay men sort of get me and my music.”
Currently, one of Steele’s favorite songs to perform is Sara Bareilles’ spunky anthem “Brave.” Steele believes it describes perfectly the way she feels. Moreover, she believes the song translates easily to each member of her audience, regardless of sexual orientation. Steele often uses the song to close her sets.
“For a long time in my life, I was not happy with who I was,” Steele confides. “I worried about people finding out I was gay. I worried about being overweight or not having the right hair color. I worried about a number of things that are not important. Now I get on stage and tell people my story. If you don’t tell your story, who is going to tell it for you? That song to me is all about being brave. You don’t have to be gay to get it.”
Steele was recently a featured artist in the Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays concert, an annual event benefitting the True Colors Fund for LGBT homeless youth. Steele was thrilled to perform and at one point shared the stage with Cyndi and Boy George. While she considers the evening a career highlight, another moment in her life is the one which Steele remembers most fondly.
“I was most proud of standing in front of my parents and Kelli’s parents and all of our friends and pledging to love her for the rest of my life,” Steele says with conviction.
“Kelli’s really good friend had just been appointed by President Obama to be a judge in New York. She is the first Filipino-American woman to be appointed as a federal judge. We were her first wedding. It was amazing to have her there and to think about her accomplishment and to see where we’ve come as a country in order to be married. Just to see those boundaries fall down.”
As for her career, Steele believes she is exactly where she is supposed to be. For that she is grateful.
“I think my career came out like this because it was meant to be like this,” Steele says. “I think that I’m built to do what I’m doing now. I used to have all these huge Broadway dreams. I’ve talked to people who work on Broadway and they are all very happy in the moment for the time they are working. But I don’t ever have to worry about losing my job. My job is controlled by me. The fact that I’ve been able to work travel into my life is amazing. I do have to work for money, but I have the freedom to pick and choose what I want to do. And that is a gift.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2016.