Amidst a backdrop of waving hands and a gradually vanishing view of the Statue of Liberty, singer Anne Steele kicked off the R Family Vacations departure with ease, mesmerizing cruise audiences en route to the Bahamas. While some listeners only became acquainted with Steele’s magnetic voice this past July, it is no surprise she has spent many years cultivating her creative prowess.
Steele’s journey into the spotlight began when she captured the title role in a local production of Annie at the tender age of 9. “I’ve wanted to sing and dance for as long as I can remember,” Steele admits. “My mom owns a dance studio and it’s always been a part of who I am.”
The Indiana native spent her childhood looking to vocal heavyweights like Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand and Broadway’s Andrea McArdle as muses before deciding to pursue the stage herself.
At the age of 22, while biding her time in Nashville, providing backup vocals at recording studios, she met the girl who would change everything. “It was like someone flipped a switch. I just got it. As soon I met my first girlfriend I never looked back on my sexuality.” She cites the confidence she gained in that relationship as one of the determining factors for her move to New York City.
Steele relocated to NYC and in due time, charmed patrons in the city’s venerated piano bar/cabaret collective. Her powerful range and sonorous vibrato became a favorite among visitors to the city and particularly, gay male listeners. “I think they love me like they love Bette Midler,” jokes the performer. “I guess it’s because we’re sassy, belty broads with big boobs.”
In 2001, Steele’s first solo show, Control, was nominated for a prestigious MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award for Best Female Debut. Since then, she has performed throughout the U.S. and all over the world, gaining fans of all stripes.
Steele makes her own supposition about why she has such a large gay male following. “We all have a story,” she muses. “Gay men get me because we all face some adversity in our lives.”
The singer deems her gay male fanbase a blessing, but hopes that her new pop/rock reper-toire will resonate with lesbian listeners as well. “For me there’s magic in singing for a room filled with women.”
Steele’s vocal stylings have also been met with approval while serving as one-third of Tipping the Velvet, a vocal group she formed with Jenifer Kruskamp and Stephanie Harwood in 2003. The band captured the hearts (and ears) of LGBT families on the R Family cruise, and Steele returned to perform solo in subsequent cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean. The experiences still prove life-affirming for the singer. “It was originally supposed to be a job for me, a gig like any other,” Steele says. “From the first moment I arrived on the ship, on my first cruise, it was never again a job. To be able to spend time with these families, these children, it’s something you don’t easily forget.”
In September, Steele will premiere a brand new concert-style solo show at the Metropolitan Room in NYC, featuring a backing band and a set list comprised of her favorite rock and pop tunes, including selections by Kelly Clarkson, P!nk and Alanis Morissette. The show marks a new direction in Steele’s live act, with a collection of songs that better reflect her own experiences and outlook.
“I’ve found a truer voice,” Steele says. After spending years in piano bars, the artist is sure to explode onto her new path this fall, armed and ready to become the next pop darling.
With so many accolades under her belt, what stage could the singer possibly grace next? “I would love someday to be successful enough do a concert at Radio City,” she gushes. “My show, my kind of music and sold out!” The realization of that dream may not be far off.
Anne Steele plays the Metropolitan Room (34 West 22nd St btwn 5th & 6th Aves) on September 8th at 10pm and September 10th at 9:30pm. Tickets are $20 plus a two-drink minimum. For reservations, call 212-206-0440. ‘Til then, catch her Saturdays at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St. For more info, visit annesteele.com or myspace.com/annesteelemusic.