If there was ever someone who knows how to make her dreams morph into reality, it's the extraordinarily talented Anne Steele. From humble and dream filled beginnings in New York City haunts like Don't Tell Mama and Rose's Turn to performing her own hits all over the world, this out and proud chanteuse is the epitome of using your music as a vessel to express her deepest and most personal thoughts. I caught up with Steele after her sold out show at Joe's Pub in New York City recently to talk about her new EP "Made Out Of Stars, the story behind one of the most personal tracks on the album, her amazing new podcast with her world traveling wife Kelli Carpenter, and we broke down some of the tracks that you will almost definitely get to see Steele perform when you catch her live; and there are plenty of chances to do that coming soon!
Instinct: Your new EP “Made Out Of Stars” is a smash! Tell me about the history behind this amazing package of work.
Anne Steele: Thank you so much! I am so proud of this new music and I can’t wait to talk about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. It all started when I had lunch with my good friend, singer/songwriter/producer Shane Stevens. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and start a new collaboration with himself and his good friend singer/songwriter/producer Nash Overstreet, from the band Hot Chelle Rae. I began an EPIC Kickstarter campaign so that I could make the kind of record I always dreamed of making. We exceeded our goals and my friends and fans completely blew my mind. They honestly gave me the greatest gift…no excuses! I now had the freedom to go to Los Angeles and write and record music that could take me to the next level with insanely talented writers and producers.
So, we did it all in four days. We did two sessions a day and in each session we wrote a song and then recorded it. It was the most intense and incredible musical experience I have ever had and I loved every minute of it. Sometimes it was hard and even uncomfortable but mostly it was cathartic and creative and perfect. I grew in ways that I never knew were possible and I can’t be more grateful to Shane and Nash for drawing out the very best in me.
Instinct: You are known for both amazing covers, as well as crafting your own original songs. What are the best parts of both writing your own material and then covering other amazing artists songs?
AS: I have covered other people’s music for so long, and it was always where I felt the most comfortable…interpreting other people’s words. When you put your own heart and soul on the line and ask people to hear your inner thoughts and connect to them, that is a whole other scary place to be. I have co-written and released songs before, but I do believe this EP takes it deeper. It’s a delicate balance to tell your story through song, but to still make it relatable to others. The fear is that people won’t get you or what you are trying to say about the world and where you fit into it.
Instinct: On “Made Out Of Stars”, one of the most personal songs is “I Miss Those Days”, and it speaks of some true New York City theater kid landmarks. What is the story behind that song?
AS: I wrote “I Miss Those Days” after a very good friend of mine passed away suddenly. I was on my way to Nashville for a writing session with a brilliant songwriter/musician James Farrell, and all I could think about was losing my friend. So, when we started writing it all just came out. The song is really my story, but I think it’s so relatable. I grew up in my twenties working in NYC piano bars like Don’t Tell Mama, earning my chops and making friends that I thought would be with me forever. We would close up the bar at four am and head down to The Village and stay up all night at Rose’s Turn, drinking and laughing and singing and thinking those times would never end. But time moves on and life gets busy and you lose track of those people that were your everything for so long. Then one day you wake up and its too late. I suppose we all know what that feels like and it’s good to have a little wake up call to say that life is short. I am very connected to this song and I often struggle to not break down when I sing it, but t I think those are the best kinds of songs…the ones that truly make you feel something even if it is painful.
Instinct: You have gotten to do some amazing covers live; I wanted to ask you your favorite parts about performing a couple of them and why the material really responds to you; first up; “She Used To Be Mine” from “Waitress”
AS: First off, one of my all-time favorite artists is Sara Bareilles. I have loved her from the first time I heard her debut album and I fell in love with her song "Gravity". I even covered it on my first album. When she wrote the music to Waitress, it took my love for her artistry to a whole other level. I connected immediately to the song “She Used To Be Mine” because it is about a woman who has lost herself. She is searching for the girl she used to be or even could’ve been. I had a few years in my life where I was lost like that. I was working in piano bars and my Broadway dreams were burning out and I didn’t know where I was headed; I know so many people have felt that way. I was dreaming of who I had always imagined I would be and trying to make that fit with what I knew was possible, and sometimes that is a hard reality. That is why that song is so deeply tied to who I was and who I am now. I found a path for myself and I am so proud of the journey.
Instinct: “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”…
AS: This song is so tied to the core of who I am as an artist. I am OUT and proud, but for years I was so scared to be who I was. I grew up in a small town in Indiana and I had no idea that I would someday find my people and my tribe. But I did. When that happened, it’s like the world came alive for me. You know that moment in The Wizard of Oz when it goes from black and white to Technicolor? That’s how it feels when I sing "This Is Me". I am so proud to be an OUT artist, standing on stage and being the role model that I never had.
Instinct: “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” from your new EP “Made Out Of Stars”..
AS: When we were writing the new EP, I knew I wanted to do one cover song and I knew it would be “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. I have been singing it for a couple of years and I feel that it is such an incredible statement about the current political climate even though it was written in the 80’s. The lyrics speak for themselves, but we wanted to do a fresh, contemporary production and I really love what we came up with. Plus, I really love singing it!
Instinct: Your podcast “I Love My Wife” with your dynamic wife Kelli Carpenter has really been gaining traction and getting some amazing attention as well as guests! What has been your favorite part of podcasting?
AS: When we were first approached by Derek and Romaine (formerly from Out Q on Sirius and now owners of DNR Studios) to begin our own podcast, we were surprised that anyone would listen. We didn’t know much about podcasts at all or who really listens to them. What we discovered is that lots of people listen to podcasts in general AND listen to us! We keep it pretty light on our show. There is so much heavy stuff going on in the world right now that we just kinda wanted to give people an hour of fun a week. We talk about travel, music, kids, family, LGBTQ issues and cocktailing of course! We have so many incredibly talented friends so we have one guest per week. Sometimes we even have couples on and that has been really fun. We just did a big double episode with Melissa Etheridge and her wife Linda Wallem, and previously we had Chely Wright and her wife Lauren Blizer-Wright on the show. Coming up we have two different episodes with gay male married couples which we are very excited about, Danny Calvert & Thomas Calvert and Branden & James. Mostly we have loved doing this together as a team. We truly enjoy each other’s company and growing together in the world of podcasting has been a total blast. We just signed on for another year so hopefully people will find us and listen!
Instinct: Are we going to get to see more of you on the road come spring/summer? Rehoboth Beach is always one of your summer highlights!
AS: Yes! My Made Out Of Stars Tour kicks off very soon. We already did New York City and Los Angeles and those were completely sold out! Some of the dates are still filling in, but as soon as they are scheduled they will be on my website. Dates we have already confirmed are April 3&4th in London at Live at Zedel, May 9th in Boston at The Haymarket Lounge at City Winery, August (exact date TBD) in Rehoboth Beach at The Blue Moon, Oct 1st or 2nd in Atlanta at City Winery (stay tuned for announcements about Chicago, Dallas, Palm Springs, San Diego, New York, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Seattle, San Francisco) I am also performing on cruises with RSVP, Atlantis and R Family Vacations throughout the year.
Instinct: What’s next for Anne Steele?
AS: Right now I am focusing on getting the music out there. That means touring as much as I can, doing interviews, going on radio shows and podcasts and just talking about my music. I am also working on a new music video so stay tuned for that. When I am not doing all of that, I am home being a stepmom and wife and doing normal life stuff. Its important to keep that balance. I love being on the road and performing, but family means everything and I am very lucky that I have both!
Instinct: As we kick of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride, what gives you the most Pride? In this climate, is it every hard to keep the creative juices flowing?
AS: Because we are living in such a divisive time sometimes, it’s hard to stay positive. It’s easy to get bogged down in frustration and disappointment when you see what is happening in our government. I often fear that we will lose the rights we have fought so hard and so long to have in this country. However, this is where my PRIDE kicks in. I am proud to be an OUT artist. I am proud to be married to the love of my life, a woman. I am a proud step parent to four incredible humans. I know that every time I step on stage and speak my truth and sing the words I have written, I will empower another young person to be strong and to know that they are ok and that they will be okay. That life is worth the incredible ride and that we all must stand for what we believe and feel is right in this world. If we stand together we are stronger than if we stand alone.