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Shayna Steele

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Shayna Steele

Shayna Steele joins Music Journeys to chat about her latest release Gold Dust - a mix of original songs and covers. Steele explains the inspiration behind the songs, hints that there could be another volume similar to this in the future, and took part in the listener-favorite segment we call the Fast Five. Thanks for listening.

A Perfect Frame plays...

A Perfect Frame perfectly ends Shayna Steele's Gold Dust album even though the process didn't begin under ideal circumstances.

"When the pandemic started, I had all the time in the world to write an album but I had no interest and was depressed," Steele said. "I wasn't inspired at all. I went back to school for a degree I didn't finish at Southern Mississippi. I enrolled at Berklee College of Music and started pursuing a music degree. Through the safety of being in a learning setting, I could create without expectations. That's when I started to write the songs for this album. I had no intention of releasing anything. But because the pressure of writing an album wasn't there, everything that was original or any covers just came from this place of how it makes me feel."

You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To plays...

Growing up, music and life had a certain feel for Steele. Her earliest memories of music involve her father, who was in the Air Force. Born in Sacramento, Steele moved with her family to Oklahoma for a short time, then spent about seven years in Germany.

"Living in the bubble of an Air Force base in Germany was how I viewed life and people in general," Steele said. "When we moved to Mississippi, that was my first taste of life in America and it was a culture shock for me. It definitely affected how I view the world and how I view myself as a child of color and as a mixed child. I didn't understand that it was rare and foreign for others to see my family. My father is black and my mother is white. I had two white sisters that I grew up with from my mom's first marriage. That definitely shaped who I would become and how I view the world and view humanity - that move in 1985. I had some hardships with that as a biracial person from both ends, not really knowing how I identified, questioning how I was viewed by others. It really prepared me for the life I would embark on in New York."

Now a mom with a biracial child, Steele uses her own life experience and information she's gained to be transparent with her daughter about what to expect.

"When I show up to school, our skin color is different from each other," Steel continued. "There's a lot of questions, and ten-year-olds are staring at me very confused. At first it hurt, but now I just tell her. This is not going to stop. This will happen the rest of your life. Kids are not going to understand why we're a different color. They're not going to understand why you're calling me mom, and that's okay. That's where it's different now compared to 1985 all the way into the mid-1990's and going into college. It was extremely uncomfortable and awkward for me. I wanted to blend in with the crowd, but it was impossible. It was painful but in the end it made me strong and made me fight for what I wanted in regards to my career, my personal life, my husband, and who I surround myself with.

Season Of Love from Rent plays...

"When I moved to New Youk, I went into the world of Broadway very quickly," Steele recalled. "I got Rent in 1996, and it was the Hamilton of Broadway. It opened my world to different cultures and different kinds of music. During that time, my godfather who was a huge Jazz aficionado sent me records like Miles Davis Kind of Blue.

So What plays...

"I have this huge collection of CDs still to this day of Jazz albums, and it was my escape." Steele continued. "New York was scary for me, and the music was comforting for me. When I decided not to do theatre anymore and met David - my musical partner and now my partner in life - he introduced me to more music and musicians in New York that I wasn't aware of. So I visited clubs and got up and sang and threw myself into that scene. It was the best thing I could have done even though it was terrifyling. Music kept me here and kept me passionate, especially Jazz music. So, I thought - I guess I should start making some records then."

Teardrop plays...

Steele's 2015 album RISE landed the #2 spot on the iTunes Jazz Albums chart. Watch Me Fly came out in 2019. Her latest release Gold Dust follows a pattern of never committing to a specific sound.

"I kind of call it this multi-genre, the Shayna Steele sound because I'm so inspired and can't hone in on one style of music," Steele admitted. "I put this together with David during the pandemic because we were stuck in this house together. This album to me represents just absolute freedom from the expectations of the business."

The kickstarter became the title track - Gold Dust Woman.

Gold Dust Woman plays...

"At first, I wasn't sure how I could make this work for me," Steele said of covering Gold Dust Woman. "But that was one of the first one's we arranged, and it kicked things off. It was instant, and we wrote or picked about 45 songs and narrowed it down to these 10.

The Bloodline plays...

"It definitely holds a special place in my heart," Steele said of The Bloodline. "It was written with longtime collaborator Kamilah Marshall and right after the George Floyd footage came out. It was incredibly sickening to see. We're all getting on the phone and trying to decide how to respond. How I use my voice is through music, but it has to be about perseverance and strength. I saw recently where someone said - as a Black person, I don't want to always be fighting, I just want to live. Let's write about that. What it's like to be joyful even though it's hard and scary sometimes especially for the Black community. That was the inspiration for the song. What have we witnessed, what have we seen, and how has it made us embrace our community of all races - how as a community we try to lift each other up even though it's been really hard."

Goodbye plays...

"That's one of the first songs I wrote. and it came together so well," Steele said of Goodbye. "It sounds like a love song but it's about saying goodbye to old habits and things that weren't serving me in my personal life. The habits you had in your twenties and thirties, and it's time to grow up."

I Believe In My Soul plays...

"This is how I open my show," Steele said of the Ray Charles cover. "I've been wanting to cover a Ray Charles song for a while. But I never want to cover what someone expects me to."

Steele wrote the song January about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

January plays...

Steele also found inspiration from having her young daughter around for the album-making process.

"She's really intelligent and very musical," Steele said of her daughter. "Her infectious joy made it just felt safe. "To record an album and have your entire family with you felt so safe. I don't have anything to worry about because they're here."

Behind Closed Doors plays...

"The making of this album lets me know I can do a lot more from home," Steele reflected "But a lot of studios have closed because of the pandemic and home studios. We did put in the time to make a good home studio. We did three days with a live band and everything else right where I'm sitting."

Steele also gained insight from the established musicians she's worked with.

"Bette Midler was the first big artist I sang background for," Steele recalled. "I learned to not only be an artist and entertainer, but to do it as long as she has and at the level she's done it at. I've had so many moments talking with her, and she's so supportive and gives great advice. Then I went to Rihanna, which was such a shift. Even though she's young, she's been through a lot. She proved you can do everything. She is a boss. That's what I learned from her - you can do it all if you put your mind to it. Then I worked for Kelly Clarkson, and I learned that you can have all the success and this career and still be so humble. She's as real as you get as far as people to hang with. So I learned about what I don't want as an artist and everything that I'm capable of."

To learn more about Shayna Steele, visit her website.

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Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.