Steele's lifetime devotion rewarded

IAN GILLESPIE

, Last Updated: 2:38 AM ET

Friday, August 1, 1997

"I'm calling from Edmonton here," says Duane Steele. "Er, ah, I mean Toronto."

You can't blame the guy for being a bit confused.

Ever since the country singer/songwriter from northern Alberta released his chart-topping debut album P.O. Box 423 last year, Steele has been touring the continent.

But though he may momentarily lose track of what city he's in, Steele has never lost sight of his commitment to music.

"I've been in a band all my life, right from junior high -- we started a little band with my cousins in high school," says Steele. "I've pretty much always made my living playing music ... I love it. I call myself a lifer in the business."

FAITH

Steele, who performs tonight at the London Balloon Festival, never lost faith in his music, even when things looked bleak. For eight years, Steele worked the Canadian bar scene with his band Rock 'N' Horse. Relentless touring led to a hit single in 1990 (Every Single Night) and, in 1992, a Juno nomination for best country duo/group.

But things never quite clicked.

"We decided we hadn't achieved the things we wanted to," says Steele. "We put out an independent (album), and were working towards a record deal, but that didn't happen. After quite a few years of slugging it out, we all just decided to go our own ways."

In the fall of 1993, Steele moved to Nashville, where he landed a job writing songs for the prestigious publishing company, Warner/Chappell.

"It was daunting, to say the least," he says. "Just the idea of starting a new phase in my life, moving to a strange city, to a different country. Yeah, it was a little scary. The first six months of my life down in Nashville were full of thoughts like, `Well, have I done the right thing?' Because it takes a while to break in and meet people and feel comfortable."

But the native of Hines Creek, Alberta -- population 450 "on a busy Saturday night" -- settled into Nashville just fine, thank you. Steele says he's written more than 100 songs since moving to the so-called Music City.

And he's learned that writing music -- like just about any kind of creative work -- is one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration.

GRIND

"You gotta sit down and really grind it," he says. "And eventually, when you get into a pattern like that, things just start rolling and flowing easier. If we all waited around for inspiration, we probably wouldn't get a whole lot done."

Steele has certainly been getting things done. So far, his first album has spawned five singles, including the hit songs Anita Got Married, The Trouble with Love and Two Names on an Overpass, his duet with Lisa Brokop. Plus, the song Top Down in the Rain has been getting extensive radio play, despite not being an official single.

ALBUM

On top of that, Steele has just finished recording a new album featuring 10 of his own original songs. Tentatively titled This Is The Life, the album is scheduled to be released in September.

But whenever the pressures get too much and he starts losing track of where he is, Steele knows its time to head out to his cedar cabin, tucked into the hills of Tennessee about 20 minutes outside Nashville. It's the perfect place to pull out his notebook, sit on the porch and trawl for tunes.

"I love big-city life," he says. "But especially after being out on the road and doing this whole performing thing, I really do need to get back to my little country space to unwind and think about ideas for songs."

IF YOU GO

What: Duane Steele, with opening act Jamie Warren

When: Tonight at 8 p.m.

Where: Harris Park, London

Admission: Free


Videos

Photos