Jeffrey Steele Impresses New York City

Posted by Maureen Wiley on 09/11/2008
GAC TV's first venture into reality series, "The Hitmen of Music Row," recently followed the "Hitmen (four of Nashville's most successful - and colorful - songwriters)" on a trip to New York City, where they played a show in front of a bunch of yankees. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, they were very well-received; one of those four songwriters, Jeffrey Steele, was even compelled to return alone on August 21. And alone, Steele brought down the packed house at Joe's Pub.

Steele has evidently lost any anonymity he may once have had as the man behind the acts topping the country charts. His recent role as a judge and mentor on NBC's Nashville Star thrust him into the spotlight, forcing him to show his chops as a songwriter, confidante, and coach - and effectively etablishing an entirely new fanbase. When I visited with Steele post-show, the crazy-haired rocker mentioned his discontent with having to critique all the Star hopefuls; he, too, remembers how hard it was starting out in the music world.

Watching the wild-haired and charismatic Steele, it's hard to envision just why he has not pursued a solo career. His set was varied, with soft, almost plaintive moments and bursts of emotion in the stomping of his feet on the ground or on the pounding of the piano keys. He punctuated the performance by tossing his guitar picks at the crowd (I wished I had been closer to the front to join in the scramble); after the show, he stood patiently as hoards descended upon him and his assistant, signing autographs and engaging in small-talk with the regular folks. He was, simply put, a star.

It's clear he's eminently qualified on all levels to take Nashville by storm - but there must be something that keeps him back from the forefront. Catching a glimpse of him backstage revealed his down-home "aw shucks" nature, which may play a role in the fact he hasn't gone solo, but more possible still (as a clued-in concert-goer opined), is that Steele eschews the traditional "hat and boots" country boy style. Is it his "rocker" image that has kept him from superstardom? I guess we can't be certain, but what is clear is that Steele is more than welcome up here, way north of the Mason Dixon line.