BootLeg Betty

Shayna Steele shines on ‘I’ll Be Anything’

Sun-Herald
Biloxi, MS
Shayna Steele shines on ‘I’ll Be Anything’
November 6, 2009

Shayna Steele has taken some risks in her career. Actually, she’s taken lots of risks. She literally woke up one day and turned her back on a promising Broadway career to become a singer. That takes a lot of nerve, and even more determination. This week, however, those risks are paying off for the former Biloxi High School student.

Steele’s full-length debut CD, “I’ll Be Anything” was released Monday. The album is a fantastic collection of easily digestible soul, light funk and jazzy R&B originals. Each song has airtight musicianship from some of the best in the business.

Steele’s vocal range is vast, but she uses it more wisely than most contemporary female R&B singers today. She’s not afraid to belt it out, though. On the energetic break-up track “You Didn’t,” Steele pulls deep from the diva catalog and really shines. Then again, her voice is sleek and misty on the seductive “4AM Song.” The album’s title comes from this song, and it becomes quickly apparent that Steele can really sing anything she wants.

Her resume is nearly as impressive as her singing, though. She was heavily involved in community theater while growing up in Biloxi. In high school, she shined in the marching band and student government and was voted Most Talented in 1993, her senior year. Broadway was calling her name, however, and she really felt the pull.

Almost immediately after arriving in New York in 1996, she landed a role in the Broadway production of “Rent.” A few years later, she scored a gig with the revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” That was followed with a role in “Hairspray.” Eight years of steady work and steady paychecks later, however, she was over it.

“I really wanted to do music, and I wanted to commit myself to it,” Steele said in a recent interview. “I was kind of doing both, and one of them was really secure. But I took the risk … it was very scary, but so worth it. I had a lot of people who said I was making a mistake, but they didn’t understand why I needed to do that. Being a Broadway actress takes 100 percent of you, and I couldn’t do that anymore.”

The money she had saved dried up quickly, but Steele soon found herself surrounded with fellow musicians and risk-takers. She has worked with several big names, most notably Bette Midler and Moby, with whom she recorded the songs “Disco Lies” and “Extreme Ways.” The latter was featured on the soundtrack for “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

She met music industry veteran David Cook, who arranged, produced and co-wrote “I’ll Be Anything” with Steele. Her bands (she has two of them) feature some of the most talented musicians on the East and West Coasts. New York-based saxophonist Donny McCaslin performs on “Right On Time.” The string arrangements for “Kiss That Girl” were penned by Alan Furber and the guitar work on “Wishing” comes courtesy of Errol Cooney. Cooney also performs with Stevie Wonder and Christina Aguilera.

On the whole, “I’ll Be Anything” is a perfect introduction to Steele’s music. She released an EP in 2004, and both albums are available through her Web site, www.shaynasteele.com. “I’ll Be Anything” is also available through iTunes. Steele is currently travelling the country but will be back in Biloxi Nov. 27 for a performance with the Gulf Coast Symphony at the Saenger Theater.

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