Jeffrey Steele's father once told him, "Just shut up and listen and you'll be all right." While dad meant it about life, Steele believes it's also good advice for songwriters. Case in point is the genesis for his Diamond Rio smash, "Unbelievable."
"I was getting together with Al Anderson," says Steele, "and I was freaked out because Al was one of my heroes, it was my first time writing with him and I didn't have any ideas to take to him. I was panicking. All the way into town, though, I was tapping this little drum thing on my steering wheel. Couldn't get it out of my head. Pretty soon I started mumbling words to it. By the time I got there, I was singing, 'kissable, huggable, lovable, unbelievable.' I had no idea what it was going to be, I was just singing it over and over."
Veteran writer Anderson knew a hook when he heard one, though, and a collaboration - and hit song - were born. And the incident proves Steele's writing philosophy: "Just let the music come into you. Listen, and don't force it," counsels the California native, former Boy Howdy vocalist and current very successful songwriter.
This avid mountain-biker - who jestingly lists mountain bike repair among his hobbies - has had 58 cuts in the last three years alone with such country stalwarts as Randy Travis, Collin Raye, Faith Hill, Aaron Tippin and Trisha Yearwood. He's had five career songs that have garnered BMI Country Awards for their top-of-chart status, including "Unbelievable," LeAnn Rimes's "Big Deal" (also an Anderson co-write), Kevin Sharp's "If You Love Somebody," Boy Howdy's "She'd Give Anything" and "They Don't Make Them Like That." Upcoming cuts can be heard on albums from Pam Tillis, Tim McGraw, Billy Ray Cyrus, Trace Adkins, Alabama, Brad Paisley, and Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw, among others.
Steele, born Jeffrey Levasseur in Burbank, California, grew up in a musical household with influences ranging from Big Band to The Beatles, along with his would-be songwriter father's beloved country. Years in clubs and on the road as a backup musician for country greats gave way to his own bands, and eventually a solo effort for Curb. But all that touring kept him away from the creative end, so he took a break in the latter part of the '90s to re-focus. That fruitful time yielded a sharper perspective and the still-snowballing songwriting success. Soon, this father of four will re-enter the artist foray on Monument Records. Steele will self-produce, and a single is slated for sometime in 2001.
"Writing and producing are my first loves," he admits, "but the performing bug just never goes away."