They say life begins at 40, but for country artist Jeffrey Steele the old adage is only half-true. Before hitting that milestone, the California native had married, was raising four children, and had already carved an interesting and successful life for himself, one that would satisfy any budding songwriter. He had built up such an incredibly strong and thriving career; it seemed he had the Midas touch. Almost everything he wrote turned into a hit, exemplified by one three-year period when almost five-dozen songs were recorded by name artists that included Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Travis, John Michael Montgomery, Leann Rimes, Diamond Rio, Aaron Tippin, and Collin Raye, among others. He earned BMI Country Awards with hit songs "She'd Give Anything" and "They Don't Make Them Like That" from Boy Howdy, and "If You Love Somebody" from Kevin Sharp. A pair of songs he co-wrote with Al Anderson, "Big Deal" for Rimes and "Unbelievable" for Diamond Rio, also received BMI Country Awards. Rather than having a life that started at 40, Steele was doing just fine for more than two decades.
So why rock the boat? There was no need to start another career as a performer, yet Steele did exactly that. He gets something from being on-stage and singing his songs that he can't get from simply writing them -- an immediate connection with his audience. He had a successful taste of that experience beginning in 1990 when he performed as bassist and lead singer for the California group Boy Howdy for six years. In 1991, the California Country Music Association dubbed him Best Bassist and Best Male Vocalist for his work with the band. Upon the group's breakup, he settled in Nashville. When the solo record he worked on was never released, he continued songwriting. His first album from Monument Records, Somethin' in the Water, hit the market in 2001 and launched the title track as a single. In addition to penning or co-writing all of the album's songs, Steele also worked as producer on the album. Anderson contributed his songwriting talents to the debut, as did Bob DiPiero, who also wrote "The Church on Cumberland Road" for Shenandoah.
Music took hold of Steele's imagination when he was eight years old and singing for the first time at a function hosted by his church. His youthful rendition of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" earned a standing ovation, so he belted it out another seven times for his captive audience. Within a few years he was writing and he performed with local groups when he was 17. His background includes a mother who sang and enjoyed the big band sound, while his country-loving dad aspired to a songwriting career. He was exposed to the tons of records purchased by his siblings, and in his teens he parked himself and his keyboards along Sunset Strip to perform. Later gigs had him playing Jimi Hendrix-type rock, while other jobs called for the country style of artists such as Willie Nelson. Steele was in his 20s and working in a house band when he started rubbing shoulders with such artists as Hank Thompson, Red Simpson, and other Bakersfield musicians.