Reggae sensation Steele, born and raised in Jamaica continues to be the household name for many reggae lovers across Canada. For nearly two decades, this versatile artist has been a constant hit maker so of course we here at Reggae North decided it was time for us to get the inside scoop with one of Canada’s very own talent.
The interview started off at a local studio with Steele’s music playing in the background as we reviewed some photos of past concerts and festivals he headlined.
It’s no surprise that your audience has grown to music lovers across the globe with radio stations across the USA, England, Europe and Jamaica continuing to play your music on demand, but let’s face it, we all know how difficult it is for any Canadian artist to acquire fame. Being a Canadian reggae artist must carry even more challenges, do you agree?
“Well, I’ve always said it is very important to be accepted by your own, so I am grateful that I’ve achieved a level of acceptance from the Canadian fans. Not everyone will support you and that is just a fact”, says Steele. “Some say to me that if I stayed in Jamaica, I would probably be a much bigger artist.” “Do I believe it?” The truth is, there is no promise or guarantee in music, so I’m grateful for my blessings” “You can connect with the rest of the world from pretty much anywhere you are so it’s all about formulating a plan of action and keep pushing and believing in yourself”, said Steele.
Most recently the three times Juno Awards nominated artist has just released his new CD entitled “Just Breathe” featuring hits such as Real Life, A Feel Like, Girl like You, Push It, and the brilliant adaptation Hold Me Tight.
Your latest album really exposes your creative depth and versatility from sweet lover’s rock to your unexpected Dance Hall rhythms. Seeing that this new album
features ‘Dancehall’, something you’re typically not known for, do you feel this new album is more compelling compared to some of the music you put out in the past?
With a big smile, Steele proceeded to say “I consider all my music to be very compelling. In my mind I always try to formulate a structure and plan for what I’d like to accomplish. For this album I wanted to branch off a little from my lovers’ rock and conscious elements and spend some time on some dance hall driven riddims. As an artist, we should all be able to broaden our spectrum and fan appeal and I think I was able to accomplish this in this album.”
Steele’s reputation as a “stellar performer” and a people person are major components as to why he is constantly booked for shows. His annual Birthday Gala that usually takes place every April in Toronto, has been completely sold out for the last five years with many fans flying in from across the country to attend.
You know we could’nt have this interview without asking about the ‘C’ word, so how have these crazy COVID-19 times affected you as an artist?
“Well, my annual Birthday Gala which so many people look forward to attending has had to be cancelled for now,’ says Steele looking very disappointed. “I give thanks for life and pray every day for people less fortunate than myself. At least I still have health and strength. With many people off from work and spending ample time on social media, my team has focussed our efforts on making sure that I stay relevant with constant promotion. I have been doing a lot of virtual shows and keeping my fans happy with new arrangements so that has been another positive for me artistically.”
Steele, your style is unique yet your stage presence is fierce. Your music represents love, unity, positivity and truth-seeking in present times but yet for as long as I have been conducting interviews, I have constantly heard artists complain about the lack of respect for their music from radio DJs, promoters and selectas here in Canada. Many Canadian artists must travel outside of the country for their music to receive proper recognition. What is your take on all of this, and what do you think can be done to change this mindset?
“Wow, these questions are getting hardcore”, said Steele with a mischievous grin. With a big pause he begins by saying “The truth is, we still have a lot of followers and very few leaders. Some DJs think they need to be playing the hot song from Jamaica to get so-called respect, while the professional DJ knows how to market any song and create awareness for the song. That is primarily the reason why we still lack a huge Canadian reggae industry. We still have not embraced our own or put a value on our own talent” and lastly he says “The other issue is on the artists themselves that are still looking for handouts from DJ’s or promoters. They are always at the mercy of these people because the artist themselves have not put in the work to earn any respect.”
As we conclude this interview, I realize that Steele not only acknowledges the importance of being able to transition but appreciates the value as an artist to be able to reinvent himself for his fans. Steele’s music relates with people from every ethnicity, race, age and culture and, I see why many people refer to him as “The People’s Artist”.
Steele is a strong believer that we can all learn from each other. He says, “My message is universal, so it’s for whosoever will listen. There is always something to learn”. For more information, please follow Steele on Instagram@ Steele_mobs or Facebook@ Steelemobs.