Celebrated New York City cabaret performer Anne Steele has made her mark on the Big Apple and now she intends to do the same on hearts all across the rest of the country. The multi-faceted Don’t Tell Mama staple has an album out called Strings Attached and we have a feeling you’ll be singing her praises upon first listen.
Hi Anne! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me for The Seattle Lesbian! How is New York treating you? I love New York. It is finally spring and it is just gorgeous here. I am in and out of the city, as I spend most of my time in the suburbs now, so I truly get the best of both worlds. I love the energy of the city when I head in to perform and the calm and comfort of the suburbs when I am home with Kelli [Carpenter] and the kids.
You have been awarded three MAC Awards, two Bistro Awards and a Nightlife Award for your hard work in the New York cabaret scene. Quite impressive! How do these accolades feel? I have been working in the New York cabaret scene for 10 years and I am honestly very grateful for the recognition of my work. It takes time to build a following and for people to know who you are. I finally feel as though I have made my place in New York. Now I just need to reach the rest of the country!
Are there any favorite performance spots you simply cannot pass up when you sing? I love singing at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. That’s where I had my CD release party and it was a thrilling night. But my New York home will always be at Don’t Tell Mama in Midtown. That was where I got my start in a NYC piano bar and where I made my cabaret debut. It will always be home to me.
Is it ever difficult for you to be openly-gay in the Cabaret scene of New York? I have never encountered an issue with being openly-gay in cabaret in New York. Honestly, I never even gave it a second thought. It is who I am, and in the cabaret genre it really is about getting up on stage and showing people who you really are. That is what is beautiful about it. You aren’t playing a role, you are letting people in to know the real you. I feel that if I weren’t the true me I never would have been able to be successful in the genre, gay or not. Plus, there have always been out gay men in cabaret, and now there are several out lesbians that are big in the New York cabaret scene. I am certainly not the only one anymore.
You are originally from Shelbyville, IN. Do you feel like the homegrown roots of the Midwest still live within you or have you sprouted into more of a big city gal? I think that even when I was growing up in small town Indiana I was always a big city gal. If you ask my mom or anyone I grew up with they will tell you the same thing. No one was surprised that I ended up in NYC. It always seemed that I was born to be here. My mother and grandmother were both singers and my mom owns a dance studio. I think it was just in my blood to be onstage!
You worked at Opryland U.S.A. in Nashville for two years after graduating from Ball State University. Did you feel welcome there as a gay woman? Honestly, Nashville is where I finally figured out that I was gay. There is a big gay scene there. I met the first girl I ever fell in love with there and I never looked back! Maybe I am naïve, but I have never felt unwelcomed as a gay woman. I guess I have always just been who I am and if people don’t like it, too bad.
Please tell us a little bit about Tipping the Velvet. Tipping the Velvet was a girl group that I was in several years ago. There were three of us, and we did everything from Alanis Morissette to the Andrew Sisters. We did lots of shows and won several awards together but one girl moved to San Francisco and the other now lives in Las Vegas.
Your first solo album is called Strings Attached and debuted last November. How did you choose the music that would ultimately be released on the CD? The most important thing to me about choosing songs is that they all have a very personal connection. Each song on the album tells a different part of my life. They range from pop to Broadway to standards. It doesn’t really matter the genre as long as they mean something to my heart. They are all united with these incredible string arrangements that truly bring the whole thing together. Most importantly, I decided not to change any pronouns in the songs. So, when I covered Jon McLaughlin’s song “Indiana,” I sang about the woman in the song, and when I covered Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” I sang about a man. It was most important to me to keep the integrity of the song, and what it meant to me.
Where do you go from here in regards to touring and creating music? I am working on scheduling gigs in different cities right now. I need people to hear me and check out the CD. I am also working on a new show for the fall, maybe more of an unplugged kind of show. It’s all still in the planning phases, but I will always update what shows are coming up on my website. Fans can also follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.
You have partnered with R Family Vacations on a number of different tours. Can you share with us a story or two that stood out for you? I have been working with R Family Vacations since 2005 and it has been an incredible experience. I never knew whether I would want children, but after the first cruise I changed my mind. The love that filled that ship was undeniable. The way families came together to share their experiences was so unique. I remember one year there was a group of gay men having the best time, partying and living the life (no kids). The next year they came back and two couples had brand new babies! It was so sweet. It was all because of how the cruise had changed them and made them see what they were missing in their lives. R Family really does have that effect on people.
Speaking of R Family, we just spoke with your fabulous gal Kelli Carpenter. Can you tell us a little bit about how you met and what life is like in your household? I met Kelli in 2005 when I was booked to perform on the R Family cruise. We became friends and I continued to do all of the cruises over the years as an entertainer. Then suddenly last year we were both single and it just all made sense. I guess sometimes the thing you have been looking for is right in front of you and you just have to be awake enough to see it. And lucky for us, we both were. Our household is fantastic. Kelli has four children that she shares custody of, so we have them half-time. We have such a blast when we have the kids. I have really grown to love them in a way I never knew possible. When we don’t have the kids, we see shows, travel and mostly cook in and enjoy life. We truly have an incredible life together and I have never been happier.
Lastly, do you have any words of advice for the younger generation out there just dipping their toes into the gay rights pool? Have a voice! Speak out and stand up for what you deserve in this world. I remember growing up when no one talked about being gay. It’s a different world now. Be proud of who you are and make change! Be on the front lines! I go to rallies all the time and I love it. I love being a part of something so much bigger than me. The next generation is the one that will have to continue this fight that was started long ago. It’s an incredible movement and I am proud to be a part of it all.