Having released an album of Dirt and Dreams, local country musician Duane Steele is gearing up for a rare hometown concert in Red Deer.
The Canadian Country Music Association Award-winning artist has been living here for the past 15 years, but to hear him perform, Red Deer-area residents usually have had to trek around the province or even go as far as the Yukon.
Steele admits he doesn’t do a lot of local shows as a way of not over-playing his welcome. “There’s the idea that if you play too much in your own town, then it becomes not as much of a ‘thing.”
If that’s so, then his Saturday, March 5, show at the Golden Circle should be quite the thing.
It will be the first chance for many Red Deer residents to hear Steele perform a series of tunes from his 2015 country-folk album, Dirt and Dreams — as well as older favourites such as Anita Got Married, Stuck on Your Love, Tell the Girl, The Trouble With Love and others
With no local CD release party last year, “this gig has been a year in the making!” joked Steele, who looks forward to being part of the Golden Circle’s music series. “My music is now not about the party, but the songs … so it’s a nice place for me to be right now, with a listening audience.”
His sixth studio album is more country-roots flavoured than previous efforts. Steele has always considered himself foremost a singer/songwriter and feels this more folky album reflects this, with tunes ranging from the personal to the speculative.
Country Folk is an ode to his late parents’ homesteading roots. Steele said his dad’s family emigrated from Scandinavia to Wisconsin, then Saskatchewan, before settling in the Fairview area of northern Alberta in the 1920s. His Mom’s clan arrived in the province in the 1930s from Scandinavia and Scotland.
Steele grew up with 10 siblings, which means “you had to fight for every square inch of turf!” he confessed. While the family farm was sold during his parent’s lifetime, many of Steele’s sisters married into farm families, so crops are still a big topic of family conversation.
His song Johnny’s Dream takes an imaginative spin on a real-life experience. When Steele first arrived in Nashville in the mid-1990s, he and his friends excitedly headed right over to Music Row, even though it was a gloomy, rainy Sunday night. The streets were deserted except for one young musician who was earnestly performing under a tarp in the hopes of finding an audience.
“There he was, just belting his heart out, singing and playing … and I thought, this is just bizarre … There was no one else around, but he obviously had this dream of making it.”
Steele lived in Nashville for six years and loved the city. Then his first marriage collapsed, and his U.S. record deal was about to end, while his career was taking off in Canada.
The circumstances prompted his move back to Alberta, and “it turned out for the good,” said the singer, who racked up CCMA awards for a duet with Lisa Brokop on the single Two Names on an Overpass as well as Independent Male Vocalist of the Year, among other accolades.
Steele now has his own label, Jolt Records, upon which his last four albums were released. Dirt and Dreams was recorded at the Jeff Bradshaw production studio in Leslieville, with “four of us musicians recording the album live off the floor,” recalled the singer, who co-produced the album.
Steele is married again, with a seven-year-old son, and isn’t letting any dust settle before making his next release. “We’re recording a bunch of new songs and hoping to do another new album by this fall.”
Before this month is over, he’ll take advantage of one of the “perks” of being a performer — he’s flying to a gig in Mazatlan, Mexico, where he will entertain at a hotel and likely jam with Alberta ex-pat Dick Damron, who winters there.
“If you can’t get rich playing, at least you can perform in some beautiful places!” he said, with a chuckle.
Tickets to the 7 p.m. concert are $20 in advance from the Golden Circle, 4620-47A Ave. For more information, please call 403-343-6074.