SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Shayna Steele has become a sophisticated and polished performing artist who has definitely made her mark in the highly competitive music industry. She has her own band - The Shayna Steele Band - and is an accomplished songwriter with two full albums to her credit.
Many Coast residents have watched the Biloxi native grow up on South Mississippi stages. Her original music style reflects her passion for music.
"My music is jazz influenced, blues, soul. Kind of a combination of all of those things," said Steele.
Steele has become a sought after world class vocalist who has worked with the best in the business; singing backup for countless stars including Bette Midler, Rihanna, and Kelly Clarkson.
"It wasn't something I ever thought about, like, 'Maybe I'll go sing background for famous people.' It just kind of dropped in my lap and it's the kind of world that once you do it, people know you can do this and you build a reputation. They call you to do it."
Steele's vocals can also be heard in popular films including "The Bourne Legacy, Sex and the City 2, and Hairspray; along with several TV broadcasts including NBC's Smash, the 2008 Summer Olympic highlights on BBC, and HBO's The Sopranos.
The singer's music career started in South Mississippi at an early age. Shayna grew up in an Air Force family and lived around the world before leaving Germany in 1985, and settling in Biloxi when she was 9 years old.
Steele says growing up in a biracial family in Mississippi in the 80's created challenges, but made her that much more determined to succeed on her own terms.
"It was clear to me at age nine or 10 that this is what I wanted to do," added Steele.
She also had the benefit of growing up in a musical family. At age 15, Steele came very close to winning Ed McMahon's nationally televised Star Search. She was also well known for her musical talent on the Coast; from her work in various pageants to community theater.
Shayna has used her remarkable vocal talent to follow her dreams.
"I kind of went with a dollar and a dream. I knew I wanted to be on Broadway," said the singer, who credits her parents, Bobby and Kande Steele, for encouraging her to follow her dream. "My parents, when I decided I was leaving USM to pursue music, they didn't bat an eye. They believed in me and I was lucky to have their support."
Steele landed a role in the musical "Rent" on Broadway in a matter of months after moving to New York. Roles in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Hairspray" followed, but discovered her real passion was in writing and performing her own music. Once she started that there, was no turning back.
"It was literally like I stepped on stage for the first time. I felt like an artist. It felt like this is what I was supposed to be doing," said Steele.
And that's what led her to another big chapter in her life. She started a band with musician David Cook in 2003 and after working together for three years, they fell in love and and got married.
"New York is the most magical place to meet and fall in love. He taught me a lot about music and we are both passionate about new York and music, and we built a love story on top of that," said Steele.
David is an accomplished musician in his own right. He's the musical director and keyboard player for superstar Taylor Swift, still finds time to travel the world with the Shayna Steele Band, and plays in his own Jazz band.
"There are two kinds of music - good and bad - and I've tried to pick good stuff and I try to get better every day," said David.
David says Shayna is one of the best in the business. "She's one of the top five or 10 singers in the world. Even if I wasn't married to her, or hadn't worked with her, I'd say she's one of the best," said David. "What she can do with her voice is so effortless, and she can tell a story and has this way of embracing the audience."
Shayna and David are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary in 2016, as they continue to make music together.
"It has its challenges and its perks. We can be song writing and be in our pajamas having coffee working on our music," added Shayna.
The couple shares their life with 4-year-old daughter Caia; who Shayna says has added a new dimension to their lives and their work.
"It changes a ton about who you are as a woman, writer, and artist. It has changed me."
Even with their very busy schedule, Steele keeps her family and Mississippi close to her heart.
"I come home three or four times a year and I'm glad my daughter is able to experience it," said Shayna, who was recently on the Coast for her first concert at home.
Their latest album has the family, who recently recently returned from Slovakia and Edinburgh, touring the world.
With so much success already, Shayna says her next dream is to continue traveling the world and recording albums.
To learn more about Shayna's music and upcoming performances go to her website at www.shaynasteele.com.