Dove Award nominee and WSCC Alumnus Brad Steele makes a joyful noise
HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Wallace State Community College alumnus, professional singer/songwriter and YouTube content creator Brad Steele was recently nominated for his second Dove Award, gospel music’s top award.
Steele began taking courses at Wallace State in 2012 and quickly became an active member of the Fine and Performing Arts programs. Since graduation, he has released songs that so often captured the times we live in and feelings with which not just young people, but everyone, can identify. From "Breathe Again," which commemorates the death of George Floyd in 2020, to his recent single "Havin' a Bad Day," which combines his faith with topics of mental health and how he deals with difficult times, Steele’s music is evocative and expressive.
Steele graciously allowed “Breathe Again” to be used by Wallace State and Hennepin Technical College as the backdrop for a joint project on social justice. He came back to Wallace State’s campus to perform the song in 2020.
Steele is a lover of many things, from professional wrestling and the Tennessee Titans to his dog Roman and his wife Emily. But his first love is music, a passion that has been a part of his life from the very beginning.
“Music and performance both have been the most constant things in my life. There are home videos of me singing on a little stage in our garage from when I was as young as 3 years old, so it's in my blood,” said Steele. “Music is one of the most important things in my life, not just because I am a singer and songwriter, but because of how music connects with me personally. It's like the old quote says: ‘music speaks when words fail.’”
He is in a gospel singing trio called The Steeles with his mother and father, Sherry and Dr. Jeff Steele. The Steeles have been singing since the 1980s. The family has seen 18 number one hits over their career, and in 1995 and 1996, Jeff Steele was named BMI’s Southern Gospel Songwriter of the Year. Brad made his debut with his family on the 1999 album “For the Sake of the Children” and has been consistently singing with them since.
The Steeles released their album “Be the Reason” in February 2023 on Stowtown Records. The song “A Hundred Different Altars,” the fourth track on the album, was selected for nomination for Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year at the 54th annual Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. The song marked Steele’s first nomination as a vocalist, but his second as a songwriter. In 2022, “Not One Word,” performed by the Collingsworth Family and co-written by Jeff and Brad Steele, was nominated for a Dove Award for Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year.
The Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards is an annual awards ceremony celebrating the best in Gospel and Christian music. It is held each year in Nashville, Tenn., and is televised nationally. The awards recognize outstanding achievements in the industry, including songwriting, production and performance. The ceremony also includes special awards honoring those who have made a significant contribution to the genre.
“Last year, it was an honor to have a song I co-wrote with my dad be nominated. I don't want to take anything away from how awesome that was, but to have a song that I not only co-wrote but also sang was a double whammy. We didn't win, but when they announced us as a nominee, and as my voice was ringing out through the arena, all I could think was 'I wish I had sung it better,” says Steele with a laugh. “It was just an honor to be there. And it's hard for a guy like me not to feel out of place. I'm about as simple as they come, so to be there among so many artists I look up to, with everyone dressed up and wearing the fanciest outfits while I stood there in jeans and my Air Jordans, was both surreal and amazing.”
Tiffany Stone Richter, director of choral programs at Wallace State, gave praise not only to Steele’s musical ability but also to his warm personality.
“Brad Steele is one of the most talented students I've ever seen. A consummate performer — so easy and natural to him — he's also a great songwriter. That's a double whammy! His success is no surprise. We're just watching the beginning of what he will achieve. The best part about Brad is he's as kind as he is talented. He's the real deal,” said Richter.
Brad Steele performs in the Wallace State Theatre production of Into the Woods.
As a student at Wallace State, Steele joined the WSCC Choir, the Wallace State Singers and had roles in several musical theatre productions. Before graduating in 2015, Steele was a part of many of the musicals presented at Wallace State, including “Singin' in the Rain,” “Into the Woods” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He said the Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts Department provided him with the community and fellowship he needed to succeed.
“The environment that Wallace State provided really made it to where I didn't feel like I got ‘lost in the shuffle’ and had plenty of ways to get plugged in and make long lasting friendships. It gave me an opportunity to take the stage with some of my closest friends and what is really cool is that those friendships remain to this day,” said Steele. “One of my closest friends from Wallace State just had a baby a couple of weeks ago and I got teary! If it weren't for Wallace State and our time together there, we wouldn't know each other. That's only one example, but there are so many others I could mention.”
Brad Steele performs in the Wallace State Singers production of Disney Through the Decades.
While his original plan was to stay for two years and finish his degree, Steele was met with confusion about what he wanted to pursue upon graduation. He decided to stay at Wallace State for an additional year, where he continued working towards completing his course of study and performing with the Wallace State Choir and the Wallace State Singers.
“I ended up staying an extra year because I just had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I am sure someone out there can relate to that. That third year ended up being the most important one though because it set in motion the events that have me doing all the things I am doing today,” Steele said.
Amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Steele began a YouTube channel where he featured reaction content, sports commentary and musical performances. After three years and with over 2,000 videos posted, he says making YouTube content is one of his favorite things to do.
“I started doing reaction videos from the perspective of a singer/songwriter and didn't expect a single thing to come if it,” said Steele. “Within a year, I had 100,000 subscribers and YouTube even sent me a fancy award. In hindsight, 2020 was a great time to start because everyone was at home with nothing to do.”
His YouTube channel gives him a platform to post covers of popular songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, but it also gives him an avenue to share original songs.
“I'm now at 220,000 subscribers and it's one of the great joys of my life. Not just to do the fun reaction videos, but I now have a platform to upload my own music and a whole new audience to hear it. That has been the coolest thing,” said Steele. “I’m also a diehard fan of the Tennessee Titans and I find myself often posting videos, sharing my thoughts about the games and the team, and it has generated a following too. It's all very cool.”
Steele said he is grateful for his time at WSCC and to people in the Fine and Performing Arts Department, like Richter.
“Mrs. Richter was such a great advisor for me and quite literally at times forced me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself as a performer. That's something that I'll always take with me. She challenged me to put myself out there, whether that be in the Choir or especially the Singers. I have memories that will last a lifetime. I'll never forget my first year there when we went to Washington D.C on a choir tour and sang at the Kennedy Center. For a 19-year-old fresh out of high school, that was surreal in the best way. It just gave me a whole new love for music and for singing,” said Steele. “I'll always cherish my time at Wallace State!”
Registration for the Spring 2024 semester is currently underway, with classes beginning Jan 8 for regular and Mini Term I and March 6 for Mini Term II. Registration for Flex Start I courses will be held Jan. 13-19, with classes starting Jan. 15 and registration for Flex Start II courses will be held Jan. 20-26, with classes starting Jan. 22. Visit www.wallacestate.edu/register-now to apply and register for classes.
- Kristen Holmes
- Vice President for Students and Chief Marketing Officer
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