Spotlight shines hot on Steele

Lyrics give her life


Isabela Angus

Julia Steele performing at the Red House in Walnut Creek last June.

When she utters the word “music,” that passion Julia Steele stays true to radiates from her words to her expressions.

Her face lights up, noticeably showing she knows she’s found what she’s meant to do, no matter how fearsome the road may get.

“Sometimes the best thing you can do in your life is something you’re afraid to do. I am super afraid to get on stage, but I do it because it makes me feel good… The pay off in the long run is much better than just staying at home and listening to all the artists I love,” said Steele about her continuing pursuit to become a professional singer, “I want to be there. I want to be on stage.”

Music has always been a big piece of the 19-year-old’s life.

Having an opera singer as a mom, and a dad who embraced the likes of classic rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Steele’s love for music began at an early age. She grew up being exposed to a variety of genres, which shows in her musical influences: St. Vincent, Beyoncé, The Strokes and Led Zeppelin.

Despite professional opera being a part of her family, Steele knew rock was the path she wanted to follow.

“I’ve always loved guitar and I always wanted to play the electric guitar and be cool and be a rock star,” said Steele “I still want to be a rock star, which is kind of funny. A lot of people make fun of me for it but that’s OK.”

She recalled a time she and a few friends attempted to begin the journey to rock stardom. They tried to form a band by the name of Rock Candy and she wrote a song for them titled “Some People.”

“We were in third grade and we thought we were so good,” Steele laughed, adding that her friend “had a rap verse and was like ‘I go to the street, then I get some meat and then I go and Imma do me.’”

By high school, Steele had joined a band with her friend Cameron whom she met while in the Music is Medicine club at Heritage High School.

“We played like two shows together and one of them we played ‘Across the Universe’ by the Beatles and we just knew we wanted to be in a band. We knew,” said Steele, who added that their friend Justin came aboard as drummer, the final piece to their group Recordline.  

They’ve performed in battles of the bands and released an album together titled “To the Moon” in 2015 — created in Steele’s garage. But when two of the members had to leave to resume their education in Southern California, Recordline came to an end.

“This past summer was the last performance… and it was really sad for me,” she said. “There comes a point where you just have to accept everyone’s moving on but I’m still 100 percent pursuing music in my life.”

And Steele remains persistent.

Every night she writes poetry; the songstress said she’d take out her journal, pick out a poem and start writing a guitar riff to match.

Her songwriting process comes from the poems she writes but she explained that after facing a drastic event that almost led to her death, her writing changed for the better.

“I was in a really bad car accident my freshman year of high school,” she said adding she was in the passenger seat when it was T-boned. “That completely changed everything in my life.”

She turned to words to cope.

“I use poetry as a form of therapy almost. There was so much that I wanted to say that people couldn’t comprehend,” she said. “You can’t imagine yourself in a situation like that unless you actually go through it.”

Because most people couldn’t handle what she was going through emotionally at the time, Steele created an outlet for those emotions through songwriting instead of letting them fester.

“It made me able to voice my pain better because I had felt so much. I had more anger, more sadness… I could say things that a lot of people don’t necessarily have words for but I had them because I felt them so strongly at the time.”

Steele performed on her own for the first time a few weeks ago at RPM Records in Brentwood, describing the experience as being “so different alone because all eyes are on you and there’s no way someone’s looking at a different person performing.”

Her confidence in herself and her ability not only got her through that first-time solo performance, but is also the mindset behind why she became a Recording Arts major.

Steele made this decision after having the technicalities of music explained to her and having a hard time understanding the terms the audio engineer she was speaking to was using.

“I want to be independent. I don’t want to have to rely on a major music label to help me make it,” she said. “If I have to I will but I want to be able to do everything myself. There are a lot of musicians who have made it that way but I just want to be self-sufficient. I want to be the best and whether I make it there or not, it really depends on how much I want it and how hard I try.”

She understands traveling the road to her end goal will take time. But she is grateful that she made the decision to go to college before rushing into her career. Steele said being at Los Medanos College allows her to develop her talents, learn more about the technical side of music and build connections.

“Making it” for Steele, however, is not measured by the amount of money a person can earn.

“I don’t care if this makes me money or not. I know I want to do it and I know whether or not I make it, it is going to bring me happiness in my life and that’s really the mindset you need to have.”

Large crowds singing songs she wrote or people getting tattoos of her lyrics means more to her than money because what she has written is “near and dear” to her heart.

Who would her future self thank in a Grammy acceptance speech? The singer-songwriter expresses her gratitude toward family, old band mates, those who doubt her capability —and the accident that nearly took her life.

“I’m thankful for all my sadness I had to go through,” she said because now “I can help people who are also going through the same thing.”