Terry Steele - Why Music and Gardening are his Melody

Terry Steele - Why Music and Gardening are his Melody
PHOTOGRAPHY BY XAVIER HARRIS

If I were to ask you what music and gardening have in common, initially, you would probably say you weren’t sure. With a little more thought, you may say something like both are known to stimulate calm. What you would never say is Terry Steele. And you would never say Terry Steele because this award-winning singer and songwriter is better known for music than his love of gardening.

Reveling in the joy of his new love, Steele was all smiles as he welcomed me into his eclectic Los Angeles home garden on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Soaking up the sun were tall plants, short plants, flowers in full bloom, and flowers preparing to bloom. Rushing tree to tree were playful squirrels and chirping birds. On the far side of the garden was a greenhouse safeguarding an assortment of vegetables and fruits from direct sunlight.

As Steele shows me around, nothing about how he interacts with the flowers and vegetables says novice. But a novice he is. Forced off the road from his Luther Vandross Tour by the pandemic, Steele found refuge in gardening in 2020. He was among the few who knew immediately that the pandemic “was a God thing.” So, with packed audiences gone and booked dates canceled, Steele acquiesced to God and the quiet that awaited him at home. His perfect place to become one with the quiet was often in the process of gardening. “I would come out and garden, and God would speak to me about my life, my attitude, and who I am.” With the energy of sweet surrender still emanating from Steele, he continued reflecting. “I went through this whole transition and cleansing. I forgave people. I became more connected to myself.”

The connections didn’t stop there, though. The closeness Steele experienced with God as he gardened led to a greater connection to the earth and the environment. I was curious; I had to know how plants and gardening benefit the environment from Steele? And as if he somehow knew my question was coming, he took me to school: “Plants are life. They are the air we breathe. They breathe in what we breathe out. We breathe in what they give off. They give us oxygen, and we give them carbon dioxide. The earth feeds us. The earth has given us all this stuff (he motions at our surroundings), and we trash it. I feel that the earth is cringing, and I want to bring myself back in harmony with the earth and with God.”

Honoring the earth’s offerings is what environmental stewardship is about, and Steele wants us to know that we have this time, right here and right now, to make better decisions regarding the environment. As the gifted writer of the infamous song “Here and Now”; (the song that went on to win music sensation Luther Vandross his first Grammy), and also known as the guy who cooked side by side with music icon Patti Labelle in her kitchen, I asked Steele, as we ended our conversation, to pair music and gardening. His heartwarming response: “I like walking through the garden and humming. Music gives us life. Gardening gives us life. They both unite people and bring people together. I think music and gardening are the harmony of life, which is why I would love to do a garden concert and serve food one day.”

Because nature, like music, adheres to rhythm and timing, it is no wonder Steele finds joy in both.

You can follow Terry Steele on Facebook at @terry.steele.10 or on his website at terrysteelemusic.com.

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