Musicians Tiki McPherson and Whitney Steele may seem like unlikely friends.
McPherson is a beloved regular at South Bay open mics, often performing original and standard gospel songs. She is a grandmother and a recovering alcoholic.
Steele is a young songstress who has shared the stage with Amy Grant, the Gin Blossoms, Kenny Loggins and Shawn Colvin. But the two met at an open mic in Hermosa Beach two years ago and found common ground in their faith.
“After hearing me perform, Whitney came up to me and said she was a passionate follower of Christ, too,” said McPherson. “She told me she was working on her first Christian CD. Whitney is an accomplished artist but her heart has always been one of worship and, with that in common we quickly became friends.”
McPherson and Steele are joining forces on Sunday, April 13 at Live at the Lounge in Hermosa Beach to perform music of worship together.
“I was five years old when I sang my first solo in church,” Steele said. “And it was that Sunday morning I realized God had given me the most incredible gift – not only the gift of music, but also a heart overwhelmed with the desire to worship Him.”
Whitney Steele. Photo by Justin Higuchi.
Steele released her first Christian album,“Beyond These Four Walls” last year with the help of a Kickstarter campaign online.
“This album has been stirring up in my heart for a very long time,” Steele said. “The 11-song album includes original songs that I have poured my heart into, like ‘Be Silent, Be Still’ and ‘Beyond These Four Walls,’ as well as my own version of one of my favorite songs of all time, ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen.”
McPherson released her first album in 2012, the Christian-themed ”Saved by Grace.” The songs, most notably the title track, were inspired by her own struggles with sobriety.
“I guess my Christian music career started one Friday night when I was driving home drunk from a karaoke happy hour,” McPherson said. “I passed by this church called Journey of Faith and the marque said ‘Why settle for just a happy hour when you can have a happy eternity?’”
The sign struck a chord in McPherson.
“I called myself a Christian but was struggling with lots of life’s hurts and was handling them with drugs and alcohol and not with the help of my higher power,” she said. “I eventually went to visit this church after I was arrested for driving under the influence. I knew I really needed to make some life changes.”
McPherson immediately felt welcomed by the congregation and began singing in the church choir.
“They welcomed me with open arms and on that first Sunday that I showed up to sing,” she said. “I arrived with a hangover. I remember feeling very convicted when I left the church after the three services and went home and sat alone on my couch crying. I fell to my knees that afternoon and ask God to please help me. I have been sober ever since that day.”
April 10 marks the eight year anniversary of that day for McPherson. Celebrating eight years of sobriety thanks to her newfound faith inspired her to collaborate with Steele for night of Christian music this month.
Far from your typical church music, both McPherson and Steele’s styles incorporate modern sound into faith-based lyrics. McPherson’s music incorporates folk and rock, and her deep, rich vocals are a perfect fit for her style. She calls it, “a little rock and roll to share the timeless message of hope.”
Steele’s music is decidedly more pop. Her wistful yet powerful voice manages to keep her songs sweet and moving while keeping a spirit of levity.
McPherson and Steele should make strong singing partners on April 13, a mix of darkness and light that embodies the message of faith they carry. It promises to be a night of powerful music, and the artists hope it will attract not only those who share their Christian faith, but also those who don’t.
Tiki McPherson and Whitney Steele perform at Live at the Lounge, 1014 Hermosa Ave. in Hermosa Beach, on Sunday, April 13 at 7:30. Doors open at 6:30 and tickets are $10. For tickets or more information, call (310) 371-1193 or visit liveatthelounge.com.