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The Ride Of His Life

Tommy Shane Steiner's father was a rodeo star, and so was his mother. The Steiner family's hallowed rodeo heritage goes back to his great-grandfather, and also includes Tommy's younger brother, Sid.

So why isn't Tommy in the family business?

"I'm the smart one!" he laughs. "The truth is that I wanted to be a bull rider, but Dad pretty much put a stop to that. He read off a list of bones he had broken and told me, 'One day you'll be 40, and you don't want to have to crawl out of bed.' "

So Tommy picked a slightly safer profession: country singer. His career choice appears to be paying off so far -his hit "What If She's An Angel" has zoomed into the Top 30 like a bronco busting out of the gate.

Tommy admits that the immediate success of the song has taken him by surprise: "My mom asked if this is a dream come true, and I said, 'No, you have to have thought about it first for it to be a dream come true!' There's no way you can prepare for stuff like that."

Tommy was prepared for the traveling life of a musician - after being born in Austin, where he still lives, he spent much of his childhood roaming the country with the rodeo. "It's kind of like the circus, except with bulls," he chuckles.

But when his father talked him out of pursuing the rodeo life, Tommy discovered singing. He was invited to perform one or two songs with a friend's group - but one thing led to another, and soon he was fronting the band. "Eventually I just decided to go out to Nashville and see what I could do," he explains.

Tommy's shows in Music City caught the ear of RCA Records, and before he knew it he was making his debut album. He was able to attract some big-name guests, too: Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Lonestar's Richie McDonald and actress Bridgette Wilson all appear on the album. "I'm all about helping the little people," he declares with a laugh. "Seriously, I've been lucky to meet up with a bunch of people that have wanted to make this thing really, really good."

But even with a hit blazing up the charts and some high-profile help on his side, Tommy is keeping his hopes realistic.

"I'm just taking it one song at a time," he says. "I won't pretend this thing is gonna go on forever, because it's not. So I'm gonna enjoy every second as if it were the last."

-- Chris Neal