Pete Gardiner is back with a great new song and a stunning black and white video to promote it. Having taken a new direction with his record company, this new release represents something closer to Pete’s vision of how his music should sound and is a beautiful song that highlights Pete’s lyricism and musicality to great effect.
We have always been fans of Pete’s music and were lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions. In much the same way as his music, Pete’s answers are thoughtful and insightful. I hope you enjoy it!
EP: Hi Pete, it’s always a pleasure to chat with you but especially exciting now as you release new music. I’ve just watched the video of ‘Who Do You Belong To’ and it perfectly captures the lyricism of the song. Tell us about the new release and what or who inspired it?
PG: Hi Steve, it’s always a pleasure to chat with you too. I wrote this one shortly after I moved from my little town in Northern Ireland to the slightly larger city of London. It started off the way it always does with me trying to put down a couple of sentences that sound interesting, but the meanings revealed themselves when I was about two verses in.
I think of it as an ode to any girl I had a connection with back home over the last ten years. It’s one last love letter to anyone who left a mark on me. I’ve never been a Casanova or a ladies man by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been lucky…or unlucky enough to catch a few brief glimpses of that type of romance that lives up to what you’re brought up by Hollywood to believe romance is supposed to be, and you write a lot of songs trying to capture that. When I moved away I just had this nagging feeling that I hadn’t written something that closes that chapter of my life properly, so I think that’s what I was doing with this song. The problem is, when you try to sum up a decade of sporadic, doomed, alcohol fuelled love affairs in 3 minutes you’re never really sure if you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think I got pretty close though.
EP: I guess this will be one of the tracks on album number two? How’s work on that going Pete, do you have plenty of material for a second release?
PG: I never have plenty of material. I’m always just scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get something finished. I’m not terribly prolific. I’ve been writing for so long now that the songs have piled up and there’s a lot lying around, but the truth is I can maybe write four or five songs a year that I’m not embarrassed to let people hear. I have enough of a backlog to fill an album or maybe even two, but I’m not convinced the combination of songs would be right. When I put out another album I want it to be coherent, with everything sounding like it was written on the same day about the same people in the same town. Because of the new ways people are listening to music it’s unfortunately more practical to focus on singles at the moment. I’ll be releasing one every couple of months as consistently as I can for the foreseeable future. When it gets to the point where the well has dried up again I’ll put them all together and hopefully end up with an album I’m very proud of.
EP: I notice that you have changed production on this new track. Is that a one off or a determined move away from the style of ‘Ashtray Black’?
PG: To be honest I’m not happy with the production on ‘Ashtray Black’. The record company I signed with before moving to London were very good to me and they financed the album. But in hindsight I feel like I rushed into the whole enterprise. I was so eager to get the thing recorded, I feel like I wound up working with the wrong producer for the project. He was technically brilliant but it just wasn’t the right fit and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I didn’t have a crystal clear vision of how I wanted to be represented on the recordings. As a result, I think something in the songs got lost and any grittiness or rawness that the lyrics had were drowned out. This new single is an attempt to wipe the slate clean, start over and get back to the simple sound that worked for me before I left Northern Ireland.
EP: Your first long player ‘Ashtray Black’ was filled with some incredible music written over a period of time. Have your influences changed since you wrote those songs and if so what’s driving you at the moment?
PG: Well the subject matter never changes in any serious way. There’s a handful of things that move you in life and the songs just keep revolving around them. It’s more the approach to the subject matter that alters and matures. My surroundings and relationships have changed entirely since I wrote the songs that made up Ashtray Black and that’s helped move things along. As beautiful and complex as they were, I’d really gotten all the songs I could from the waitresses that worked in the three bars that make up my home town of Newtownards, and I needed to see the way things were in a big city to write what I’ve written since.
It’s an interesting time for politics, and If you listen closely to anything i’ve written, somewhere in amongst all the sensationalised heartache, you’ll hear a hint of social commentary. That might creep into the songs more and more in the near future, because the problem I’m facing now is that I’ve met someone really wonderful who makes me very happy, and I’m not sure how capable or convincing a lamenter I can be in these bizarre circumstances. She did kindly offer to break things off with me if I’m really stuck for material. I’ll let you know if it comes to that.
EP: I’m always bugging you to open up your soul to Country music 🙂 What are the chances?
PG: Haha, well there’s a lot about that genre that appeals to me, but my soul’s a very crowded place! I think if I’m going to contribute anything to Country music, it will to write a song either with, or for a Country artist who can do something with it. Liv Austen is a fantastic singer songwriter and she’s coming up on the London Country scene. She and I wrote a couple of great songs together and I hope she puts them out someday.
I also wrote a couple of songs in the country vein for a Nashville song plugger last year who’s pitching them to artists over there to sing. I certainly want to do more of that. But that’s as far as I can take it. If you’re asking me if I could put on the boots and the hat and start talking with an accent…the answer is yes, but not in public. I couldn’t put myself out there as a Country singer because it would be dishonest. There’s already a lot of dishonesty in that genre that you have to wade your way through to get to the good stuff and I wouldn’t want to add to it.
EP: The collaborative style of Country music, I think, would help bring your beautiful lyrics and poignant story telling to a whole new market, and a market that loves three chords and the truth. You tell six string love stories, did your recent trip to the States offer any inspiration on this account?
PG: There’s definitely a crossover somewhere between what I do and what comes out of Country music. There are similar themes and I like the wit and humour that goes with that territory. But there are also big differences that keep a barrier between what I do and what’s considered Country. When you listen to a Country song, you know exactly where you are. You know who the heroes and villains are and you know when the story’s over. When I write something, it usually means something different to everyone who’s listening, (if it means anything at all). I don’t tend to write stories in terms of straightforward timelines and narratives. Everything’s all over the place because I usually feel like everything’s all over the place.
It was really interesting for me to work with writers in Nashville this year, but the approach to getting a song finished over there is alien to me. You sit in a room with a couple of people for a day and at the end of the day you’ve got a song. It was a fantastic exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I couldn’t write like that on a regular basis. It just takes me a lot longer to get to the heart of what I want to say. I wrote a song called James Dean once that took me two years to finish because I had to wait for the right combination of words to fall into place. I could have finished it a hundred times and got it done but if I can’t fool myself into thinking it’s right I don’t expect to fool anyone else.
EP: I recently saw up and coming Country singer Catherine McGrath play at two festivals on main stage where she said she’s wants to write with as many different people as possible. She hails from Rostrevor and you from just 40 miles away in Newtownards, both in Northern Ireland and now you’re both based in London building careers and songwriters. Have your paths ever crossed ? Could this be musical fate?
PG: I’ve heard of Catherine. She’s doing incredibly well and it’s nice to see such a talented young woman from Northern Ireland getting that kind of recognition. I’ve heard a couple of her songs and she’s definitely got something. Our paths haven’t crossed yet, and I’m sure she’ll survive if they never do, but I’d certainly be open to writing with her if the opportunity came along. I don’t know about musical fate but I’m sure I could contribute something towards what she’s doing. My favourite person to write with is Liv Austen who I mentioned before and I think her and Catherine’s styles are very similar.
EP: Looking forward, what can we expect from Pete Gardiner in the future? Are there any upcoming gigs arranged where we can catch you performing?
PG: I haven’t been gigging as much as I used to recently because I’ve been spent the last few months making the transition to a new record label and writing new songs and reassessing everything. But now I feel like I’m getting thins back on track to some degree and I intend to start playing in London more frequently again. I recently played two shows at The Spice of Life in Soho and I’m sure I’ll be back there soon. I think the next time you see me perform will be at Milk Fest at The Milk House in Kent. I hope you can make it.
EP: Well, thanks Pete for your answers. I have to confess I’m a huge fan of the poetry in your lyrics and can’t wait to hear what else you have to offer. Good luck and see you very soon.
PG: Thank you Steve, you’re continued support is greatly appreciated and it’s always a pleasure to talk with you.