Essentially Pop Talks to Pete Gardiner

Pete Gardiner

We introduced you to Pete Gardiner last month – now we’ve had a chance to speak to him. Enjoy!

EP: What’s the Pete Gardiner story!

PG: I’m a singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland. I’ve been writing songs for a long time. I’ve always been greatly intrigued by words. As a kid I couldn’t listen to the simplest of songs without intently examining the lyrics for some cryptic meaning. Now I’ve grown up and I’ve got my own words. I’ve spent the last 10 years writing about what goes on around me; the situations I’m going through or people close to me are going through, relationships, love affairs, hate affairs, the general mystery of the opposite sex, news stories that have made me think for a minute and really anything that’s been interesting enough to comment on.

Music has had a profound effect on me from about the age of 6, when I first heard Slash play the opening 3 chords of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ . Bands like Guns N Roses and Aerosmith really fascinated me. I started playing guitar when I was 13, started writing my own songs when I was around 16. I met a guy called Paul Steen around then and we formed a rock band together. I went through a few different phases and styles but the one thing that stayed consistent was my love of trying to put lyrics together in an interesting way. When the band broke up I started focusing on acoustic songwriting while Steen developed an interest in music production and the two of us have been recording together ever since.

Our hard work paid off in the form of a recording contract offered to me by NUA Entertainment last August. I was afforded the opportunity to leave the day job I worked in the bank and I’m now based in London and gigging almost every night.

EP: Tell us about ‘Idols’.

PG: ‘Idols’ is an example of something I do quite often: Pessimistic words set to an optimistic melody. It’s a quick set of non sequiturs that all point to a plastic world full of plastic people, largely blaming our descent into the pits of social media and obsession with celebrity culture.

EP: You recently were a part of the London Mayor’s ‘London Busking Event’ – what was that all about and how did you get involved?

PG: It was National Busking Day and the London Mayor had set up an event in Trafalgar Square in which all types of buskers and performers were invited to play. The staff at the London Mayor’s office had heard about me and very kindly got in contact with NUA and invited me to play a few songs. It was a fantastic day with a great crowd.

EP: Talk us through your EP – when’s it due out, what’s it about, what should we expect from it?

PG: The EP is named ‘Idols’ after the song and it’s being released on the 28th August. As a debut release I think it largely sets the tone of what you can expect from me in the future. The threads that run through it, run through a lot of what I write. The second song ‘Doorstep Riots’ is another cynical yet upbeat commentary on life in Belfast. It actually started off as a song that could be about anywhere where kids get paid less every time the price of something goes up, but the second verse is specific to home. I think ‘Angel Faces’ and ‘Just Like You’  (the other two songs on the EP), are good at demonstrating how relationships are never black and white, and how romance doesn’t always live up to the way it’s portrayed in the movies, but how sometimes it’s even better. I think the EP covers the angles that need covered for people to get a fair first impression of what I’m doing.

EP: Who were your musical heroes growing up? Do you have any now? If so, who are they and why?

PG: Growing up I always preferred bands that were a little before my time. I had a real thing for the 80s bands like Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Poison etc, that was introduced to me by an older cousin. Those bands will always have a special place with me, but as my interest in writing deepened I became drawn to something else.

I didn’t realise it when I was a kid but I have been constantly surrounded by lyrical excellence all my life. Both my parents were avid fans of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen since their teens. I’d grown up with their music but I didn’t really ‘hear’ it until I was 19 or 20 and I watched the ‘Dylan at Newport’ film. Stephen Tyler and Axl Rose taught me how to write songs like a real smart-ass, but Bob Dylan was something entirely different… he was a genius and a smart-ass. I knew words were important and could make you feel a certain way but not at this level of intensity. So over the next few years I dove into his extensive back catalogue, absorbing each album slowly and carefully until I was sure I hadn’t missed anything important.

Leonard Cohen has his own thing. I don’t think his room has ever been as big as Dylan’s but it’s equally well decorated. His lyrics are a smooth blend of confession, religion, self investigation, love and sex that always seem to leave me craving a stiff drink. Cohen is a very special human being that I spend a lot of time with these days.

Bruce Springsteen is like the super hero of songwriters. When I hear him telling his stories I can hear somebody who uses songwriting to get something off his chest the way I do. Whether it’s the street poet, underdog, rock n’ roll on ‘Born To Run’, or the stripped back folk of ‘Tom Joad’  He hasn’t put out a single record I don’t love. When he sings, whether you’re watching him live in concert, watching him on your computer or listening to a recording, he makes an undeniable connection with you. That doesn’t come along very often.

EP: Do you think life in Belfast has changed since you were growing up there?

PG: I come from a town just outside of Belfast. When I was a child I was kept away from it. My only personal memory that relates directly to the troubles is of a local restaurant of ours being bombed in the early 90s. Luckily no lives were lost.

There have always been, and probably will always be isolated groups who are involved in that sort of thing, but they’ve never reflected how the communities really feel about each other. Catholics and Protestants have always gotten along with each other in Northern Ireland and the troubles didn’t change that.

But the answer to the question is yes. Belfast has changed. The isolated groups who have been invested in hatred for such a long time are becoming more tolerant of one another and as the years go by you can feel things getting better. It’s been completely modernised and it is now more of a tourist attraction rather than somewhere to be avoided.

EP: What advice do you have for anyone getting into the music industry?

PG: I don’t know if I’m qualified to advise anybody on getting into it. Maybe I will be one day. I didn’t really decide to get into it. I write songs because if I didn’t I would go insane. The industry’s incidental. I’m very lucky in that the people I’ve ended up working with are good guys. I’m with a team that want to make this work for the right reasons, so I guess you need to be a good judge of character when you get involved with something you don’t fully understand.

EP: Three songs/artists that move you right now?

PG: ‘Dead Man Walkin’ by Springsteen

‘She Moved through the Fair’ by Cara Dillon

‘Secret Love’ by Stevie Nicks

EP: Where will you be in 5 years?

PG: I put a lot of energy into not thinking about things like that. It’s dangerous to expect anything, and if you don’t, you have a better chance of being pleasantly surprised by life. I was working in a bank for 9 years and if someone had told me a year ago that I’d be a full time musician living in London soon, I would have laughed in their face. But I know I’ll be writing songs no matter what happens.

EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?

PG: My shoe size…

Pete Gardiner’s EP will be available to purchase on 28th August. For more information visit Pete’s Official Website.

Pete Gardiner - Idols - Official Music Video - HD

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email

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