How did it come to this?
A Yorkshireman, now living in Hertfordshire, Steve Gardner is, as a musician, an amateur in every sense, in that: it’s not how he makes his living, he shows no signs of professionalism and, above all, he’s in it purely for love.
A couple of years ago, plucking away at a couple of songs he’d written, he started to ponder how much better they sounded in his head than in his ears. It dawned on him that if these songs were ever going to make it in the world, they needed some juice.
To bring them to life, to make them rock, he needed help.
The night before, he’d been to a Chuck Prophet show in London. Which rocked.
Steve knew that Chuck produces other artists from time to time. And if there was a truffle in the earth, he’d sniff it out. In a burst of naïve optimism, Steve blurted out an email, attaching the words to a song about a faded rock star, asking Chuck if he’d be interested in helping out. “I’m up for anything” came the reply, “This is the kind of meat I gobble up”.
Eventually a session was planned and Steve turned up in San Francisco in February 2015 with the remnants of his naïve optimism and a plan to record a 4 song EP with Chuck, co-producer Matt Winegar and Chuck’s renowned touring band, The Mission Express.
Never having played with a band before, this was much the same as dreaming of playing in the FA Cup Final then waking up to find you’ve got your boots on and you’re lining up in the tunnel beside your heroes. Only when the whistle blows, you remember that you’re no better, or fitter than you were when you went to bed.
Under such tender care, the 4 tracks were bagged before the last afternoon of studio time was spent. To fill the time, Chuck decided to wrestle one more song to the ground – somehow turning a whimsical, almost novelty folk song into a ferocious ‘1978 Stiff Records’ rocker. “That’s great” said Steve “but my daughter’s going to kill me. She told me before I left, “Don’t let Chuck ruin that song!” and she’s going to hate it”. “We’re making music, not friends” said stone-faced drummer, Vicente. But Chuck softened and they did a country version.
With the week just about used up, just before Steve slipped back into the real world, Chuck pointed out, “We’ve got 6 tracks. We only need 4 more and it’s an album!” Well, that’s easier said than done for an amateur.
But irresistible, for all that. So, a year on, 6 fresh songs and another week of early Spring in the Noe Valley. Throw in a couple of inspired contributions from horn maestro Ralph Carney And, what do you know? That diffident, English bedroom-strummer strides off with a full on Californian rock album.
Would he mind if it turned out to be little more than a memento from a geek-holiday of a lifetime? Well, not really. But then he wouldn’t be tugging your coat about it if that was all there was to it.
Musically varied, lyrically interesting and original, Bathed In Comfort vibrantly captures a joyful collaboration between an enthusiastic amateur and a bunch of masterful, generous professionals.