INTERVIEW WITH STEADMAN FROM TheCelebrityCafe.com ARCHIVES
DM) How did you get your start in music?
SS) I think my first stage appearance was at a small festival. My Mum (Maggie) was singing a song called “Black Crow” in front of a few hundred people and I was watching from the wings. I happened to spot a huge basket labeled “Props”, inside weirdly enough was a crow costume. I slipped it on and ran on stage flapping about behind her. The audience were laughing, she couldn’t figure out why and I made my debut aged 10.
Maggie also used to run various Folk Clubs around London and she would always hassle me to sing a song with her, I finally gave in, realized, “Hey this isn’t so bad after all, in fact I kinda like it!” and the next week I was singing Prince songs and met a girl, “Wow the Music biz is great” I thought!
Aged 16 I moved to Hastings, a seaside town on the South of England, where my musical education really began. I didn’t know anybody so I just sat in my room, played guitar, and wrote songs about how I’d just moved to this town and didn’t know anybody. I then started college and came in contact with other musicians. My first band “Bluestone Mor” was a Pink Floydalike rock outfit formally known as “The Flaming Duvet’s (In the States that would read “The Flaming Quilts”) Don’t ask! It was all part of my education. I shared the song-writing with the guitarist and soon realized I didn’t want to share the song-writing with anyone. Selfish maybe but Steadman and Cutmore doesn’t have quite the same ring as Lennon and McCartney. besides I didn’t need any help. After Various failed stabs at getting a band together (“Si and the Family Stoned, Henry and The Cereal Killers, The Sons of Scrimm” to name but a few). I finally settled with a bunch of musicians I could rely on and so began The Dharmas. I really found my song-writing feet with this band. it was our life for 5 years and we lived with each other and talked about little else. A major record label came along and made life difficult for a few years but that hasn’t stopped me.
I never really thought about making money from it as it’s not an issue when you’re a songwriter, it’s more of a plus. Songwriting is something I’ve always done and will always do. I don’t do anything else other than watch the odd movie, take the odd walk, write the odd song, Love an odd girl and I swim on Saturday’s. I’m hoping to live in the States one day When it lets me.
DM) You were mentioning your mother, was your mom encouraging of your career?
SS) I don’t think I would of got a guitar out and sung without my mothers influence. She was a stereotypical hippie and I was her hippie child. We went to festivals, lived in squats, shared a house with Rasta’s. I smoked my first joint with her and she let me watch porn with my friends in my room, when I was at that curious age. Her open-mindedness and the freedom she gave me was paramount to making me me. She didn’t so much encourage me as make it compulsory.
DM) She let you watch porn with your friends and introduced you to pot? That seems a bit unusual. Did you ever regret not having a “Leave it to Beaver” type of mom?
SS) The unusual becomes usual when you lived with it for a few years. I used to think everyone else’s parents were weird. Still do! I never craved a “normal” upbringing, because I’d never had one. The only time I felt embarrassed by her and how she looked, was at parent evening’s at school. She’d try extra hard to outrage and get a reaction. I wouldn’t of minded, but I used to get ribbed for it by the other kids at school. It didn’t help that we lived right opposite the school and everyone could see in our front room window. The tie-dyed curtains and the give peace a chance stickers provided the school kids with much entertainment at my expense. I don’t regret any of it now though. It was character building if anything.
DM) And is your mom still around? What’s her reaction to your career/life now?
SS) She is still around and I’ve also got a six year old sister now, which is cool. She’s very supportive and has never told me to go and get a proper job. She comes to whatever gigs she can, and has been known to come and sing a song with me on stage. She’s quite a hip lady. I think my sister will be following in both our footsteps as she likes an audience.
DM) What’s the audience’s reaction to mom singing on stage with you?
SS) It’s only happened at hometown gigs, so the audience are usually friends. She hasn’t done it for a while.
DM) Are other record companies interested in you now?
SS) We had a lot of “interest” recently, but experience has taught us not to get too excited about “interest”. We’re not actively looking for a deal, but they seem to be coming to us and that’s fine.
DM) What is the story behind Steadman?
SS) Try and picture the scene. Six friends get a band together. Why? because it’s fun. The chemistry’s right. The music is good. What next? We do some gigs. The buzz is amazing. The response is wild. We wanna do this forever! Ok then, we need a manager. Steve walks into our lives. He’s as green as we are but boy is he determined. Just what we need. Musicians are notoriously lackadaisical. Steve works his butt off. We go in the studio. We get three thousand cassettes made, and hit the Glastonbury Festival. We smuggle in a sound system and generator, find an empty stage, run by the oldest hippie ever. He say’s “Go for it!” We Do.
We christen it The Blaggers Stage and we do 7 shows in 4 days. We put stickers in every toilet (at eye level – if you know what I mean). Every tree has a poster and we perform daily sessions on the festival radio station. We are a small unknown band making very big waves. We go from playing to a hundred people on the first night to around three thousand by the last show (no-one counted). We sell out of cassettes and the 500 T shirts we had made. What Next? an independent record company (Rhythm King – home to Echobelly, Betty Boo, S-Express – British acts you’ve possibly never heard of) spend eighteen months thinking about whether to sign us or not. We don’t care though. We’re having too much fun. We’re playing four or five times a week all over the country and meeting all the friendly weirdoes and eccentrics life on the road has to offer……….
They sign us. We put out a single. it goes to number seven in the Indie charts. We put out another single it gets to number 13 (Unlucky?). Then we hear of THE MERGER. A major record company (Arista UK – home to Whitney Houston, Puff Daddy, TLC – American acts you possibly have heard of.) are buying Rhythm King and the head of Rhythm King (We’ll call him Richie Rich) is hired to run Arista UK. Boy we’re excited. With more money to spare we are put in the studio to record our debut album. We spend six weeks at two of the most expensive studios in the country and come out with an album we’re very proud of. Some record company representatives come and hear it and one cry’s tears of Joy.
After delay upon delay, we begin to think something is up. A couple of bands that signed at the same time as us are dropped. So far we are safe. Through the grapevine we discover that the head of the company (Richie) is being accused of embezzling funds. He is sacked. Then we hear of THE CLEAR OUT. More bands are dropped, more staff are sacked and our contract is up for reappraisal. Uh Oh!
The inevitable happens. We lose our contract. Our album is put on the shelf and we go into a lengthy legal battle to get our songs back. Eighteen month’s later we get our songs back. Two members are disillusioned enough with the music industry to leave the band. The remainders carry on regardless and perform under the new name Steadman. Hard times = Great songs, and I write tons of them. Now free and easy we launch our album Loser Friendly to the world via the Internet. Wish us luck and please buy the album.
DM) What is your songwriting process?
SS) My moods are heavily influenced by songwriting. If I haven’t written a song for a while I get very irritable and even slightly depressed it’s as though my worth is justified to me by the next song I write. When I have completed a song, and so long as I’m happy with it, I couldn’t possibly feel more alive and positive. I hope I don’t sound too pretentious saying this. I really do live for the next song and it is my reason for getting up in the morning. And that’s the truth, Ruth! Sorry, I mean Jodi!
I never sit down and say “I’m gonna write a song now and it’s gonna be about…….”. I don’t work like that. I just have to make sure I’m playing my guitar or working on the computer as often as possible, so that I’m always there, armed and ready to catch it. I don’t fully understand it myself. Sometimes I’ll sit there and nothing happens, nada, zip zilch. I couldn’t be less inspired. Then BANG! for some reason a chord and melody catch my ear and I’m away. There’s no stopping me. I’ve noticed that the best songs are always the ones I write quickly, almost without thinking. That say’s to me that I’m not really in command.
The lyrics are irrelevant at first. I always start with the chords and melody. Then when I have some direction, I record myself scat singing on to my dictaphone, making up words to fit the melody. Then when I listen back, I’ll find that I said a word or phrase, which feels naturally, suited to the melody. The theme and words then fly out quite easily. Don’t get me wrong though, I have written some s— in the past. I can usually tell if a song’s going nowhere and I’ve got quite a large catalogue of half written musical explorations into hell.
A couple of the songs are set off by particular incidents. A song called Red, which may be on the next album is about a very close friend who is HIV positive and one the last songs I wrote is about the negative/unfriendly/too cool for you attitude of some musicians and was spurred by a recent experience I had.
I’ve always tried to be super honest in my songs as they are my only release and I’d only be lying to myself if I wasn’t. I don’t care if I give too much of a personal insight into my thoughts and feelings. songs should be about sharing and relating experiences. I want to hit a nerve. I want to see honest emotion, I want to make people cry. that’s far more satisfying than a thousand good reviews.
DM) What has been the strong reaction you’ve had from a fan to one of your songs?
SS) I don’t know about fans reactions but a friend of mine who I wrote “Cut Me Loose” for, can’t listen to it without crying. I haven’t yet heard about anyone sacrificing a lamb or murdering a celebrity because my song told them to. But I’ll let you know if it happens.
DM) That must be satisfying knowing that you hit the mark on that song for the friend?
SS) It was a total buzz for me. Music should uplift. Whether you’re dancing to it at a party or you’re in a darkened room with your headphones on, it can cure you, remind you, support you and unite you for a while. It plays such an important part in everyone’s lives. Even if you’re just walking past a radio, a good song can take you away and lift you up. I aspire to get close to this with Steadman. It’s not for me to say whether we do or not.
DM) What’s the biggest show you’ve done?
SS) As the Dharmas, we did a huge amount of big shows. Mostly festivals. I think the biggest festival crowd we played in front of was at one of the Heineken Music Festivals. We were told there were some where in the region of 10,000 people looking our way.
We also headlined the Avalon stage at Glastonbury and squeezed around 3000 people into the tent. All there specifically to see us. Which was cool. There are too many to mention. Most of our gigs were festivals around the UK but we also played in virtually every venue in the UK. And every University. I wish I’d kept a log of all the disgusting dressing rooms we’ve had to use. It could be a useful guide for any US bands touring over here. The only advice I can give is, bring incense sticks and/or air fresheners, particularly the Cavern in Exeter.