Today’s track of the day comes from Pete Gardiner with ‘Pretty Smiles’, which is taken from his forthcoming debut album due for release later this year.
Following on from the success of his debut offering ‘All These Things’, this track is surely going to generate more interest in the singer-songwriter who is beginning to build a steady following thanks to his gigging around the country. ‘Pretty Things’ is another well-crafted pop song which will pull on the heart strings, with its twinkling percussion, swaying rhythms, singalong chorus and alluring vocal delivery. In the same way as his musical heroes, Gardiner strives to bring greater meaning to stories of everyday life through his lyrics, in this case the pitfalls of a romantic relationship.
‘Pretty Smiles’ is taken from the artists forthcoming debut album produced by Mercury Prize winner Tommy McLaughlin from Villagers. The album is due for release later this year and mixed by hitmaker Ash Howes – who worked on singles for Ellie Goulding, One Direction, Kylie Minogue and Dido.
Before his full band performance at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney, London on September 12th, we caught up with the songsmith to hear about the track and what else is coming up…
Hi Pete, can you tell us a bit about ‘Pretty Smiles’?
It was inspired by someone I knew a long time ago. She affected me in a way that probably only one or two women ever will. Timing and circumstance were never on our side so we couldn’t get together. We had an attraction, and an idea of one another that was never spoiled by the mundane realities of being in a long term relationship. I have a feeling that true romance only exists in this kind of environment, otherwise it’ll likely die a death during the course of a happy marriage.
What influences you as a songwriter?
When I was seventeen every girl I had a crush on was about ten years too old for me, and they were all barmaids. It turns out that when you pine after women you don’t have a chance with, you start to get pretty good at writing songs. That’s how it started. I also wrote about anything that was going on around me. My friends’ lives were as interesting as anything you’ll see on television and I had an easy time putting it all into words. It’s been that way ever since.
Since then I’ve branched out a bit. I worked in a bank for some years and my day to day interactions with customers in the face of recession and other hardships influenced me to write songs like “Hard Days” and “Crime Scene” which will appear on my upcoming album. “Ashtray Black” which will also be on the album, is a song that’s important to me and it came from the untimely death of a neighbour of ours back home. The songs will come from any situation that has a certain degree of meaning. The material is always there, it’s the ability to write about it well that comes and goes.
How would you describe your music to those who haven’t heard it?
I try to make sure each song has something to say, some sort of urgency in the lyrics that people can latch onto. Melodically speaking I’d say it’s very straight forward and accessible, solid acoustic pop/rock. A lot of people have commented on the Americana feel to the music. I never owned a Lloyd Cole record or even listened to one… but I sure do get compared to him a lot. I’m told it’s a compliment.
Who are your big musical influences?
My biggest inspiration comes from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen. They certainly take up a lot of space on my iPod. I love Joni Mitchell too.
Modern singers like Foy Vance and Father John Misty seem to be a beacon of hope for anyone who despairs at what constitutes a song at the minute. I have a lot of time for those guys.
I like Sunset Strip rock bands from the 80s like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses,. I like grunge bands from the 90s like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. I listen to the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows a lot. I like the blues singer Bessie Smith from the 40s. I like Frank Sinatra. I guess I’m all over the place. It depends on what the weather’s like and what mood I’m in. Let’s just say I’m influenced by a lot of people.
What was it like to work with big names like Tommy McLaughlin and Ash Howes? Did they have a big impact on your creative process?
It was great working with Tommy. He brought musicians in from his band Villagers to play drums and Bass. We also had the exquisite piano skills of Michael Keeney and it was great for me to watch musicians of that calibre interpret the songs I’d written. Ash remixed a few songs later on and I wasn’t there during the process. We corresponded by email. Later on I went to his studio and wrote a song with him. He’s a great guy. Very easy to work with and his mixes are terrific.
Neither Tommy nor Ash had a great deal of impact on my creative process. The songs were written beforehand. The lyric writing especially is normally a very personal thing for me and solitude is sometimes required to really get down to what I want to say. Once I have the lyrics and the basic arrangement down, I go over them with a friend/producer back home called Paul Steen who helps me with the instrumentation, mood and presentation of the songs.
What else have you got coming up that people should know about?
There’s also a film called “Property of the State” coming out in October. I co-wrote the title track with composer Pol Brennan from the band Clannad who did the score for the entire film. The film is great and I’m very proud to have my voice at the end of it. I can’t wait for people to see it.
This Pete Gardiner article was written by Suzanne Oswald