© Stu@rt Slater Photography
© Stu@rt Slater Photography

Behind the Music: Inside Conversations with Stonewall Gardens

In the afterglow of the lockdown, artists across the world found ways to express themselves and connect with audiences. Among the artists taking a leap into the new normal was musician and writer Bobby Ward and his band Stonewall Gardens which will feature on Chili Pepper TV. The network, spotting the potential of a return to greatness, decided to create a fly-on-the-wall rockumentary with the band back in rehearsals. But this wasn’t just a hastily made project; it was a year in the making.

The crew dedicated their time and energy, attending every rehearsal, cameras in tow. For fans and onlookers, it’s a treasure trove – footage of every rehearsal, available for streaming on Chilli Pepper TV later this year, it offers an intimate view of the band’s journey – from learning and perfecting songs to navigating the changes within the band.

The music ensemble, formed a year prior, was an outcome of Chili Pepper TV’s initiative. But like any group, there were changes. A bass guitarist left and was replaced, introducing a dynamic energy to the band. This current format boasted talents like Sara, a phenomenal drummer; Hayley, whose backing vocals added depth; Simon’s guitar prowess; Wes’s bass tunes; and the 12-string acoustic guitar, the blues harp and piano contribution played by Bobby.

All of this was captured, creating a tapestry of the band’s evolution. As the months rolled on, the videos were finally made available for public consumption. It’s raw, unfiltered, and genuine – aptly described as “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” or “Warts and All.”

Beyond the rehearsals, Bobby expressed his love for songwriting. His creative process is spontaneous, often waking up at the odd hours with a tune or lyrics in mind. One such spontaneous creation, “Bonjour (oo la la)”, was penned in half an hour and recorded at Phil Saatchi’s studio in Forest Row. With its upbeat and fun rhythm, there were aspirations to enter it into the Eurovision Song Contest. Despite the challenges in penetrating the Eurovision market, there’s no doubt about its infectious appeal.

Another hit, “Hey You”, brings a funk vibe reminiscent of Nile Rogers. The song has been rehearsed extensively over seven months, boasting a lively sound that promises to be as exciting live as it is recorded.

Besides these two, the band’s repertoire is expanding, with tracks like “Point of View”, “Rock Revival Band”, “Smile”, and “Hey Georgia”, along with more in the pipeline currently being polished during rehearsals.

The journey, however, hasn’t been without its challenges. The previous year saw a setback when numerous band members contracted COVID, including Bobby, Haley, and Simon. This hiatus momentarily disrupted the flow, but they’re back in action now, looking forward to gig season, which is expected to kick off around September.

Looking back, Bobby’s previous bands have had an impressive track record, performing at significant venues like the Brighton Centre, Concorde2, Europe, along with Glastonbury, open air concerts and multiple London venues including Brixton Academy. While there’s a shared sentiment about not returning to the pub gig circuit, they acknowledge the importance of places like the Half Moon in Putney – a mecca for musicians.

Within the rich tapestry of stories, Bobby also mentions the cover of, “Ruby Tuesday”. Something he is very proud of, garnering thousands of views on YouTube after securing the copyrights from The Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger, which shows their commitment to their craft and the industry’s nuances.

Bobby also tells us that he has been invited to the ABBA anniversary exhibition at the Brighton Museum next year, to coincide with Abba’s home country, Sweden, hosting the 2024 Eurovision song contest. Bobby was lucky enough to be at the after show party and also at The Grand Hotel when he met ABBA, drinking champagne into the early hours and rubbing shoulders with future pop stars. His story and photos will be added to the exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary since ABBA won Eurovision.

You can catch Stonewall Gardens as they perform their new and classic hits in September  – head over to www.stonewallgardens.uk for all the latest gig announcements, rehearsals and to join the band’s journey.

In essence, this narrative serves as a testament to a band’s dedication, passion, and resilience. As they continue their musical journey, one thing is clear – the world will be watching, and listening.

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