AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVE MARRIOTT JUNIOR
LEAD SINGER/GUITARIST WITH 'DARLINGS'
It was at a Small Faces fans gathering in 2008 that I first set eyes on young Steve Marriott.
Following that night, one fan observed in a blog they’d written for a Mod website, that Small Fakers, a Small Faces tribute band “were joined on stage by a young kid, who happened to be Steve Marriott’s nephew.”
This was our young Steve of course. He was at the event with his older sister Lucy and other members of the Marriott family that included siblings, Toby, Mollie, Tonya and Lesley.
I had been chatting to some of them in the upstairs bar at the venue when young Steve caught my eye. He was small in height at that time, bearing in mind he was still just 16.
I briefly said hello and my attention was drawn to the white guitar he was clutching. He looked me in the eye, and I felt an instant connection. We didn’t chat as I was unsure what to say. Apart from having worked with his uncle Steve back in 1966 and being a huge fan of the Small Faces back then too, I thought young Steve wouldn’t be interested in anything I had to say. On reflection I was completely wrong of course. This young man has plenty of things to say and is interested in many things, especially music. He has a wicked sense of humour, but he is also sensitive and has an awareness of the world way beyond his years. We have now become firm friends and he has affectionately nicknamed me The Chick.
Our brief encounter at this event was interrupted as the various bands started performing on stage. It became quite loud and was a distraction from any conversation likely to take place. Then it was announced that, next up, was Small Fakers, one of the more popular bands of the night, so we all made our way to the front of stage. The next time I saw young Steve was when he appeared on stage with his white guitar in hand.
In a conversation I had with him recently Steve laughs as he remembered being introduced by his older cousin Toby who, in true Marriott style, jokingly stuck his fingers up at the audience as he told them to give it up for Steve!
Steve looked really confident up there on that stage. I thought he was a natural and knew instantly he was destined to be a musician, performing on stage.
I got to see Steve perform a few times over the next year or so. Mostly at Small Fakers gigs when Steve would join them on stage for a couple of numbers. These were great opportunities for him to develop his musicianship, but I know now that he was looking for more out of his music than performing as a guest guitarist just because he was related to a well-known musician (his uncle Steve Marriott).
Around 2010 I started running a few of my own gigs in various clubs around central London. One of the venues was the Troubadour club in west London that has a rich musical history dating back to the 1960’s where people like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix performed.
It’s quite a small club, mostly known for its acoustic sets, but I thought it would be a good venue to give some of the bands I knew a chance to showcase their work. One of them, Connett, featuring lead singer Darren Connett, had been performing regularly on the Mod circuit. Steve had become aware of them too so asked me if he could come along to the gig to see them. For some reason the timings on stage that night were running late and Steve was concerned he’d miss his last train home. I had travelled to the venue with my husband Phil in our car, so we assured Steve not to panic and offered to give him a lift to the station in east London as it was on our way home anyway. But soon after dropping him off we got a phone call from him saying he’d missed the train and although there was a bus station close by with a night bus service back to near where he lived, we were not comfortable leaving Steve to face that journey on his own. The motherly instinct kicked in for me, and I thought that his mum may be worried. I remembered when my own children were teenagers on a night out and as a parent you can’t rest until you know they are home safe.
So, we turned the car around and headed back to pick Steve up and decided to take him back with us. He messaged his mum to let her know what was happening and assure her all was ok.
Steve remembered the incident when I got to interview him recently and told me he was really cool about the whole thing of being stranded and coming back with us to stay. Especially as it turns out he was still at school and this meant a day off the next day, so he wasn’t fazed by it at all. This reminded me of his uncle Steve Marriott who was well known for not being keen on school!
Steve and I kept in contact regularly chatting about his ambitions relating to music as well as his influences and heroes. One of them was Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. Steve revealed he was hoping he would one day get to meet him. Then a chance arose in 2009 when it was announced The Faces were reforming, for one night only, at a charity concert taking place at the Royal Albert Hall on October 25th. Rod Stewart was unable to be at that concert, but it was planned that other solo artists would cover. Ronnie Wood had of course been a band member of the Faces prior to joining The Rolling Stones and he joined the other Faces; former band mates Ian (Mac) McLagan and Kenney Jones, with Bill Wyman covering on bass.
Steve was so excited at the news that Ronnie would be there and asked me if I’d go with him to the concert. Of course, I agreed, especially as my hero and friend, drummer Kenney Jones was also on the same bill! We managed to get great seats just a few rows back from the main stage. We arrived at the venue about midday and headed for the Stage Door wondering if we’d get a glimpse of Ronnie arriving. There were lots of eager fans and autograph hunters that had gathered outside. Everyone got excited each time a car pulled up or someone with a rock star haircut came out of the stage door! Sadly, we didn’t get any sighting of Ronnie even though we were there all afternoon right until the time we needed to head inside the concert hall.
We had aisle seats, which was handy as it meant that when the Faces came on stage, we could then easily access the front of stage and join lots of other eager fans for what became a real party atmosphere. Steve was the first to make a dash and I quickly followed. It also meant I could get closer and take a few photos. After the Faces finished their set, the organisers appeared on stage.
This charity concert was called ‘Helping the Heart of Music’ and organised by the PRS (Performing Rights Society). It had been advertised as
'a unique celebration in aid of the PRS for Music Members Benevolent Fund’.
What the organisers didn’t reveal before the concert was that the Faces band members were to be given an award for their contribution to the charity. It was highlighted that the fund was still able to help Katy Lane, former wife of Faces bass guitarist Ronnie Lane, who died of MS in 1997.
Katy was also at the concert and came out on stage, joining Ronnie, Mac and Kenney when they received their awards. The show ended with all the artists joining the Faces for a grand finale!
After the show ended, we were buzzing with excitement. As we left the venue we passed the Stage Door and saw Katy Lane outside. I waved to her and she came over. I introduced her to Steve, and he said to her; “My Mum and Nan say hello. They haven’t seen you in ages.” She asked who they were, and Steve told her “Kay Marriotts.” She was genuinely delighted to meet Steve and said “So, you must be Kay’s son.” We stood there talking to Katy for a few minutes. Steve recalls that he somehow blagged his way into the after-show party. I remember Katy didn’t hesitate in helping get him backstage. She was really sweet and I was so excited for Steve, hoping he would get to meet Ronnie Wood.
I could’ve gone with him but had agreed to stay with a friend that night who’d also been at the concert. I must admit I was concerned about how Steve was going to get home safely. I had a mobile phone so was able to send him text messages, but I never heard anything back and hardly slept. Then as dawn broke, I got a phone call from him telling me about his exciting and unbelievable night. Yes, he got to meet his hero!
When I spoke to Steve recently, he talked about the events of that night in more detail:
“One minute I’m at the after-show party at the Royal Albert Hall with these people that had been playing that day, and then the next thing I’m in a car with Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, Lee McLagan (son of Ian McLagan) who was driving and his mum Sandy Sarjeant was there too. All of them on their way to a Ronnie Wood private little bash back at his hotel in Cavendish Square! Jesse Wood, Ronnie’s son, was there too.”
“I had briefly met Ronnie at the after-show party, I remember seeing him look at me and I think he was talking about me I don’t know, probably saying who’s that funny little fat geezer, as I was back then. I had a bit of a Rod/Ronnie haircut at the time. So, as I walked into Ronnie’s party, he pointed at me and said ‘Fuck me, you sure you aint mine’ coz my haircut was similar. Jesse and Lee McLagan were really nice and took me under their wing and looked after me. There was a free bar, and I could have whatever I wanted. Ronnie’s Russian girlfriend at the time Katia was there, I remember she fell into me with her nails falling between my shirt buttons and scratching my belly.” Steve laughs “She asked me, what’s your name, I said Steve and she said I’m Ekaterina, but call me Katia.”
“We chatted for a while and I saw Ronnie and Mac talking, probably catching up. Then I went to the bar to get a drink and Ronnie came up to the bar too and stood with me as he barked out his order ‘rum and coke’. Then he went back to his table leaving his drink on the bar. Being a big fan, I thought, this was a good opportunity to go over and give him his drink. So, I did that and gave him his drink and said, ‘Woody, there’s your drink there you go’. He looked at it and said ‘no, no, what’s that?’ I think he was winding me up or testing me. I replied, ‘it’s your rum and coke, you ordered it’. He replied, ‘no I ordered lemonade and rum’. At the time I’d never heard of that, but funny enough it’s my tipple now, a good combination. Anyway, I think he was winding me up. I was nearly a little arse licker, you know, sucking up to him and nearly said, ‘ok mate I’ll go and get you another one’. Then I thought”
Steve laughs again: “wait a minute, fuck off, you may be a rock star, but at this minute you’re just sitting down in a hotel lounge with me and other people, not that I’m someone, but thought, you’re not on stage now and I thought drink it or not I’m not bothered. I turned around to talk to the boys, Lee and Jesse. Next thing I look around and Ronnie’s drinking it, the fucker”. Steve continues:
“When he was leaving, he came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘it’s lovely seeing you Steve’. And I was all excited as I responded saying ‘thanks Ronnie’, I remember this so well, especially his look as I said ‘Yeah, see you again soon no doubt’. Ronnie just looked at me and said, ‘yeah alright mate’.”
Steve laughs out loud as he adds “And I haven’t seen the cunt since”
Even though meeting his hero didn’t have the ending he may have wanted, this chance meeting didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for music, which has never waned.
Over to Steve…
“I love music and knew that I always wanted to perform, from being very young. My first public performances were during my school days. I did a gig at the Half Moon in Bishop Stortford where I live, and one of my schoolteachers taught me a little bit of guitar before then, but I wasn’t doing any rock gigs or anything like that back then. It was more than an aspiration to play music and perform. I knew I always wanted to do it. “
This was an opportunity to ask him about his famous uncle, Steve Marriott, lead singer and guitarist with the Small Faces and Humble Pie a band he went on to form with Peter Frampton.
“There was no real acknowledgement by the family that my uncle Steve was famous, I just grew up knowing it and got used to it.”
Young Steve was named after his uncle of course, but never met him, as he sadly died in a house fire the year before young Steve was born.
“I got to know about him just from mum telling me stuff and her playing his music. Obviously at a young age I found it really cool to know who he was, and still do. But it had a bigger impact when I was younger. It was in the family, in the blood. As cliché as it sounds, but in this situation, it was probably one of the main reasons I was so into the music. I just have a love for all music.”
I ask Steve when the first time was he started playing guitar. He explained it was when his mum Kay got him his first real guitar for Christmas, along with a little amp and other essentials for playing. This was when he was in 7th grade at school. (11/12-year-olds).
“I was going around saying I was a guitarist but hadn’t really played that much before. When I got the guitar though I just got on with it as I’d always wanted one. My god dad Neil taught me the basic chords, including ones like All or Nothing, plus some tips on how to teach yourself. After that I just taught myself by ear. Some say it’s hard to learn, but you have to want to play and keep at it. You have to be interested. There is nothing worse than getting lessons for something you don’t want to do.”
I remember when I first saw young Steve on that stage in 2008 just how confident he looked. At such a young age to get up on stage in front of a large crowd was impressive. He looked a natural with no fear playing along with the Small Fakers. Almost like it was where he was supposed to be.
Steve laughs “That was my poker face. I was really bricking it. Still do. I always get nervous before a gig.”
He went on to explain that the band members of Darlings, his present band, all admit to being nervous when they first go on stage.
“You need to get up there and own it and enjoy it. Even from those early days until now I get nervous, but I think it’s because you want it to go well. If it doesn’t show it’s because you need to put on a front. That’s part of it. You don’t want to see someone on stage shitting themselves, you want them to own it, and enjoy it. And after the first few numbers you do.”
Steve said that often he finds some solace before going on stage, although at first his band members thought he didn’t want to hang out with them. Once he explained they were fine and admitted to feeling nervous too.
“My mate Bailey, who plays bass in the band, took it personally at first, asking me why I never used to hang out with them before a gig or after, and asked if everything was alright. But I said no, I’m fine and explained that when we’re at a small club or pub I have to remove myself from people wanting to talk to me and I shied away to be on my own, not just before, but afterwards as well. I needed that time to sort things in my head. It’s lovely that people come up to you and say things like we were really good, but I do find it hard accepting compliments.”
It's taken a while for Steve to get to this point of finding a band like Darlings that he feels comfortable with and enjoy live performances. We look back and talk about his early days of getting his first guitar.
Although Steve wasn’t keen on school, he did stay on at 6th Form. He had his sights on being involved in music, that much was certain. He toyed with the idea of doing music promotion, because at that time there weren’t many other young musicians doing what he wanted to do, especially in the small town where he lived.
“I did think how hard could this be, but it was a pain when I did. It was easy to get gigs, but everything around it, sorting out schedules with others and having people drop out of a band was stressful.”
So, then Steve looked at taking up an offer for a place at college studying music. But found it was more about production and electronics.
“For me, at the time, I just wanted to play guitar, so I left college. Fortunately, 6th Form took me back again. Then I found another really cool music course in Kilburn at the ICMP (The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance). It’s quite a prestigious music school. I passed the auditions and got into that. It was a really cool opportunity.” Steve smiles “Then within a few days I was fed up and quit. But I was always doing things like that to see if I could do it. Then I thought, no, I just need to get a band and get a job. I was tired of school by then.”
For a few years Steve performed with a number of different bands. He reflects: “Great at first, but then it’s typical of bands trying to keep up the momentum. It’s hard and life gets in the way.”
He admits though he played with some great line ups, all giving him more confidence and experience each time, helping him to develop his style. He’s had a few jobs in between to provide an income. He even trained as a Barber at one time. As he hit his early 20’s his dedication to music took a greater hold. The downside was that many musicians of his age group were in the same position, completing college courses, or going to university or working.
The first time Steve fronted a band was with Black Leather. This is when he started singing and writing music. He performed in Black Leather for one of my Galaxy Entertains nights at a small basement club in London’s Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley). Steve had done a few gigs for me in some of the bands he appeared in, one of them was a 60’s type Mod band called The Reaction. But with Black Leather it was the first time we’d seen Steve as front man and singing his own material as he was starting to experiment and develop his own music.
“Before that I’d only featured as a guitarist. I joined that band with my mate Rowan but that disbanded, again because life just got in the way. But we were always on the same level of ideas and with what we wanted to do with song writing. Then I went to the States with my mates, when I was about 20, and it was while I was travelling around all these melodies kept coming into my head. I never thought about writing a song. I’d muck about on the guitar, but never anything that I thought was decent. Then all of a sudden, melodies would approach me in my mind. At first, I thought they were songs that had come into my head (you know, from listening to stuff?) and I just started writing without realising. I didn’t have a recorder or anything and would play something to a mate and ask them to remember it. The first two songs I wrote was 'Past Futures' and '10,000 Watts', which are more kind of Kasabian inspiration songs.
After Black Leather, Steve didn’t do much, just some acoustic sets. Then a couple of years ago he started writing again.
“It was probably because I had more life experience by this time and had something to write about, like relationships. That’s how I channel my song writing, like when something happens to me emotionally, or mentally. It just happens. So now I’m on a bit of a roll and can’t stop it.”
Coming right up to date, Steve is now performing with his new band Darlings, who are fast becoming established on the music scene. Steve had his mate Rowan in the line-up, but Rowan had a change of heart during the pandemic.
“Rowan quit the band to go to Uni and he didn’t want to hold us back. He will always be a mate, but we crack on. We have Liam who has always played guitar, but also a handy man and plays keyboard/synth. So, Liam was there ready when Rowen left. He’s also played in bands before and knows what he’s doing. He’s a good add in and we all get on with him. It just feels right.”
The full line up now includes Bailey, Guy, Liam and Steve
Lockdown was a tough time for most musicians. But Steve found it quite productive, and he said he had lots of ideas. It gave him time to work on things.
“When I was working it was difficult to do that. It was nice to have the time off and concentrate on it. I gave it my full attention. I’d send stuff over to Rowan at the time when he was still us. I’d record on my mic, but he’d be able to make it more decent. We tried to be as active as we could.”
The results of their collaboration as a band came in the release of their single “Why” which came out in May this year. They now have enough material for an album, but as a new band and not having financial backing it’s difficult. So just putting out the single for now they are hoping they can attract interest that will allow them to go into the studio to record properly.
“We are all able to record stuff individually and our drummer has some home kit, but it would be better to have the mix done in a professional studio to make sure levels are fine. Plus, I like the idea of doing it in a studio and all of us being together. It’s exciting that way as well. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and like to go over things, rather than rush it. Going to a professional studio is the kind of level we want and to be working with people who have expertise. If you’re going to invest all that time and money, it’s worth spending more time working on it.”
‘Darlings’ were gaining popularity last year, performing live gigs in their hometown and then managed to secure a live gig in London earlier in 2020 to a really enthusiastic crowd. Then the pandemic hit. But as things start to open up again the band are eager to get out there and perform again.
“After we released “Why” it got a few thousand hits. It’s been over a year since we released anything so it’s great that people are engaging with us again. We’ve had a small revamp of course with a new band member and have a few gigs lined up for the future. Can’t wait to get playing now.”
Steve and the band recently did a live stream that went down extremely well and they looked and sounded great. Plenty of energy and they are starting to develop their own sound and style. Make sure you look out for these Darlings!
DARLINGS will be appearing at The Half Moon, 31 North Street, Bishop's Stortford, CM23 2LD on Saturday 31st July 2021 at 20.00hrs
Tickets via TicketWeb (a Ticketmaster company) SOLD OUT
DARLINGS WILL BE SUPPORTING The Sherlocks
The Sherlocks Bedford Tickets, Bedford Esquires, 15 Oct 2021 – Songkick