Everything at Once
Boston Globe Article on Aug.14, 2007 sums up the Council and it's creator Bart Steele... 'Late-blooming rock 'n' roll musician (and multi-instrumentalist) Bart Steele...has adopted Chelsea as home, inspiration, and cause. Using his music as a megaphone, Steele has emerged as a kind of civic cheerleader for a city that can use all the boosters it can get. 'I just love this town,' he declares. How much? Well, he named his band the Chelsea City Council. He wrote two songs on his upcoming album about events in Chelsea's history, including 'Can't Keep Me Down,' inspired by the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908, which nearly destroyed the city physically and psychologically. For several years, he has taken on the labor-intensive task of helping organize the entertainment for the Chelsea River Revel, an annual festival whose proceeds benefit nonprofit groups seeking to clean up Chelsea's waterfront. (Steele) has become a regular performer in Chelsea and beyond, where he takes advantage of his performer's pulpit to talk up this much-maligned municipality. 'Every time I've seen Bart play, he always talks highly of Chelsea, always says 'Don't believe all the negative aspects you're hearing about Chelsea,' ' says Roseann Bongiovanni, president of the (real) Chelsea City Council. 'It's really nice to hear some body who's not originally from Chelsea really embracing the city.' Steele is adding his high-energy personality to that burgeoning scene. Like a lot of the other artistic newcomers, he wants to be part of Chelsea's comeback...But the connection seems to run deeper. Perhaps Steele identifies with Chelsea's underdog struggle. After all...he is trying to forge a successful career in a notoriously youth-centric field. Yet his jaunty demeanor as he beckons a visitor into his low-ceiling basement studio seems to leave no room for the possibility of failure. The title of his album, due out Sept. 8, is 'Everything at Once.' It refers both to his own attention-deficit disorder ('I call it ADD rock,' he jokes) and to the sometimes-erratic appetite for experience that has made Steele's life such a bumpy ride. 'This is about my life, doing a million things at once, how fun and exhausting it is,' he says. 'Every couple of years, I overextend myself.' This may be one of those times. In addition to writing all or part of 11 of the dozen songs on the album and performing as lead singer (and guitarist), Steele produced, engineered, and mixed the album while filming a documentary about the making of 'Everything at Once.' He's also halfway through recording his second album. 'It's so magical, bringing life out of a song,' he says as he twiddles a dial on a recording console. His enjoyment is palpable as he bounces animatedly on a stool before an array of recording equipment, delighting in the sound of his songs, as his drummer looks on. Steele plays tracks from the album and pantomimes playing the drums, the guitar, the keyboard. At one point he doesn't like what he hears. Frowning, he mutters, 'Gotta re-do the vocals,' then explains: 'I was flat. I can sing better than that.' Steele grew up in Jamaica Plain and Brookline, and attended Noble & Greenough School in Dedham. His parents had divorced when he was 3. As a student at the University of Vermont, Steele formed a rock band, and they were good enough that a couple of members of Phish sat in with them from time to time. But, he says, the band dissolved when some members got heavily into drugs. After college, armed with backpack and guitar, he traveled through Europe, Russia, China, Tibet, and India. (He was the target of an attempted mugging at the Taj Mahal, which furnished the material for a song.) He went to the base camp of Mount Everest, and when a group of climbers from Uzbekistan descended from their trip up the mountain, Steele serenaded them with a few tunes. So far, his was the classic musician's arc, albeit a geographically wide-ranging one. But when it came time to embark on a career, Steele found that conventional definitions of success were hard to shake. He went into financial services, working as a stockbroker for a few years. It didn't go well, and besides, he says, 'The whole time I was questioning: 'Why am I not playing music?' ' So he decided to pursue his long-deferred dream of a career in rock 'n' roll. He tended bar and dabbled in real estate to make ends meet while he studied for a degree in music production from the Berklee College of Music. Four years ago, he moved to Chelsea, and found a spur for his music and an outlet for his energy. 'Now I have very little money, and I'm 10 times happier,' he says. A large part of what makes the unmarried Steele happy is his 6-year-old daughter...there are pictures of her all over his townhouse. Part of it is the modest success he's enjoyed -- his band made it to the late rounds of a June battle of the bands in Boston -- and his hope that he's on the verge of a career breakthrough. Part of it is the sense of belonging to a creative community within the gritty environs of Chelsea. 'I already feel like a success in my own way, because I'm doing what I love,' he says.