Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds
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Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds

Reading, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2020 | SELF

Reading, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2020
Band Rock Alternative




"Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds Share Album Track ‘Harvey Wallbanger’"

Pennsylvania-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Bradley Stewart is making serious inroads into the world of music with his captivating band, Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds. Their unique blend of folk rock, psychedelia, cosmic country, and vintage soul is a mesmerizing sonic experience that transports listeners back to the musical experimentation and introspection of the late 1960s.

After releasing their new album The End Is Not The End on New Year’s Day, the band has now shared one of the album tracks Harvey Wallbanger, which you can check out below. - Heavy Magazine

"10 Artists You Should Meet"

10 artists you should meet

Releases from recent weeks that allow us to discover sounds that have not yet reached the mainstream

The year is coming to an end, but the music never stops; from all over the planet we continue to receive amazing music, and - as always - we want to share it with you. The most interesting thing about this exercise is the fact of finding bands and artists from all over the planet who work many genres, while erasing the geographical and stylistic boundaries.

This time we have music with roots in Guyana, pop born in Bolivia and matured in Belgium, Parisian punk-mathcore, some Colombian rock, and indie pop made in New Zealand, among many other things.

We think it has been useful weeks for this search in the corners, we hope you enjoy its results:

Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds: Love Hurts

Message from Ricardo Duran, Editor in Chief:
I thought The Thornbirds version of "Love Hurts" was a beautiful interpretation, congratulations!
I think the production is brilliant, and it takes us back to the 60s, especially with the work on the vocal harmonies, which are truly wonderful. I was listening to your other songs on Spotify, and I found a lot of things I liked. I hope to spend some time learning more about your work. - Rolling Stone

"Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds and the gorgeous soul saturated folk rock "Let's Be Natural""

There are so many iconic flavors stirring about in the gorgeous and cool love song "Let's Be Natural" by indie rock stalwarts Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds that I don't know where to begin and in the end, the seeds of what some might call a revival rock song might now be that important. It does from the very first big slapping downbeat feel like a sweet time machine that conjures up imagery of suited musicians with cowboy boots on, some with pompadours and some with long hair. The sound is, for me, beautifully cross generational. I can feel the mid 1950's tortured heartbreak songs of Ray Peterson, the 60's mad brilliance of Skeeter Davis ('The End of the World') and the Brit pop inspired Broken Arrow-esque sadness of Buffalo Springfield. There is, of course, heavy doo wop textures but also western country tones, Americana filtered through garden rock. In modern terms something like a collision of Kevin Morby and Chicano Batman.

But more from the creator, Bradley Stewart:

"This is a love song about the concept of being yourself in a relationship and the challenges of being with someone who maybe doesn't understand the importance of that right away. The song is based on a vocal melody that haunted my mind for a few months, which I built harmonies around. The song was influenced by Laurel Canyon artists such as Gram Parsons and The Byrds, but also some classic soul artists such as Smokey Robinson, and even some country/western influences as well. I recorded it with jazz producer Bennie Sims, who helped me develop the arrangement and provided bass guitar to the track."

This beautiful nostalgic sound, like 70's psych rock and other time spun genres are coming back in a big way. I noticed a pivotal shift back in 2007 and there are too many to mention who do their iterations of this kind of sound in a really fine way. Bradley certainly feels real, one reason might be his dedication to recording on tape prior to mixing or maybe it is just in his D.N.A.

[Bradley Stewart is a singer/songwriter/multi-instumentalist from Pennsylvania known for blending the sounds of folk rock, psychedelia and vintage soul music. The sound of the music is almost like an echo of the late 1960s. The Thornbirds consist of Stewart, alongside songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Brendan Steakelum; songwriter/guitarist Mike DeLong; pianist/vocalist Danielle Stewart; and legendary jazz bassist and producer Bennie Sims.] - American Pancake

"Hamburg Band Takes To England"

Calling Hamburg their home since childhood and still today, The Fallen Troubadours are prepping themselves for an overseas trip to England to perform at Liverpool’s renowned Cavern Club May 24 and 25, followed by a show in London in the next few days.

The musically minded friends came together in October of 2009, having played collectively in earlier years be-fore going their separate ways. In rejoining, lead vocalist Bradley Stewart said everything seemed to fall into place just right the second time around.
Stewart and electric guitarist Brendan Steakelum started writing songs in their mid-teens, having been best friends since the ripe age of five.
Drummer Brandon Reber and bassist Clifton Conrad played with Stewart and Steakelum years ago under the name the Suns of Ivy, but Adam Moyer came into The Fallen Troubadours two autumns ago as the latest band’s hand-savvy organist.
Stewart describes the band’s music as akin to the feel of tunes dating back to the 1960s, as some of their influences are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
They also take inspiration from classic Motown, Donovan and Elton John but compare their style as slightly similar to today’s Delta Spirit and Dr. Dog.
While the band mates are all in their 20s and 30s, their sound reels in an audience ranging from young people to even those decades older, illustrating that their music carries a timeless feel to it.
Stewart said with his habit of portraying the topics of time, love, life and death in his self-proclaimed strange or even cryptic lyrics, what he finds most rewarding about playing is when he can tell the audience connects with his writing through the songs.
Because of limited venues for shows, The Fallen Troubadours rarely play in Hamburg but do sometimes perform at Indian Fort Inn.
In the past few years, the band has performed mostly in Philadelphia, sometimes two and three times in a week. They’ve also performed in Atlantic City, New York City and at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center.
Just this February, the band signed onto Candy Colored Dragon, a label based out of Royersford.
Recently having finished an album after spending five months recording the tracks, The Fallen Troubadours anticipate a release date by May, with an EP slated to be out in the next two weeks.
The upcoming songs should eventually be available for purchase on iTunes in addition to and in stores like Best Buy.
With their first trip abroad in just a few short months, Stewart said playing in England has been a goal from the beginning, as The Fallen Troubadours and their sound are rooted in the English rock scene.
At the festival known as the International Pop Overthrow, The Fallen Troubadours will play alongside a slew of other bands belting their hearts out onstage, with these Hamburg natives finally pursuing their well-ingrained passions which stirred to life years ago one album-listen at a time.
Reflecting on the curious way his friends’ lives have panned out since rejoining, Stewart noted that even being from Hamburg, Pennsylvania, doing shows at famed venues where the Beatles played-with them being discovered by their future manager Brian Epstein while performing in Hamburg, Germany-weaves something peculiar into the band’s new history ahead. - Reading Eagle

"The Ghosts Of The Fallen Troubadours"

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles that will appear periodically chronicling the re-emergence of Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds, formerly known as The Fallen Troubadours.

“Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass
How the days go by and the nights go fast
Look into my eyes now, see the struggle in my mind
Not sure what is coming, but I know what I left behind”

So goes the opening refrain from the opening track of the impressive debut album of Hamburg’s the Fallen Troubadours.

That a band could sum up what would become its legacy so accurately and succinctly, right out of the gate, is bordering on the sublime.

The song, appropriately enough entitled “The Good Fight,” kicks off “Tall Tales,” which was recorded in 2011, the same year the band went on a 10-day tour of England that included a stop at the famed Cavern Club, where a band called the Beatles – whom they idolized and in many ways emulated – had made a name for itself exactly 50 years earlier.

But when the Troubadours returned stateside, things rapidly deteriorated amid infighting, jealousies and general bad behavior, and the “Tall Tales” CD, a 10-song collection of infectious indie rock by a group of musicians that revels in recording, never even got pressed.

“I always had this idea that the Fallen Troubadours was like an airplane with no pilot at the controls,” lead singer Bradley Stewart said when the new incarnation of the band gathered for an interview last Sunday.

This is the story of the band’s ascent and subsequent crash landing, and the recent attempts to put the pieces back together and get it rolling down the runway once more.
The Fallen Troubadours formed in 2009 out of the remnants of the Suns of Ivy, a band fronted by Stewart and his lifelong friend and rival, Brendan Steakelum. As children, they always played together and competed with each other to be the best, a dynamic that followed them into adulthood and provided fuel for the songwriting fires that burned within each.

The Suns of Ivy had a brief and troubled tenure but did manage to release an album titled “Somebody’s Everybody” in 2007 and land gigs at venues such as the National Underground in New York City, the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and even Bruce Springsteen’s long-ago haunt, the Stone Pony, in Asbury Park, N.J.

Those experiences made Stewart and Steakelum yearn for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, so when the Troubadours came together, they had big ambitions.

“We lived in this fictitious world where somebody was going to find us and we were going to become rock stars,” Steakelum said. “We were just waiting to get signed, so we could just be rock ‘n’ roll stars.”

“Yeah, we were looking to get out of here,” Stewart said.

Here, of course, was Hamburg, the blue-collar northern Berks County town they loved but also found stifling. A hotbed of local-music talent, Hamburg also was home to the other original Troubadours: guitarist Mike DeLong, bassist Clif Conrad and drummer Brandon Reber.

Steakelum and Stewart had grown apart, and Steakelum was living in Allentown and playing in the Philadelphia band the Great Unknown in 2009 when he got word that DeLong and Stewart were writing songs together. He had heard a few of them – “Raisin in the Sun,” “When We Were Young,” “To the Ground” – and had to admit to himself they were pretty darn good. His jealousy getting the better of him, he came home to see what was going down.

DeLong and Steakelum were not strangers. They had played together in a cover band in the mid-’90s, and in 2004 DeLong had developed an interest in recording the songs his fellow hometown musicians, who were more than a decade younger than he, were writing. So he set up a studio in the basement of the Port Clinton house Stewart was living in at the time, and there they set about the task of recording every song – more than 40 – that Stewart and Steakelum had ever penned.

Inspired by the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” and the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” Stewart and Steakelum would try just about anything when it came to recording, and DeLong went along with whatever they said.

“We’d make him do crazy things,” Stewart said, “like we’d say, ‘I’m going to throw change down the stairs and want you to record it.’ “

“Oh my God, I thought they were crazy” said DeLong, who nonetheless was game and stuck around for all-nighters spent partying and recording.

Only he wasn’t much of a partier.

“Mike was never into drinking,” Reber said, “so when we were recording – all boozing and stuff – Mike would just sit there and drink soda and chain-smoke cigarettes.”

“Pepsis and Newports,” Steakelum interjected.

“All this madness was around him,” Reber said, “and he just sat there and shook his leg (his trademark tic).”

With Steakelum back on the scene and the Troubadours coming together, DeLong was all in and happy to be included in a band with musicians and songwriters he admired so much, but before too long, as the band started to explore the Philadelphia scene, playing for big crowds some nights and two or three people the next, his interest began to wane. He had a young family and also was accompanying a promising young singer, Eva Blankenhorn of Orwigsburg, on guitar, and was being pulled in too many directions.

“I think their priorities were much different than mine were,” he said. “Mine were, ‘I want to have fun, I want to play music, but I have other responsibilities.’ My wife and my daughter were obviously No. 1. And I think that became a point of contention.”

DeLong exited the band but never lost the respect of the others. He was replaced by Adam Moyer – a likable, fun and talented bandmate and perfect fit musically – on keyboards. Chapter 1 of the Fallen Troubadours’ saga was in the books.

By the time the Troubadours left for England in May 2011, “Tall Tales” was already mostly in the can. It had been recorded with Isaac Betesh, who signed the band to his Candy Colored Dragon psych-pop label after seeing it perform at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville and being duly impressed.

While the band was in the studio, Stewart heard from Kevin Shire, who had managed the predecessor to the Suns of Ivy, the Paisley Haze, and helped finance its 1999 self-named CD. Shire, who had connections in the U.K., said he had secured the Troubadours a spot on the bill of the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Liverpool. They were the only band from the States to be invited.

They wrestled with the logistics of making it happen, securing passports at the last minute and making arrangements with their employers, or in Steakelum’s case, quitting his job, draining his IRA and undergoing a week of self-prescribed detox in preparation for the trip of a lifetime.

“I remember you buying $300 Ray-Ban sunglasses at Heathrow Airport,” Stewart said, recalling that Steakelum was the only one packing the funds needed to live large.

They touched down without so much as a plan to get from London to Liverpool, which is at the opposite end of the country, but before long, they were feeling welcome on foreign soil.

With the help of a friendly Brit, they boarded a train for Liverpool, where, to a man, they remembered that magical moment when the sign for Mathew Street, where the Beatles were often photographed hanging out, came into view, and then walking down those famous stairs to the Cavern Club, just as the Beatles had half a century earlier.

“That’s where it set in,” Reber said. “All right, we’re in a whole different world now.”

“It didn’t seem real,” Steakelum added.

After playing the Cavern Club and wrapping up their set with a rousing cover of “Stand by Me” with the entire crowd singing along, they got to sign the name of their little band from Hamburg – the Fallen Troubadours – onto the same wall that said “The Beatles.”

For a band whose hometown gigs were more about partying than music and often ended with a bar full of people being invited back to one of their houses for more madness, England was an awakening.

“When we were over there,” Stewart said, “it was like everybody we met cared about what we were doing. We played at that Cavendish Arms place (in Stockwell). It was a theater, and it was totally full, and everybody sat and listened. It was a completely different thing. We fit right into that music scene. People loved us.”

“We felt like celebrities,” Steakelum said, adding that throngs of new fans would follow them to bars after their shows to hang out with them.

But as great of an experience as the trip was, it also marked the beginning of their unraveling. It was as if even that little bit of success had gone to their heads.

By the end, the band had fractured, with Stewart and Reber leaving the pad they had rented in lower-class South Norwood and heading off to ritzy North London to hang out with a new friend, the other three staying behind, uninvited. The seeds of dissent were planted.

By the time the Fallen Troubadours returned home to Hamburg, everything had changed. Whatever joy there had been was gone, replaced by anger, tension, disillusionment.

Steakelum: “Our personal lives weren’t matching up anymore to be in a band together.”

Reber: “It wasn’t fun anymore. Toward the end, if somebody was like, ‘Oh, I gotta clip my toenails tonight,’ it was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re not going to practice.’ I think we hit a wall where we didn’t know where to go.”

They put the finishing touches on the record, but Betesh understandably wanted a commitment that they would get out and play shows to support it before he would invest in printing. He was asking for a promise they knew they couldn’t fulfill.

Conrad was first to quit, and Moyer joined the exodus in support of his friend, so for the remaining shows the Fallen Troubadours already had booked, Betesh stood in on bass. But by that time, the band’s – and the CD’s – fate was pretty much sealed.

These days, you can purchase “Tall Tales” digitally on iTunes, but good luck getting a printed CD; they simply don’t exist. Not yet, anyway.


Early this year, local musician Ron Nolen invited the Troubadours to play the private St. Patrick’s Day bash he throws at Nolen’s Pub, his man-cave in Muhlenberg Township, at the urging of Dave Weidler, who had given the band’s music a spin on the Y102 Homebrewed show he co-hosts.

“I explained that it was unlikely I could make it happen, but I’d try,” Stewart said.

By that time, he and Steakelum had lost touch with each other, both scarred by the band’s breakup and figuring their Troubadours days were squarely behind them.

But the Barren Wells, the band Reber, Conrad and Moyer joined after the Troubadours, had recently broken up, meaning all three were, technically, available, so Stewart reached out to them.

Son of a gun if they didn’t express interest, and on March 13, with DeLong back on lead guitar, Conrad back on bass and 45 whole minutes of practice under their belts, a makeshift version of the Fallen Troubadours – sans Steakelum, who was still on the outs, and Moyer, who had a prior obligation – took the stage to close the show at Nolen’s Pub.

“It was definitely seen as a one-off thing by us,” Stewart said.

They played a bunch of originals and concluded with a couple of jamming covers, including “Quinn the Eskimo,” that gave DeLong a chance to flash his guitar chops. And when they were finished, Reber crawled out from behind the drum kit and snuck out the back door for a smoke, certain they had stunk.

“But every person who came out the door after me said, ‘You guys were awesome,’ ” he recalled.

In a room filled with local musicians and fans of local original music, the Fallen Troubadours, dusting off their songs for the first time in four years, had gotten a serious buzz going that night.

It lit a fire under Stewart, who got right to work seeking out his old friend and asking for a reunion, which Steakelum granted. Stewart reached out to DeLong, Reber, Conrad and Moyer and asked them if they wanted to give it another go. DeLong and Reber said yes, and Conrad and Moyer declined, opting instead to pursue a promising new project called Not Without Texas with their friend John Lawrence.

Nonetheless, the second coming of the Fallen Troubadours was beginning to take shape.


For all their grand aspirations at the beginning, the Fallen Troubadours lacked the maturity, discipline and focus needed to become anything more than a really good band from Hamburg.

Reflecting back, Stewart had this take on things: “Our heroes were people like Keith Moon and Keith Richards and Oasis. We wanted to be them. We wanted the people to come see us and be like, ‘Those guys are (expletive) crazy.’ “

That’s in sharp contrast to their sentiments these days. Earlier this month, on a Wednesday night, they came to the Sound Room studio at WEEU – not in Philadelphia or New York or London or Liverpool, but in downtown Reading – to record a seven-song session.

Steakelum was back in the fold, standing toe-to-toe with Stewart harmonizing into the same mic, a sharp contrast to five years ago, when they more likely would’ve been bickering Noel and Liam Gallagher-style into their live mics because someone had accidentally stepped on a guitar cord or missed a note.

Chuck Brantman was holding down the low end, the perfect replacement for the departed Conrad. Brantman is a natural fit, bringing a fourth part to their vocal harmonies and an incredible knack not only for picking up bass parts quickly, but for adding his own flourishes to songs he barely knows.

Brantman said he first heard about the Troubadours back in 2011 when his Hillbilly Shakespeare bandmate, Matt Thren, saw them at Canal Street Pub and was blown away.

And Brantman was in the house that night two months ago at Ron Nolen’s, where he opened the show alongside Caroline Reese and Matt Cullen and then stuck around to see the Troubadours’ set and was taken by it.

A few weeks later, on a Saturday morning, he showed up at Stewart’s house thinking they were having a one-on-one chat about joining the Troubadours, but instead he was greeted by the whole band, and an audition broke out.

Both the band and its new bassist were equally impressed with each other.

“You sometimes just know right away who you can play with, or more importantly, who you can’t play with,” Brantman said, “and it was like, ‘Yeah, I can play with all these people. This is good.’ “

They’ve discovered they share many of the same musical heroes – the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Kinks – and Brantman said he hears those influences in the songs he’s learning.

At the Sound Room, Brantman already was fitting in like he had been around for years rather than weeks. And DeLong was back in the big-brother role he had always embraced.

And as for Stewart, Steakelum and Reber, they checked their pipe dreams at the door and instead focused on living in the moment and appreciating those who helped get them to that moment:

Reber: “It’s your families sitting there; the people who mean the most to you in your lives. Brendan’s mom and dad, and Brad’s mom and my dad.”

Steakelum: “I was nervous, but my mom said, ‘I’ve never seen you so relaxed onstage.’ “

Stewart: “My mom came up to me and Brendan at the end, and she looked like she was going to cry, and she said, ‘When you guys were up there singing into that microphone, all I saw was those two little boys who used to play in the backyard.’ “

Steakelum: “And my mom said the same thing, and she started crying. She said, ‘I saw you as the kid that you were.’ “

Stewart: “We’ve been through a lot.”

Steakelum: “Because you get into this whole wanting-to-be-a-rock-star thing and you forget what the point of it is.”


Suddenly things are moving quickly for the Troubadours. The summer bookings are rolling in, starting with their first public show on Friday at 8 p.m. at Mike’s Tavern in Reading.

In terms of interest in original bands, the local music scene has come a long way since the Troubadours parted ways, and Mike’s exemplifies that. It’s a place where the people in attendance will pay attention to the songs and applaud when they are finished.

The show will be a re-creation of the Nolen’s Pub night, with opening sets by Caroline Reese and Ron Nolen and Friends.

The Troubadours intend to play “Tall Tales” in its entirety, plus an unreleased song, “Time Machine,” and probably break out a few Suns of Ivy tunes, as well.

It’s just the first of what will be many steps as they begin to get back out there.

And as for “Tall Tales”? Its place in the annals of potentially great albums that never saw the light of day may not be a “fait accompli” just yet.

Betesh, the record producer, has come around a couple of times in the past few weeks, including to the Sound Room, to get reacquainted with his old friends and discuss giving the CD the proper release it deserves.

Who knows, maybe doing so will put the band on the radar of somebody important.

But in the meantime, the Fallen Troubadours are focused on doing things the right way this time around, with an emphasis on the music itself rather than all the distractions.

If they all maintain a proper perspective and keep their demons in check, Stewart will have a chance to pen some new lyrics and meld them with DeLong’s and Steakelum’s guitar licks, and the Fallen Troubadours will have a legitimate shot to rise again.

“For me, I want that humility of when people come see us, we’re not these arrogant dudes who think they’re better than they are,” Steakelum said. “I want people to get that these are really humble people up there playing music for us to enjoy it for this moment.

“I know I get to live in that moment with those people who are out there. When you look at it that way, it’s pretty amazing.”

Stewart is just happy to have back his band and his lifelong friend: the kid he tossed footballs with growing up and who was at his side when he was 10 years old and learned three days before Christmas that his father had just died in a car crash.

“I sleep a lot better now (that the band is back together),” Stewart said. “I feel happy about it. Brendan’s been like my brother my whole life, and for the past couple of years we’ve barely had any communication whatsoever. And it’s almost like unbelievable now that I talk to Brendan again every day.” - Reading Eagle

"The Fallen Troubadours: End Of An Era?"

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles chronicling the re-emergence of Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds, formerly known as The Fallen Troubadours. (Read parts one, two and three here.)

For guitarist Brendan Steakelum, the reunion of the local indie rock band the Fallen Troubadours back in 2015 represented the new lease on life he so desperately needed.

At the time, Steakelum was beginning to rebuild from the ground up after hitting rock bottom, another victim of the ongoing opioid crisis. The band and the healing power of music proved to be key components of his recovery.

Steakelum steered the conversation, noting that bassist Chuck Brantman would be stepping away after this Friday’s gig at Mike’s Tavern in Reading because he and his wife, Kat, are expecting their second child, and that Reber has been busy with his other band, Uncle Jake & the 18 Wheel Gang.

Meanwhile, Steakelum and lead singer Bradley Stewart have been focusing on a new songwriting and recording project they’ve dubbed Stewart v. Steakelum & the Jury, which will make its public debut in June at Art on the Avenue in West Reading.

“The Fallen Troubadours has become this: the four of us,” Steakelum said of the band that has undergone numerous personnel changes in its jagged eight-year history.

“I think this is possibly the end of that era,” Brantman said. “It’s sad for me, yet I feel like it needs to happen. I’m at peace with it. I feel like there’s an aspect of this where I’m listening to the signs that are being given to me.”

“God whispers,” Steakelum interjected, then explained, “My mom has always called that God whispers when that stuff happens.”

Brantman, whose head was spinning a year ago as a member of three gigging bands, pointed out that the other two, Hillbilly Shakespeare and Ike Wilder, have gone on hiatus and disbanded, respectively. Suddenly, things have turned eerily quiet for him, musically.

“You guys were trying to book a gig June 18, and my kid’s due June 12,” he said. “I think that was the moment when it was like, this is the time. It’s God whispers, like you said. This is the universe telling me this is not right right now.”

The Fallen Troubadours formed in 2009 out of the ashes of a band called the Suns of Ivy and quickly built an enthusiastic fan base on the strength of powerful live shows, despite perpetual conflicts behind the scenes that were fueled by the strong personalities of the leaders, Stewart and Steakelum, who grew up inseparably in Hamburg but often butted heads like jealous brothers.

They recorded an album called “Tall Tales” in 2011 that never got pressed because the band broke up in the aftermath of a 10-day tour of England that was highlighted by a dream gig at the Cavern Club, where the Beatles had burst onto the scene 50 years earlier, and lowlighted by infighting and unrestrained partying.

“It was a complete mess,” Stewart said of the tour. “It was complete hedonism.”

By the time they returned stateside, the band had split into two factions and was beyond repair.

After reuniting sans Steakelum for a one-off show at a private St. Patrick’s Day party in 2015, Stewart was so energized that he decided to mend his relationship with his childhood friend, and they reformed the band, inviting Brantman to join after original bassist Clif Conrad opted out.

On May 29, 2015, Take 2 of the Fallen Troubadours, which included charter member Mike DeLong on guitar (he would leave six months later over creative differences), debuted to a raucous reception at Mike’s Tavern. They still get goose bumps when they think about it.

“When you’re in the Troubadours and you have the room packed, it’s incredible,” Stewart said.

“Oh, god, it’s an amazing feeling,” Brantman concurred. “That would be the thing that’s hardest to walk away from: that feeling of being in that packed room and having everybody swaying to the same vibe and cheering, and electrifying the room, but also being electrified by the room.”

Suddenly Reber’s face lit up. They were speaking his language.

“The bottom line,” the drummer said, “is that when you’re onstage in front of people gigging, and everybody’s in the same mode and you’re on the same wave, it’s a crazy feeling. It’s one of the best feelings, actually, in the whole world.”

Throughout the past two years, the Troubadours have wrestled with the idea of starting a new recording project, but it just never took hold. Instead, life kept happening: new relationships, new homes, new careers, new bands.

Reber openly admitted that as much as he loves gigging, recording is not his thing. He finds the pressure to be perfect – to get the drum part just right before anybody else can proceed – to be stressful.

But Stewart and Steakelum, and even Brantman to an extent, love experimenting with sound and creating art.

“It’s like painting a picture,” Steakelum said.

So a few months ago, he and Stewart, both prolific writers, began getting together as a duo to record at Stewart’s house, just as they had done at Steakelum’s house when they were kids. They posted their latest song, “Horses,” to their new Stewart v. Steakelum SoundCloud page last week.

“We high-fived at the end (of recording it), because it felt so weird doing it again,” Steakelum said. “It took me back to my parents’ basement.”

Reber and Brantman both encouraged them to continue.

“That’s what you love to do,” Reber said. “It’s your passion. You have to follow your passion.”

Steakelum, who is 875 days sober, knows he owes his band mates a debt of gratitude for helping him through tough times.

“I don’t want to get emotional here,” he said, his voice cracking, “but this revived my love of music. You guys were a part of that, so it means a lot to me. Because I didn’t (care) for a long time about music.

“Now, recording with Brad, it’s like a new thing again, and without you guys, I wouldn’t have been able to do that – to get my love of music and writing back. I write so much now, it’s crazy. When we first started talking (two years ago), I was barely picking up the guitar. Now I’m playing it all the time, like I used to.”

For Brantman, Friday’s gig figures to be his last for the foreseeable future. He’d like to go out in style. They all would.

They’re pumped to be closing this chapter of their story back where it started, at Mike’s Tavern, where they’ve shared some of their finest moments as a band. They want to say a proper thank-you to their many fans who have been along for the journey, and what better way than by rocking out?

For the first time in 10 years, Brantman will be without a band. He intends to do some recording at home and maybe even dabble in the classical piano he grew up on, and would consider being a “gun for hire” if anyone needs a fill-in bass player for a gig.

He said he doesn’t expect the Troubadours to hold his spot should they decide at some point to move forward as a band, but he hasn’t ruled out returning down the road, either.

“If you have someone come along who can play, snag ’em,” he told the others, “because the band’s a good band, and it should be out there playing.”

Stewart said Isaac Betesh, who produced “Tall Tales,” has expressed interest in taking over bass duties, but that remains to be seen.

As their talk wound down and Steakelum quietly picked a tune – “just another one floating around my brain,” he said – Stewart offered the coda.

“I’m thankful for everything we’ve done over the past two years, and it’s been really fun,” he said. “We’ve gone through some awkward, difficult things at times, but overall it’s been a really good experience. I’m just really happy that we had the time to do it, and if we get another chance, that’ll be great. If not, you know …”

And Steakelum kept on picking. And nobody said another word. - Reading Eagle


Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds new LP "The End Is Not The End"



Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds is a captivating band led by Pennsylvania-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Bradley Stewart. Known for his exceptional talent in blending folk rock, psychedelia, cosmic country and vintage soul, Stewart's music transports listeners back to the musical experimentation and introspection of the late 1960s. With a shared artistic vision, The Thornbirds was formed, bringing together like-minded musicians to create a mesmerizing sonic experience. The band comprises longtime songwriting partner and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Steakelum, songwriter and guitarist Mike DeLong, pianist and vocalist Danielle Stewart, and drummer Ellen Houle. Their debut LP, "The End Is Not The End” has already gained attention and acclaim with its title track debuting on legendary Los Angeles DJ Rodney Bingenheimer's show. With critical praise from renowned bloggers and music journalists worldwide, including being named an artist to watch by Rolling Stone Magazine, Bradley Stewart & The Thornbirds are poised to make a significant impact on the music scene in 2024. Their new album is an evolution in song-craft and production, pushing boundaries and exploring new musical territories, showcasing their dedication and growth as artists.

Band Members