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Bare-chested rocker of ‘Steel Beans’ enjoying sudden ride to stardom

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Jeremy DeBardi of Steel Beans gets ready to record a video at his home practice space on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022.
Jeremy DeBardi of Steel Beans gets ready to record a video at his home practice space on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. (Ryan Berry / The Herald) Photo Gallery

EVERETT — Hard work and a stroke of algorithms paid off for Jeremy DeBardi.

He’s that bare-chested one-man band rocking out on your social media feed.

What’s up with that?

He plays guitar, drums and sings, all at once, going full throttle to songs he writes.

Practically overnight, DeBardi, 34, exploded into popularity when a video clip of him jamming went viral on Instagram and spread to other platforms.

“What is this magic I’ve stumbled upon?” reads one of the 7,532 comments on the pivotal post with 247,644 likes.

His internet fame coincided with his first-ever tour in October.

“In California, people were lined up to take selfies with me for hours,” he said. “It’s unreal. I’m just a north Everett guy. I’ve been working hard at this for 15 years.”

At this writing, he’s working on an album and plotting a massive tour.

“I’m getting offers from around the world,” he said Monday.

His band name, Steel Beans, comes from stealing cans of baked beans at the Safeway on Rucker in 2006 after he spent the grocery money his mom gave him to get stoned with his friends.

These days, coffee is his drug of choice.

“I haven’t smoked grass since before it was legal,” he said.

DeBardi hasn’t quit his day job mowing lawns, a business he started when his son was born five years ago.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “I just keep writing songs every day like I have been.”

Only now he’s doing this between fielding messages from fans and promoters, while making music as usual in his home studio.

“I come from a background of labor work, being broke and having food stamps,” he said. “Music was always something that kept me on a path from making poor decisions that may have landed me in either jail or a regular day job with a future.”

Earlier this year at Everett’s Fisherman’s Village Music Festival he was featured in The Daily Herald wearing a chain mail coif, striped pants and fur coat, perched atop a Dumpster in the alley.

DeBardi has played in bars around Everett and the county for years.

“Steel Beans had been a full band with a revolving door of almost 50 talented freaks in the past 15 years,” he wrote on Instagram.

He realized he could do it all when the rhythm section was late and did it by accident. One hand wields a drumstick, the other zips out chords on a guitar or keyboard. His feet drive the double-kick pedal and hi-hat on the drums. The words he writes belt into a mic.

DeBardi had a hard-earned 1,200 Instagram followers when he organized a monthlong four-state tour in his 2005 Honda Odyssey blue minivan to places he’d never played and where people had never heard of him.

“I sent emails to hundreds of venues and most didn’t get back to me, but a couple took a chance on me before this happened,” he said.

The catapult to fame was a week before the tour. It was a hot day, so he wore shorts and an open kimono to stay cool as he banged out “Molotov Cocktail Lounge” and posted it to Instagram, thinking it would be just another post with maybe a few dozen likes.

“For whatever reason that one took off,” he said. “Anderson Paak, Dweezil Zappa and Lenny Kravitz, among other stars, liked and commented on the post and followed the page. Some lady on TikTok saw it and tagged me and put it on her TikTok, then some guy on Twitter reshared the video.”

His phone blew up.

“The day it went viral on Twitter, someone messaged and was like, ‘Dude, there are memes of you,’” he said. “The first week I was just staring at my phone in disbelief, just laughing and crying and jumping around and not sleeping.”

Unreal.

“If you asked me five years ago I would have said, ‘I’m mowing my lawns, paying my rent and writing songs every day. I’ve already made it.’ I was already content with being broke and doing my thing for so long,” he said.

“I love lawn care. Get out, drive house to house, have coffee and a cigarette and listen to music. Get there, you get to mow and have your headphones on. At night I’d record more songs and listen to it while mowing so I really never left the studio.”

DeBardi never had a lesson but was always around music. His grandparents, Daniel and Francine DeBardi, played in rhythm-and-blues bands such as The Jive Bombers.

“I started playing drums when I was 2. My grandma put a drumset in front of me. When I was 1 or zero years old I was still playing, but just on pots and pans,” he said. “I got into guitar in middle school, and I wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I started going to thrift stores to find vintage stuff, before it was cool, like for 50 cents each. That was part of it, dressing and feeling that way, aspiring to be an artist and songwriter and getting into the counterculture and music history. That was 22 years ago. I’m still that same person.”

His traveling wardrobe is a black plastic bin stuffed with polyester garments and golden capes. The open kimono in the viral video is from Value Village. Most of the time his belly is covered. It just happened to be hot that fateful Instagram day.

His close friends, Seann Groda, a bass player, and Willy Marcia, a videographer, were with him on tour.

“They are people who believed in me for a long time,” DeBardi said. “They were able to see this crazy thing happening to me.”

The tour had excitement on and off stage.

“We ran out of gas in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco where people are casing your van to steal your stuff. The next week we got stuck in Joshua Tree in the middle of nowhere and the wheels were spinning in the sand,” he said. “A few days later we were T-boned in Tempe.”

DeBardi’s driver’s side of the van was bashed and the window shattered. It was near the club, so he walked in with a concussion and the show went on. A worker at the bar replaced the bent strut, and DeBardi drove back to Washington through rain and snow.

It was all captured in a documentary in the works for his channel at YouTube.com/SalmonellaRecords.

Over the weekend, he drove that battered van 14 hours, window still missing, to do a private gig at YouTube’s San Francisco headquarters.

Ryan Crowther, founder of Everett Music Initiative, has known DeBardi for a decade.

“He is this very unique talented individual that offers something for everyone,” Crowther said. “He’s hilarious and very creative and his creative drive goes not only in music but also the content he creates. It’s fun to see deserving individuals get found. I think anyone who knows him is not surprised.”

DeBardi plans to stay invested in the Everett music scene.

“Once I have a budget, I’d like to put money back into the local music and arts community,” he said.

Everett is part of his brand.

“At every show, I’d say stuff like, ‘North Everett’s in the house.’ People had no idea what that is,” he said.

Everett is listed on his posts.

“People, when they try to be professional, they change it to say Seattle,” he said. “I put Everett because I love Everett so much. People in Brazil and New York and Italy and France and Australia, all these places that are sending me messages, they are Googling Everett to look where it is and that means the world to me.”

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