When Brittany Howard first began touring the U.S. with Alabama Shakes circa 2010, she’d steal a few moments in the grimy tub of the band’s shared Motel 6 room. Later, as the band became a Grammy-winning success, she’d enjoy a finer soak. “It’s the place at the end of the day where I am all alone and grounded in comfort,” says the singer, 31. “I like to picture all the stress going down the drain.”
Howard, who released an excellent solo debut last year, now makes sure to ask about the bathtub situation wherever she’s traveling. “These hotels, a lot of them don’t understand how important it is,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a bathtub’ — and then it’s a bathtub-shower combo, which to me is not a bathtub. That is for children.”
Last fall, Howard created @candlegazing, a secret Twitter account devoted entirely to rating the bathtubs she encounters on the road. Her handful of followers are treated to reviews of tubs that range from the pitiful (“Yawn,” reads one devastating review; “some calcium buildup under the faucet,” reads another) to the sublime (Manhattan’s Hotel on Rivington is her gold standard).
The tubs are rated on a complex one-to-five scale, judged on a variety of factors, from straightforward metrics like “Drownability” (“I need to be totally submerged”) and “Location” (“I don’t want to be staring at a toilet”) to less obvious qualities like “Loneliness” (“If it has two headrests, that’s just reminding me I’m alone),” and abundance of safety handles, which is a big no-no. “I am not geriatric,” says Howard. “I don’t want to look at handles; I want to pretend that I’m a princess.”
The biggest lesson she’s learned is never to trust jets. Howard is still haunted by an experience she had “somewhere in the West” when she ran the jets in a tub that hadn’t been properly cleaned. “Dead skin came out,” she says. “It was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened.”
Hahaha this tub is SO extra.
It’s so hard to get in and out of- there’s really no good angle of attack 😂
Fill time 3/5
Loneliness 1000/10 (I know it’s made for two people)
Cleanliness 🤨 hmmm. A bit of yellowing on the jets. That’s nasty. pic.twitter.com/KeGYN7oYX0
— Brittany The Bath Tub Authority Most High (@candlegazing) November 18, 2019
Howard has endless ideas on the subject of tub improvement, and she dreams of one day designing bathtubs herself. She thinks the rise in bathing as an Instagram-friendly fad has led to a general overrating of clawfoot tubs. “To me, that’s just a standard tub,” she says. “I get it, that’s supposed to be nice, but a soaking tub? Come on.” Howard concedes, however, that clawfoot tubs are good at holding heat, “depending on what year they’re made.”
Don’t get Howard started on the flaws in some other common bathtub designs. “Sometimes, they make them a little narrow,” she says. “I need to be able to flip around several times, like a dolphin coming out of the ocean.”
Ultimately, Howard doesn’t think she’s asking for much: a space to relax, talk on the phone, send a few emails, maybe toss in a bath bomb (“I do dabble with Lush”). “Some people meditate, some people go for runs,” she says. “I take a bath.”