Rising with Break-Neck Speed; An interview with Sam Fender

Newcastle, UK-based Sam Fender will release his edgy and urgent debut EP Dead Boys, on November 20 through Polydor Records.  Last year, the taut noise of his introductory singles “Friday Fighting” and “Start Again” sparked a breakthrough, and the rolling stone is now gathering momentum down an endless hill. He snuck into the BBC Sound Of 2018 poll and has spent the past twelve months either on stage, cramped in a van on the road with his three-piece band, or experimenting with sound in his self-built studio in an old warehouse space within stumbling distance of where he grew up.
Fender has already shared two tracks off the Dead Boys EP; the title track (watch the video below), “Leave Fast,” and most recently “That Sound.” Sam just performed the single on “Later…with Jools Holland” and spoke with Elton John on his Beats 1 Radio show about the EP.
Ghettoblaster Magazine recently caught up with Fender to discuss coming to terms with his talent, his upward momentum from North Shields to the international stage, chatting with Elton John and his mostly sold-out headlining tour.
When was the first moment you heard your singing voice and realized it was something you could or should share with people?
I’ve been singing all my life; my dad and brother are musicians so music was an intrinsic part of family life. My brother was always smashing his drum kit about when I was a kid, there’s a 10 year age gap between us so rivalries weren’t really a thing, I just idolized him, I wanted to be able to sing and play like them both. I recognized my voice when I was about 13, I would sing when the house was empty.
When did you realize your aptitude was the key to no longer being trapped in North Shields? What was the feeling like; was it a lightning bolt or was it a more eventual realization?
It was a chance encounter that started everything for me. I was working in an old fisherman’s pub in North Shields, a guy walked in with a cap on, he was drunk, he’d just come back to his home town after one of his artists had won some awards at The Brits. My bar manager recognized him and told me to get my guitar out and play, five years later, here we are.
How important is it to you to deliver messages that are socially significant? What change are you hoping to affect by leveraging your art?
I thread social commentary in to my songs automatically, I write about what’s happening in my life, from the immediate people in front of me to the more worldly stories around my life. There’s certainly no necessity to write socially significant messages, I will write some songs that are more internal down the line, it’s just the outward looking stuff came first. I’m not on a crusade to change the world, it’s more a personal quest to find answers to grey questions.

Is it awkward to be talking about male suicide and mental health in the midst of the Me Too movement? Have you been challenged on “Dead Boys”?
No. It’s a completely different subject. They have nothing to do with each other. The only thing they have in common is that they are both prevalent problems, and both need the full attention of society if we want to change them.
What was it like speaking with Elton John? Were you nervous or anxious? Was that a milestone for you personally?
It was a bizarre and wonderful experience, he was so kind and supportive. I’m truly overwhelmed that he likes my tunes, it was without a shadow of a doubt the most surreal FaceTime experience of my life.
Many of the dates on your headliner are already sold-out. Does that apply pressure in uncomfortable ways or are you more excited about it?
Only excitement, it’s wonderful that people want to be there. There’s nothing better than watching a room full of people sing a song at the top of their lungs that you wrote hungover one morning sat in your underwear.
There is a post-punk meets Springsteen flavor to your sound. Are either of those things truly in your wheelhouse?
Well first of all, thank you, that’s a massive compliment. I’m a huge Springsteen fan, and there’s a host of bands like joy division, talking heads and the smiths that I’ve grown up listening to. So I suppose that would make a lot of sense.
What are your loftiest goals for your music?
I’m just taking it as it comes, I’ve set a few milestones, like selling out Shepherd’s Bush empire in London, I would like to do Brixton academy maybe one day. I’m just happy to be doing this as my job, long may it continue!
Pre-order the Dead Boys EP here.
Sam Fender Live:
12th November – OMEARA, London SOLD OUT
13th November – OMEARA, London SOLD OUT
14th November – OMEARA, London SOLD OUT
17th November – Newcastle University SOLD OUT
3rd December – Academy, Glasgow (w/ Blossoms) SOLD OUT
13th December – O2 Academy Brixton, London (w/ Blossoms) SOLD OUT
25th February – Gorilla, Manchester NEW DATE
28th February – Electric Brixton, London NEW DATE
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