These are salad days for Sam Fender. The songwriter entered 2019 as the BRIT Critics Choice award winner, following in the footsteps of everyone from Florence + The Machine to Adele and Jorja Smith.
Right now, though, he’s back home in North Shields – it’s a “drinking town with a fishing problem” as he puts it, and the lure of his friends means that he’s a little tender this morning.
“I landed on the plane in Newcastle, went to North Shields and got battered!” he laughs. “Now I’m off the drink – cleaning up, getting myself ready for the tour.”
Ah yes, the tour. Sam Fender’s rise has been marked by an incredible work ethic, something that has taken him from the backroom of his local pub to some of the country’s biggest venues. This summer he’ll be playing Tynemouth Castle, a colossal home tie that features his biggest audience to date.
“Crazy!” he exclaims. “It’s insane, really wonderful. I cannot wait, mate. Cannot wait.”
The bond between songwriter and fans has been close from the start. “It’s the best thing ever,” he insists. “When you have a couple of thousand people singing back a song that you wrote hungover in your underwear... It’s very rewarding.”
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Debut album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ lands on August 9th, something he bills as a “present for the fans”. “We just wanted to pick the tunes that spoke to the fans,” he continues. “It’s for them… more than me. The first half of the record is the bit that I’m more passionate about, and the second is a gift to those who have supported us from the start.”
“The odds have been against me in a lot of different situations, we’ve always been the underdog, but we’ve come out of this and we’re doing really well and I’m just hoping to God that we can maintain that. It’s them grassroots fans that have created this opportunity – they kicked the doors down.”
Of course, it helps that Sam Fender’s work ethic is so unrelenting, so blisteringly committed. “I think there’s always been the drive in us, but I think the work ethic has increased staggeringly in the past two years. You get a hunger for it when you get a taste of it, of doing well. It breeds the addiction.”
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‘Hypersonic Missiles’ was constructed a million miles away from the glitzy temptations of the London music industry, with Sam working alongside close friend Bramwell Bronte at a studio they built themselves in North Shields.
“I think because we built it ourselves there’s a lot of love gone into it,” Sam muses. “I used to get red light syndrome in big studios because I’d be thinking about the money it was costing, while trying to do a vocal take. Now I don’t think about that because it’s ours, and it’s cheap as chips.”
At the centre of that debut album is the relationship between two friends, two people who have taken on the world together. Sam is unstinting in his praise of Bramwell’s work, of his contributions to the album. “He’s produced the whole thing and it’s wonderful – he’s done a cracking job,” the songwriter gushes. “I’m very proud of him and he’s very proud of himself as well.”
“We’ve done all this ourselves, we’ve built all this from the grass up and we didn’t get bullied by any record labels into working with Rick Rubin or somebody. We did it ourselves. And I’m excited to do it again. It’s proof that you don’t have to do it the way they suggest.”
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‘Hypersonic Missiles’ plays by its own rules – sure, there are plenty of banging pop songs on display, but Sam Fender is also capable of something much deeper, much more personal. “If you reveal a bit of yourself, without giving the game away, that’s what connects the most with people. But you probably can be too honest,” he warns. “The better stuff is probably the more honest stuff. I like it when people are self-deprecating, being honest.”
There’s a political element to his debut album, too. Life is tough for young people across the country, and the ongoing political chaos around Brexit is causing him to lose faith. “I’ve given up on the whole thing, really,” he sighs. “I just focus on my mates now – my mates and my family. It’s beyond my control and it’s dragged on for so long that I’ve lost all interest, all hope for that matter.”
“Without sounding too pessimistic I just try to put all my energy into making some good tunes and having a good laugh with my mates and my family. I really appreciate the tiny amount of time that I get with them. That’s where my happiness comes from.”
Out on August 9th, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ was written with only a handful of people in mind. “It’s only the fans I give a fuck about – if they like it, great. After that I’m going to write some really, really self-absorbed second album that nobody will like!”
Closing the conversation, Clash notes that on ‘White Privilege’ he sings: “Don’t have answers, only questions…”
So, what’s the one question, the one take away, that fans should get from his debut album?
He starts to chuckle: “Just to have a fucking good laugh because you never know when it’s all over!”
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'Hypersonic Missles' will be released on August 9th.
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