“You can’t go wrong with communicating like a person,” says Sam Fender, the singer-songwriter who, at just 23, has already learned the key to connecting his music to a reactive audience. “I think all my best songs thus far have been ones like ‘Leave Fast’ where it’s me being incredibly honest. If you’re just honest and write about your existence, then you can’t really fail.”
While ‘Leave Fast’ evokes the suffocating claustrophobia of a small town through its most mundane details, Sam’s voice angelic yet wearied, location is a recurring motif in his work. Echoes of the North Shields estate on which he grew up (think a less sardonic Alex Turner with Bruce Springsteen’s relatability and Jeff Buckley’s soaring plaintiveness) resound throughout his debut EP, ‘Dead Boys’ – the title track is a reaction to a friend’s suicide, although he thought twice about releasing it.
“I was terrified that people would think I was capitalising on a tragedy that happened in my hometown,” he admits, but reveals he was convinced otherwise as he saw how it encouraged others to open up, and is amazed at the continued impact it has made. “There is the odd time when a song connects in a way that it brings people together for a common goal and to talk about something,” he says. “‘Dead Boys’, for me, is the first time that it’s ever happened in my career, and I genuinely didn’t expect it to happen to the level that it has.”
From his inclusion in the BBC’s Sound Of 2018 list to having recently sold out a UK headline tour and performed ‘Dead Boys’ on Later… with Jools Holland, Sam’s upward trajectory is setting him on course to soon leave behind that Tyneside pool of inspiration, and far from all those who challenged his musical aspirations by enquiring what his plan B was.
“I fucking always hated that question,” he sneers defiantly. “I would much prefer to fail at something that I love than to succeed at something that I fucking hate.”
Where: North Shields
What: Radiant, socially-conscious indie
Get 3 Songs: ‘Dead Boys’, ‘Leave Fast’, ‘Play God’
Fact: Whiskey fan Sam favours a Laguvalin 16 single malt. “It’s a strong bastard,” he warns.
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Words: Simon Harper
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Zarina Shukri
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