Sam Fender is blowing up on the scene, and for good reason. During our interview, we spoke about the desperate state of affairs that led him to sing his heart out, in front of the right person. We discussed how to stay grounded while going from 0 to 60 in terms of fame. We also spoke about the possibility of him sh*tting his pants before going on The Late Show.
To start out, I try some Geordie sayings to make Sam feel at home:
Montreal Rocks: Let me try something. You’re getting GEET WALLA (very large) in America. I can’t wait to GIZ A DEEK (look at what you’re doing) at your performance!
Sam Fender: You’re gonna deek my performance? That’s perfect. You can also say: “I will have a little DEEKY.” Geet walla as well! That’s mad. You’re getting there.
(He then precedes to help me get more guttural and teach me a few more words.)
MR: It’s a whole new lingo!
SF: Yeah. It’s a totally different world.
MR: Let’s start with you. You went from 0 to 60, in terms of fame, like a sportscar. What do you do to stay grounded?
SF: Just go home and get a slap off my dad! Go see my parents and friends. Touring America and coming to Canada is a bit of a grounder, because nobody knows who we are. It’s a lot more chill over here.
To stay grounded, do selfless things. I like to see my godfather’s kids. They are kind of like my surrogate brother and sister. I like to just talk to them about their day at school. Just do normal things and have normal conversations. Speak to my friends about their normal lives, their kids and stuff.
MR: I think everyone is really proud of you, from what I can see from the social media comments. They are very personal, like: “I just spoke to your dad…”. They are obviously very close to you.
Let’s go back to when you were a lad. Was there a time where music went from something you heard to something you felt?
SF: Probably about 10-11-12 is when it really happened for me. Music was always something that I felt. I was very lucky, my family was very musical.
The first 10 years of my life was in a very comfortable musical family realm. In the house, there were always a lot of musicians coming in and out. My dad was always cooking to music. There would be Sould music like Sam & Dave, Spencer Davis Group, Steely Dan, lots of mad Jazz & Rock. I had an ear for it, very early on because my dad (Alan) and brother (Liam) was always singing. It wasn’t uncommon to sing in the house, you know what I mean? It wasn’t a weird thing.
I always felt at home when I heard music. There was always something there I could relate to. My brother was always playing drums, he had his drum kit upstairs. I was surrounded by so much of it that it was a really wonderful childhood to grow up around that.
Ten, eleven, twelve, when you start hitting puberty is when it really starts meaning something to you. I didn’t have an identity. The only thing that ever gave us identity or self-confidence was music because it was the only thing I was good at. I sucked at school, sports and everything else.
Teenagers need to have that sense of belonging. That’s why they always group off into social groups. You have the sporty kids, the Goths and Emos, stuff like that. I was a bit of an Emo when I was younger. That meant a lot to us.
MR: Was that in the hood, as we say here?
SF: The first 10 years of my life, I was in a terraced house with my dad and mom. My mom was a nurse and my dad was an electrician. It was suburbia, the lower middle-class.
When my parents split up, I moved to an estate (British public housing) in Shields with my mother in a small flat. That’s when me and me mom had no money, really. My mom wasn’t very well, she was mentally ill and struggling to work. We were living off the government, off the state. The DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) was trying to force her to go back to work. She had to go to three tribunals and court. That was though, fifteen onwards, me and my mother were struggling to pay rent. We were both on benefits.
MR: What was the biggest lesson you learned from that time? To be a man?
SF: Yeah, probably…whatever that means. I had to become pretty independent, pretty quick, so I was working from that age. I was going to college through the day and working at a restaurant at night working in the bar. I then left college, failed because of circumstances.
I was skin, I had no money. It was unsavory circumstances. There was black mold on the walls and the place was falling to pieces in our small flat. I had to become independent and help my mother. That was though because I was a kid.
I knew things weren’t going to be easy with music. When I started doing my music, I was desperate for it to work. That desperation came across in my voice when I met my manager. I sounded like it was my last night on earth in that bar where I worked.
He (Owain Davies) walked in and my bar manager at the time knew who he was so he sent me out with a guitar. I basically sang my heart out. I didn’t know who he was. He was Ben Howard’s manager and he took me on. Six years after that, I wrote some good songs.
I probably learned how to be tenacious…I think.
MR: Your new album, Hypersonic Missiles is coming out in the next few days. Now that I know more about your childhood, it shows that you are not afraid to tackle the hard things in life. You are not just singing about superficial stuff. What do you think it means to be a man in 2019? Or should I say…a GADGIE. (laughs)
SF: What does it mean to be a gadgie? I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest, to be a good man. I’m trying to figure out how to be more selfless.
We are living in a world of rapid change. It’s important to fight for the injustices. To be a good man in 2019, you have to try and put your finger on the pulse and be proactive, maybe politically. There is a lot of sh*t that needs to be fought for at the moment.
MR: To be self-aware and take action.
MR: Let’s get into some less heavy stuff. You met Sting earlier this year. Are there other heroes you’d like to meet, apart from Arcade Fire? (overheard during Jason Rockman’s interview)
SF: I’d love to meet Arcade Fire. I went for dinner at Elton John’s house recently. He’s a fan. He was amazing and it was really good. He’s been a friend since then. Bruce Springsteen. I’d love to meet Joni Mitchell but I don’t think she’s very well. A lot of the other people I’d love to meet are dead. I would have love to have met Aretha Franklin, Jeff Buckley.
MR: Best rendition of Hallelujah.
SF: Of course, by a mile.
MR: You were recently on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. From the green room to the stage, what is going on in your head. What feelings do you have in that moment?
SF: Trying not to sh*it myself. I felt disgusting that day. I had a really bad stomach and I was terrified and really nervous. I had that moment when I went: F’ing hell…this is surreal. This is actually happening. Just go and grab it by the balls.
MR: Jimmy came up to you at the end and said: That’s how you do it brother, come on! That was fantastic. (as far as I could decipher). He was on your side.
SF: Yeah, it was wild and wonderful.
We ended with some more Geordie lessons, since he had never heard of GIZ A BAG O’CRISPSas a romantic put-down.
MR: You are coming back to Astral on October 14, 2019. Are you staying around in the area?
SF: No, flying back to England tonight!
MR: Have a great festival.
SF: Thank-you very much brother.
Interview: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His new Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs is coming soon.Share this :