The time I interviewed Sam Fender

1 Oct 2019

This isn’t the usual thing I post on here but something I did want to share. If you don’t know Sam Fender, by the end of this I hope you will take some time to give his music a listen, especially his newly-released debut album Hypersonic Missiles.

I was in my final year of uni last year when I decided to join the on-campus music magazine’s writing pool. I’d already got my tickets for Sam’s gig in York and just a week before the date, the chance to interview Sam Fender came about. I’d interviewed one band before this - a local band basically unknown at the time -  so you could say I was bricking it. But, before I could talk my shy, nervous self out of it, I said I’d do it.

I can't say the interview went off without a hitch. My interview technique was far from perfect and was laced with slight silences as I tried to remember what I wanted to ask without accidentally spurting out “what’s your favourite colour?”. But, I survived and while I spent the next few weeks cringing at little comments I made, I was still proud of myself.

As I mentioned, Sam has just released his first album and I thought now would be the perfect time to share this story as, while I don’t have the ability to interview him again, I still wanted to share with you my experience. While only small compared to many, this was one of my biggest accomplishments of last year. The original write-up was published in the campus magazine but never online so I wanted to share a newly edited version here with a few extra bits that didn’t make it into the original write-up.

The Interview "In Conversation with Sam Fender" - 30/08/18

This past year has seen Sam Fender's career soar and if you've not heard of him, now is the time to give him a listen. 

With his UK tour just starting, Fender dropped into York for his second date. The hidden upper-floor of Fibbers, a popular spot for students for a night out, was where we spoke. It resembled an illicit speakeasy, juxtaposing with the hazy, stifling venue below. 

It was almost a year to the date I'd seen Sam support VANT here, his impressive vocals leaving a lasting impression. "Touring is an invaluable and an amazing way to build a fan base", he acknowledged. After supporting the likes of Hozier and George Ezra, his popularity has risen considerably, with all six of his consecutive London dates sold out. Appearances at summer festivals similarly boosted his fan base. 

Unsurprisingly, this proved a hectic experience: "It was a mad, relentless crusade but done with a world of good" he described his summer as. The never-ending tours and continuous release of new tracks has paid off: Fender is quickly becoming recognised as one of the country's most exciting artists. 

Sam's tour started after the release of the latest single 'That Sound'. The track was debuted in anticipation for the soon-to-be-released EP Dead Boys, out on 20th of November, 2018. Interestingly, Sam has decided to opt-out of CD release. Instead, the EP will only be available on vinyl, cassette and the usual streaming platforms. 

"Why vinyl and cassette?" I asked. 
"Only people who buy CD's tend to be, like, my auntie and she wouldn't buy my CD. She buys like..."
"Michael Bublé?"
"Yeah! Or like the guy off the Chase... What's the point of a CD when everyone is just going to download it anyway? Vinyl, if you love an artist, it's like you actually own something of theirs. It's a physical thing; all the artwork and extras that you wouldn't get with a download or CD. I think it's more dedication to the cause. If you like an artist, you should buy their stuff. Vinyl has its place still - put a download code on top of it and it's great. And cassettes? They're a piece of piss - they're cheap and a bit of fun." 

Sam went on to express his own love for vinyl and owning Donny Hathaway's second self-titled album: 
"He's such a great soul singer and I have his vinyl up on my wall."
"Has he influenced you as an artist?"
"He doesn't influence my writing, but he influences me in the way he's one of the best singers of all time... He was a singer I was brought up listening to." 

I went on to ask if there were any songs he was particularly looking forward to releasing. "Poundshop Kardashians seems to be one that's caught a lot of attention... I'm sure it'll get me into trouble, hopefully" he joked. "No, I don't want that. People just get excited by something that's provocative but it's essentially just a rant". He also mentioned he was excited for people to hear "Spice" as well. 

We took some time to speak about the title track on his EP, "Dead Boys", a song that caused traction across major radio stations and UK TV. It's a track that deals with the topic of male suicide - a subject that is close to him and relates to events in his hometown. Fender really shows the power that music can have; its positive influence and ability to send a message. 

It may have been a while before the release but I had to ask. 
"And how is the album going then?" 
"The album is already written. We're starting to record it this week. It's going to be a grander sounding thing." 
He described it as a mix of familiar material and songs with a sound completely alien to fans. "One song has a sax, glockenspiel, piano, twenty-six guitars, bass, drums, even choirs of voices. I wanted a Phil Spector Wall of Sound thing that just hits you in the face." 

It was getting to the end of the interview and I was already run out of questions to ask, I felt so underprepared. I ended up panicking and asking "For people who haven't listened to you before, what would you say to them?" 

Sam paused and kind of took a minute to think. He started to reply what seemed like a more formulated answer before shrugging his shoulders, a slight shake of the head and changing his answer "You know, I'm not really that bothered about convincing people to like me." The way he said this shouldn't be taken the wrong way; it was by no means the way that may come across as narcissistic. Instead, it's quite the opposite; he's happy with the listeners he already has and doesn't feel the need to persuade people with his words to give him a listen but more, as he says, "If you hear and you like it then great." 

The interview soon came to an end and we headed back downstairs where we followed the sound of the bass undertones from the rehearsal. As we walked near the stage, I said something but I don't think he caught it; the rehearsal was too loud to really hear and he already seemed immersed in listening to the support act warm-up, so I quietly left to join my friends waiting outside for the show. 

Since then, Sam has accomplished so much more, going from sold-out show to sold-out tours for this year and next. Bigger venues, bigger releases and more. Doing this interview is still one of my biggest accomplishments and I'm so glad I took the chance to do it. 

Throughout the interview, Sam came across as a humble and modest guy who was in awe of his own achievements so far. 
"I can't talk about everything without throwing a load of platitudes at you because it's all dream-level stuff. It's all completely off the wall and I'm overwhelmed by it all. How the fuck has this even happened?" This was after the release of his EP. I'd love to know how he's feeling now after the release of his album. 

I'm kind of hoping me sharing this, if you weren't convinced already, will persuade you to give Sam Fender a listen and, if anything more, buy his album available on vinyl and CD now. 

This was something a little different from my usual posts but I hope you enjoyed it all the same. 
Sarah x 

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