Discover & Download - Sam Fender

March 25, 2019
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In the midst of a sprawl of council estates and terraced houses that snake down the high street on the way east to the Tynemouth coast, there’s a square patch of parched grass with goalposts at each end. Before his guitar offered an escape route from North Shields, Sam Fender would roll around its cracked pavements with nothing much to do and nowhere to go. Invariably, he’d be kicking a ball around or smoking cigarettes, always with a song in his head.

“I love my hometown, but when I was growing up I did feel trapped,” he begins. “I felt suffocated, it was claustrophobic.” Fender couldn’t stand the inertia, and turned to his guitar rather than his A-Levels to find a way past it. A sense of abandon informs his urgent, heartfelt, already essential rock‘n’roll songs, which tell stories of a life on the fringes.

“I grew up in a place where there are lots of kids that came from families that didn’t work, and then they didn’t work,” he says. “There’s a lot of fear involved when you grow up in a town like that, fear that you’re not going to make something of yourself. I mean actually having a life and seeing places, I never wanted to be stuck there. I butchered my A Levels ‘cause I was too busy being an idiot and playing the guitar. I ended up working in the pub for two or three years and I had no direction really, I didn’t know how I could get me music off the ground. It looked almost inevitable that I’d be stuck there…”
 

To see Sam Fender live is to see an artist who really f’kin means it. When he delivers his songs, with that cavernous, direct-to-the-back-of-the-room-and-through-the-wall vocal he’s playing it like his life depends upon it. Off stage he’s a joker, a looming, magnetic, Damon Albarn before he turned so serious, cheeky-chappy presence, but up there he evokes the spirit and energy of his hero, The Boss. Not so much heart-on-sleeve, as heart-with-pin-removed-and-lobbed-into-the-pit-sized explosive. Having  opened for a plethora of bigger names (from Catfish & The Bottlemen to Hozier to Jake Bugg to Michael Kiwanuka), the stage is where his story is told.

There’s an edge to Fender’s songs that can also make him tremble. The surging, urgent Dead Boys deals explicitly with male suicide and mental health issues, and has caused outpourings of emotion among a growing band of followers. All of Sam’s songs tend to feature a resonance and socially-aware, socially-pertinent message. It’s what helps to define him, and makes him leap-frog the endless slew of winsome singer-songwriters that sound fine, but have precisely nothing to say for themselves.

“My songs come from a very real place, a lad from the North-East of England writing about what’s in front of his face,” he says. “I never will claim to be an expert about the issues I talk about, but I will try and talk about them.”

One thing Fender can claim to be an expert on is North Shields, the area that has shaped his gnarled, addictive songs more than anything else. “It’s a very proud place. My dad was a club musician, and worked as an electrician and various other jobs. He played social clubs for years, people I grew up with were grafting through the week in different jobs and playing gigs at the weekend,” Fender says. “They were part of a big community and industry that got destroyed in the ‘80s, so I grew up when everything was dismantled.”