I'm Zack Monson here with a very special episode of Stingray PausePlay at Osheaga 2019 with up-and-coming superstar Sam Fender. How are you man?
Sam: I'm good how are you?
Childhood tidbits to the sound of “Bitterweet Symphony”
Very, very good to see you man, I'm great. I guess let's just dive right in: what's your kind of happiest earliest childhood musical memory?
Sam: Christmas morning and my mom getting The Verve “Bittersweet Symphony”- Urban Hymns, the album- and she puts “Bittersweet Symphony” on and I'm like three, four and I just remember opening up my toys to the sound of bittersweet symphony. I just remember that and it's the smell of the Christmas tree as well, it's the smell of that Christmas tree because well had a real one. Get in, posh is out.
Your family, obviously spending Christmas together musically, your family's very musical. Your dad's a songwriter, your brother's writing songs. Was there ever a time that the three of you have gotten together and written together?
Sam: God no, and we never will.
Why is that?
Sam: Cause it's shite, it'll be shit. No, because my dad actually said the other day that we should do it but my brother hates the idea of it and I kind of agree because it'll just be like the fucking Osmonds. So you know I mean like um I don't think it's a good idea but you never know we might do it one day.
But I mean you don't even have to sing on a track together.
Sam: Say if my career my career bombs, I got a family band coming.
Yeah good. Did your dad ever give you any songwriting advice?
Sam: Uh, yes. When I used to… He used to tell us to get to the chorus quicker, and I still haven't listened. Yeah?
Well what advice would you give your dad for songwriting?
Sam: Get to the chorus slower.
What was going on in your life the first time you picked up a guitar?
Sam: My parents just had a divorce and my dad got us a guitar for Christmas. It was like a guilt present
Yeah really! Well it worked out!
Sam: It was a divorce… it was a good Christmas because they were both guilty so they both tried to… I've got some good presents that year.
Yeah you got two years of them battling for your affection.
Sam: Yeah it was a divorce Christmas, which is perfect because it came right in time for all of my teenage angst and all of that.
Yeah, right absolutely.
Sam: So it came at the perfect time, but I didn't I didn't touch it for two years or something. Sat in the corner while I played with my lightsaber, because I was only eight years old when I got my first guitar.
Luke Skywalker and Bruce Springsteen
Were you into Star Wars?
Sam: Still am, I love Star Wars.
You had all the toys, the lightsaber and everything?
Sam: I got a fair few lightsabers over the years.
Do you still have one?
Sam: I've got one because I found one on the way home from a night out. I was really drunk I was pissed, mortal drunk walking on the street and it was on the wall of my old house where I'd moved from. It was a lightsaber and I've actually still got it and it's really bad because I've just stole some kid’s toy
Sam: Some kid just left his lightsaber, and I was mortal drunk, and I stole it and I didn't take it back and I've still got it. I feel really bad so I'll tell you what. The people who live at 30 Grosvenor Place now, that's where I used to live, I've got your lightsaber. I stole it five years ago and I will give you a buck if you want it. I kind of stole it because I felt salty about the fact that I'd left that house and it was a nice place, and I'm still salty about the fact that you lived there and I don't, but I'll give you the lightsaber back I promise you.
Well, we're gonna keep track of the comments on this video to make sure that these guys on Grosvenor know what you're doing. You know you've talked about when you started songwriting, this kind of mask of trying to mimic the people that you like to mimic the other artists that you listen to who were the people that you were trying to mimic?
Sam: Springsteen, Arcade Fire. I just wanted to be like my heroes, you know what I mean? I kind of wanted to create music but that reminded me of what I listened to when I was younger, but the songs that they didn't write… Do you know what I mean? I know it sounds crazy because obviously I'm nowhere near as good as Arcade Fire or Bruce Springsteen, I'm like I'm like a crap version of the two, but I want to like- I've always gone under the notion that you write the music that you want to hear on the radio. I write the stuff that you want to hear and that's what I've done I think. I think I've achieved that with “Hypersonic Missiles”. I really like that, I'm proud of that song and I like “Dead Boys”. So I think them songs sort of kind of resonate and they've connected and worked.
With a lot of people, around the world now.
Anxiety and previous jobs
Sam: Yeah, and that makes us feel great. It's such a confidence booster. It was good because inside I'm crumbling, I’m cripplingly anxious inside, and the fact that you guys are listening to the tunes it makes it a little bit better, thanks.
So for somebody who's crumbling inside, do you find it hard to get on stage sometimes, is that tough?
Sam: Yes, yeah.
What's going through your head before you get on?
Sam: I'm not good enough, I can't sing or write yeah. Or this: I'm gonna break my voice, I'm gonna… I'm gonna make a fool out of myself. There are loads of things, but that is natural I think, that's what most humans feel I think. I'm sure Madonna feels that- she won't ever tell you that- but I'm sure Madonna does feel it as well you know I mean?
But then what what do you do to kind of push past those moments? Because you could just turn around and walk away right?
Sam: Um I'm not going back on benefits. I sucked at that job, I sucked at being a restaurant waiter and I sucked at being a barman, and I don't want to go back on benefits so… I gotta stick at it!
That’s a decent list of reasons.
Sam: One day they did… In a call center I worked at, you were supposed to have a certain target for the amount of hours that you were on the phone. I think the target was like “yeah I do like 30 or 40 hours a week” or something like that. Then came in the guy, the boss was really pissed off, he was like going around and he's like: “Johnny you've only done 22 hours this week, anyway Jack! 13 hours” he's like “Disgraceful”. Then it came to me and he's like “Sam! you’ve done five hours this week!”
What were you doing the rest of the time?
Sam: Just watching YouTube videos and like, eating pot noodles. And then I had this technique to build my hours back up on the phone. I would ring a number that I knew would leave you on hold and then I just take the phone off the hook and leave it on hold for hours on end.
You’re a genius, you’re a genius. We asked the last artist that we had in to ask you a question. The artist is Sophie Tucker and the question for you is: “Hey I'm Tukker and I’m Sofi, and we're Sofi Tukker. If you had to get a tattoo tomorrow, what would it be?”
Sam: I would get… On that bicep I'd get mints, and then that bicep ‘and dumplings”. So mints and dumplings. I'll have mints and dumplings in there or NA-29, my postcode, across my knuckles to make us look badass. ‘Hell's Angles’ cause my dad had a schoolbag- I'm actually thinking about getting ‘hells angles’ tattooed because my dad’s schoolbag he found when he was 23 but he found it when he was like 14, 15 or something and it said ‘hell's angles’ on the top cause he couldn't spell angels back in the 70s.
Let’s talk Hypersonic Missiles
Hypersonic Missiles, not the single but the album, it's full of you know great singles we've already heard. Is the album gonna be more of a lovely softer Sam or harder heavy Sam?
Sam: A bit of everything. The album's clearly, I would describe it as a chocolate selection box of Sam Fender. A milk tray of Sammy Fender. It's kind of like… Some of these songs I wrote six years ago, do you know what I mean? I'm dying to get it out because a lot of these songs are from a back catalogue that I've been writing for years and years, so there's some really kind of like embryonic, old, lyrically not as strong sort of quite innocent pop songs from there from an innocent time when I was like 19. Then there's like the more recent stuff there’s is the second track on the album called “The Borders”, and now that's kind of more contemporary Sam and I really like that it's really like Springsteen and driving and eighties and it's got a sax solo in it.
Do you have a favorite unreleased song?
Sam: Yeah, probably “The Borders”. The Borders because it's not a pop song. It's five minutes long and it's kind of the first time that I've stopped trying to write sort of singles, you know I mean? I was kind of like- I just wrote free flow, bit of poetry you know. And “White Privilege” is good as well. “White Privilege” was just like a stream of consciousness that kind of fell onto the page.
I mean talking about things like white privilege or suicide or toxic masculinity or love and depression in parts-
Sam: It's pretty 2019. Walk, I'll give you that.
But it’s like you, you seem to so comfortably talk about these things that other people kind of may have a difficult time with. Why is it so much easier for you than some?
Sam: I wouldn't say it's necessarily easier I just think it's the sort of things that people are talking about, and it's the sort of thing that I'm talking about. I don't know, I'm just asking questions. Me, I think it's that it sort of seems to be what's on everybody's mind at the moment.
Sam: Male suicide was brought up purely because that was a part of my existence. I'd lost a friend to suicide- I'd lost two people I knew to suicide but one was a friend and… there was a lot of suicides going on around my hometown. I wasn't deliberately trying to capitalize on a tragedy or anything like that.
No, of course.
Sam: I was just sort of writing because it was a way of a form of therapy for myself. the worlds in such… in such...
Sam: Shambles. I was trying to think of a better word than shit for the… but it is in a shit place, and I think we're in a very rapidly changing time like that, there's a lot of change going on. But I've got to highlight that you know my job has been probably made easier by the fact that I'm a white kid with a guitar, you know I mean? I think it'd be harder if I was a girl or not white, and I have to acknowledge that because let's face it like I won the British Critics Choice Award. Now it's just like that, it's kind of like I'll say “Yes!” and then I was kind of like “Ah”, cause it's like what? I'm not doing anything different and everybody keeps hyping as up as if it’s this thing like everybody's going on… And I hate it when people say like “You are the next Bruce Springsteen” because I'm not. Like I'm not as good as Bruce Springsteen I never will be. Also I'm not doing anything particularly original, it's all just indie, it's all just indie guitar music. It's a white boy playing indie guitar music it's like “Woop dee doo!”. But I guess if people are resonating with my songs that's all that matters to me, like I'm happy about that. I just don't want to be overhyped, I just think people take it as it is.
Well look, man. I think all the praise you get is well deserved whether you think it is or not.
Sam: Thank you.
You really are a great talent. Your songwriting is great, your voice is great and I really can't wait to hear the album and just see you explode the next year, man.
Sam: Oh thanks man, I’m going to try my best!
Sam Fender on Stingray Music
Thanks for coming to talk to me, I really appreciate it. You can hear Sam Fender on Stingray Music’s Adult Alternative and more. Jump on our mobile app or on our web player, find the magnifying glass search icon, type in Sam fender to find the six channels that we play them on. We'll see you next time guys!