Sam Fender interview – he talks music, fame and friendships

Sam Fender: A timeline of the his rise to success, fame and fortune

Sam Fender was mocked at college and now the star relishes telling his former classmates to “f*** off” when they ask him to play at their weddings.

Down-to-earth Sam still lives in the town he was brought up in.

He initially expressed interest in music at a very young age, receiving his first guitar from his father aged eight, and has admitted being inspired by the likes of Jimmy Page and Slash.

He began gigging initially with his best mate Dean Thompson (who now plays along Sam in his band) around 13, covering the usual noughties indie rock – like Kings of Leon – with his first gig for Dean’s uncle’s birthday.
He began learning how to sing a year later, and subsequently started to write his own songs.

After years of practice, he started to participate at his brother’s open mic night, and even formed his first ever band aged just 15 – where he would go on to enter competitions such as the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Interestingly, Matty Healy of the 1975 was a judge at the TCT competition, and Fender managed to woo him – with his band taking home first prize.

After gigging in the North East, he was discovered by Ben Howard’s manager, Owain Davies, during a performance at Sam’s local pub, the Low Lights Tavern.

Howard’s manager would mould Sam and help him pave the road for his debut single, Play God – which was released in 2017 and featured on video game, EA Sports’ FIFA 19.
Singles and EP –

Following the success of Play God, Sam began playing shows with his full band in the summer that very same year – consisting of Dean Thompson, Joe Atkinson, Drew Michael and Tom Ungerer (with Johnny ‘Blue Hat’ Davis joining in 2019). He and his band began touring as a support act with well established musicians such as Declan McKenna, and they were even invited to play a live BBC Music Introducing session at the prestigious Maida Vale studio.

Sam would then go on to announce the band’s first headlining tour at the end of the year, which would of course take place in 2018.

After a string of shows, Sam was listed on the BBC’s Sound of 2018 alongside the likes of Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi – while he continued to put out singles such as Friday Fighting and Leave Fast.

He was subsequently signed to Polydor records in June – his big break, so to speak – where he released Dead Boys. Premiering as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World on August 14, the tune began his steady rise into stardom – and was also nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.

Sam then went on to release the Dead Boys EP on November 20 that same year – which also featured the tracks Spice, Poundshop Kardashians and That Sound.

Amid the release, he also performed on a headlining tour which included three back to back sold out nights at the Omera Club in London.

In 2019, Sam would also be nominated for and capture the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2019 Brit Awards ceremony – which he would later have turned into a beer pump at the Low Lights Tavern.

Debut album –

While fans eagerly awaited a debut album from the North Shields frontman, he decided to re-release a tidied up version of Play God in January 2019 – before releasing Hypersonic Missiles as a single on March 6.

The single would be performed stateside live on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, shortly before Sam headed out on a string of shows across North America.

After a summer took over by festival season and subsequent shows, he would release Will We Talk? – shortly afterwards selling out four nights at Newcastle’s O2 Academy.

The Borders would be released two weeks before his album also entitled Hypersonic Missiles – which released officially on September 13 – topping the UK Albums Chart by selling 41,000 copies in the first week.

Sam would be awarded the official number one album trophy by Toon hero Alan Shearer for BBC’s Match of the Day, and the album was certified as ‘Gold’ by the British Phonographic Industry by December the same year – selling over 100,000 copies in the UK alone.

Following a highly-successful album release, he went on to announce his biggest UK tour to date starting in 2020 – selling out arenas across the country for the first time.

However, Covid-19 struck and Fender was forced to rearrange the tour completely due to lockdown restrictions implemented in March due to the global pandemic.

Later that year though, he would become the first artist to perform at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Gosforth Park, Newcastle, which was designed for post-lockdown gigs in a socially distanced setting.

At the gig, Fender would play Seventeen Going Under, which was later released as a single for his second album of the same name in 2021.

Seventeen Going Under and present day –

Sam released Seventeen Going Under as a lead single for his second studio album, with Howdon Aldi Death Queue also being installed as a B-Side – and he also revealed that the album would be coming to shops and streaming services around the world on October 8 2021.

He then followed up the single by releasing Aye and Get You Down – which would also be featured yet again on the year’s annual instalment of FIFA.

His final single, Spit of You, was released to the public in September, a mere matter of weeks before the album was scheduled to launch – and featured actor Stephen Graham in the music video portraying Fender’s father.

After the second album’s release, Fender’s latest work received “universal acclaim”, based on reviews from Metacritic, and also debuted as number one on the UK Albums Chart by shifting 44,000 copies in the first week alone.

Seventeen Going Under also debuted at number one in Scotland, as well as in top 10 positions in both Ireland and Germany, adding to his worldwide growth.

Sam would also achieve his first UK Top 40 Single, with the song Seventeen Going Under re-entering the charts and hitting third place.

Fender is now set to head off on his UK headline tour to support the release of last year’s album, while he will also be featuring with The Killers on their UK and Ireland tour.

Sam found himself nominated for a trilogy of awards at the 2022 Brit Awards – where he will performed alongside some of the biggest names in music, like Liam Gallagher and Adele.

The ‘Spit Of You’ hitmaker felt out of place at a sixth form college in a wealthy part of Whitley Bay, North East England, and while his fellow students used to make fun of him then, they are keen to ask him for favours now he’s a star, and he has no problem with turning them down.

He said: “There was a corner of the common room that they used to call peasants’ corner, and that’s where I used to sit.

“But they’re all asking us to play their weddings now. And I subsequently tell them all to f*** off. It’s wonderful.”

When he was 20 and trying to make it as a musician, Sam was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, but doesn’t want to identify it because “it’ll just become the story of everything I do”.

But the 27-year-old singer admitted his health issues pushed him into making his debut album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.

He recalled to Sunday Times Culture magazine: “I was, like, ‘Well, that’s great —my music’s failed and I’m probably going to die.’

“[I thought] If I’m going to potentially die young, then I’m going to release an album that actually means something before that.”

Fortunately, Sam made an unexpected recovery.

He added: “And now I’ve released two albums that I like. Well, one that’s alreet, and one that’s f****** good.”

The ‘Seventeen Going Under’ hitmaker is now in “near remission” and although he undergoes regular tests and takes medication, he is able to lead a “completely normal” life.

But he conceded: “I should probably look after myself a bit more. But I’m in my twenties and I just want to live like I’m in my twenties.”

While Sam is preparing to start work on his third album, he insisted it won’t feature any tales of stardom.

He said: “I didn’t get famous until I was 25, so a lot of the songs I write are about my life up to then.

“I don’t really write about my life now. No one wants to hear about me globetrotting.”

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Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.


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