Sam Fender: 27 years old and they call him the English Bruce Springsteen of the new generation
He had a difficult youth, was bullied and considered selling drugs. He became a star singing about his city.
His name is Sam Fender – he’s named after his guitar – and he’s one of the finest young British musicians to emerge in recent years. Her second album, Seventeen Going Under, was released in October and was a commercial and critical success. Many already call him the Englishman Bruce Springsteen – but of a new generation, because he is 27 years old.
Samuel Fender was born, raised and lives in North Shields. It is a small working-class coastal town in northern England with high rates of poverty, suicide and political alienation. Just as Springsteen became a “working class” icon in America, Sam Fender draws inspiration from his social context and it is this imagery that he portrays in his rock music.
Born in 1994, Sam Fender had a difficult adolescence. His mother left home when he was just eight years old, but he eventually moved back in with her after his stepmother kicked him out of his father’s house when he was a teenager.
At the time, Sam wasn’t athletic at all – he was quite heavy, in fact – and he was bullied at school. It influenced him and it’s a theme he explores in the songs. In the end, he formed a group of friends with other people whose main hobby was music. Sam’s father and older brother already played guitar, so it was always very narrow territory for him.
He started composing his first songs when he was about 14, inspired by Bruce Springsteen or names like Jeff Buckley. A year later he was already working in bars and founded his first band. Shortly thereafter, he got very sporadic work as an actor: he took part in episodes of the series “Vera” and “Wolfblood”.
At the same time, he faced great adversity in his life. At the age of 17, his mother – who had been a nurse for four decades – had to stop working because of fibromyalgia. Sam, who had several friends who sold drugs, thought it would be a quick way to make money to pay the bills. He never did after his mother convinced him not to go down that path.
“We had to beg, borrow, or steal anyone who could help us,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. An uncle eventually provided the necessary support – and at the age of 18 Sam began performing regularly in bars, with paid concerts.
During his studies he had other jobs. He’s been in a call center, worked in a restaurant and in a pub — in fact, that’s where he met his manager Owain Davies, who heard him play “Get Back” by the Beatles and an original song by him. Davies, who has worked with Ben Howard, was delighted.
From there he started giving more concerts – and opening shows for bigger artists. When he was 20 years old, Sam Fender had a health problem that put his life on the line and forced him to put his career on hold. Fender never publicly revealed what illness he had, but it was a life-changing situation.
Prior to this phase, Sam Fender focused on writing popular songs that could improve his (and his mother’s) quality of life. When forced to stop, he continued to compose, but only with the aim of creating music he enjoyed, inspired by his experiences. From there the themes were born that made it a success. “I thought: if I die young, I want to make sure I wrote something worth hearing,” he told the same American newspaper.
In March 2017, he released his first single “Play God” – which attained enormous dimensions after being integrated into the video game FIFA 19 soundtrack. He gave several important concerts throughout the year and the following year he was awarded the BBC for being one of the artists on the Sound of 2018 list – alongside musicians like Billie Eilish, Khalid and Lewis Capaldi.
This was followed by the single “Dead Boys”, which deals with the topic of male suicide. Sam Fender composed the theme inspired by the death of a close friend. It would have been the song that would have propelled it to penetrate the mainstream circuits and reach a wider audience. In the same year he released the EP of the same name.
From 2019 he began creating the themes that would make up the debut album, Hypersonic Missiles. With these singles he achieved the most, namely on the American market. Sam Fender performed the eponymous theme on his American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel’s show – before touring the United States for the first time. In the same year he opened the Bob Dylan and Neil Young shows in Hyde Park in England.
The following year he was nominated for Best New Artist at the Brit Awards, although he did not win the award. The pandemic, of course, brought concerts to a standstill, but his music continued to gain fans. A year later the second album “Seventeen Going Under” was released. The single “Aye” speaks of the polarization between left and right; “Spit of You” portrays her relationship with her father. The album was a smash hit, filling bigger and bigger concert halls.
His music is often politically charged. Sam Fender considers himself to be on the left, but has criticized parties across this political spectrum for alienating the working-class poor who are being conquered by the far-right. Between fame, everyday life in North Shields (where he became famous), class warfare and rock n’ roll, Sam Fender just keeps finding his way.