He’s only 22 but Sam Fender, an accomplished songwriter deftly following in the footsteps of his idol Bruce Springsteen, has made enormous waves this year.
Like The Boss, Fender writes powerful anthems on social issues. The Newcastle native has ruminated in his music about fake news, the Kardashians and, most poignantly, male suicide.
It was this combination of insightful lyrics and adept musicianship that saw him beat other rising stars Lewis Capaldi and Mahalia to the 2019 BRITS Critics Choice Award last week.
Judged by a panel of music editors and radio station execs, the award is well respected in the industry – past winners include Adele and Florence + The Machine.
On winning the gong Fender says: “Being nominated was crazy enough, never mind winning.”
It caps off an incredible year for the lad from North Shields. Fender kicked off 2018 by being longlisted for BBC Music’s Sound Of award (it eventually went to Sigrid). He went on to play hundreds of gigs, tour with Bear’s Den and Declan McKenna, sign a record deal with Polydor and release the well-received EP Dead Boys, which includes a single of the same name. It’s a hauntingly powerful song on an issue that has affected Fender personally.
Eschewing the bravado that is sometimes commonplace in the music industry, he tells NME: “I genuinely think it [the cause of male suicide] is toxic masculinity and the idea of what a man is supposed to be.
“This really archaic, out of date idea of how a man is supposed to conduct himself. I think that’s what kills men, genuinely. I have personally struggled with that, growing up and being a young lad in 2018 in Newcastle.”
2019 promises to be just as busy for Fender. He’ll spend the first few months on the road in Ireland, Australia and UK (unfortunately his London and Manchester dates are already sold out). Fans are hoping for an album later in the year.
If you’re experiencing feelings distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide call the Samaritans Helpline on 116 123.