Liam Fender: A Buzzing North East.
In the month of June, Liam Fender and his illustrious brother Sam Fender accomplished a longstanding family aspiration in a most unexpected manner. Liam, speaking via video call from his spare bedroom in North Shields, shared that their family, being ardent supporters of Newcastle United, have all been skilled football players. However, Liam and Sam, who happen to be the least proficient footballers in the family, managed to play at St James' Park, which brought a sense of joy and irony to the situation. Liam reminisces about his lack of football skills and shares a childhood incident where he was bullied by a PE teacher, which soured his experience with the sport.
During two remarkable nights at Newcastle's Cathedral on the Hill, Liam, who is nine years older than his brother Sam, joined forces with him to perform a captivating duet of Bruce Springsteen's timeless 1984 classic, 'I'm On Fire'. Presently, Liam is diligently preparing to release his debut EP, 'Love Will...', a captivating compilation of soulful songs that highlights his melodic talent and clever use of words, much like Richard Hawley, but with a touch of Northern influence.
In an exclusive interview with NME, Liam delves into his vast vault of songwriting gems that he has accumulated over two decades of performing live. He elaborates on starting work on his first full-length album and also discusses his involvement in a campaign aimed at supporting men's mental health in the North East during the challenging times of the cost of living crisis.
Your song 'Don't Follow Me Down' has resonated with many as a powerful anthem for mental health. How did it originate?
"Some of the songs on this EP have been tucked away for quite some time. I initially penned 'Don't Follow Me Down' back in 2015. Typically, when I compose a song, I'm not immediately aware of its underlying theme. My songwriting process is driven by a stream of consciousness. It usually takes a few years for me to truly grasp the meaning behind a song. 'Don't Follow Me Down' feels particularly fitting for the times we are releasing it in. It reflects the aftermath of the chaotic events of the past few years. The fact that it has been embraced as an anthem for mental health was somewhat accidental, to be honest. When people started interpreting it that way, I thought, 'Oh yes, of course, it makes perfect sense.' Initially, when I wrote it, I simply thought of it as a song about drugs, with some obvious references embedded within."
You have recently lent your support to a campaign dedicated to men's mental health in the North East during the cost of living crisis. This initiative includes a group that encourages discussions while going on walks. Isn't that kind of support invaluable?
"Absolutely. Considering the fact that I come from a working-class background in a Northern town, I hope not to sound overly cliché, but such support is truly significant. In these communities, the norm is to work hard and play hard. Unfortunately, men's mental health has often been disregarded in recent years. I don't intend to delve into controversial territory, akin to Jordan Peterson, discussing the supposed threat to white, heterosexual males. However, I do believe that the importance of men's mental health has been somewhat undermined. It's encouraging that the issue is now being discussed openly."
Indeed, especially in times of turmoil. It's difficult to pursue a motto of working hard and playing hard when finding employment itself becomes a challenge!
Certainly, indeed. It's a result of the current era we're in. We are amidst a phase of extensive global transformation, and everyone has to adapt to it. The rapid pace of change can be incredibly challenging for individuals, especially if they have grown accustomed to a particular way of life and then find themselves in precarious work situations. This notion applies to the music industry as well. When I consider how the music business was when I first started out two decades ago, it has completely transformed beyond recognition.
In your younger years, did you come from a musical family called the Fenders?
Yes, music was always present in our household. My father is a musician, though we all share a common trait of being frustrated musicians ourselves! From the age of seven, I knew that music was my calling. It was like a natural instinct that said, "This is what I want to do." Perhaps it was a case of following in my father's footsteps. I've always viewed it as an opportunity to break free from the confines of an unfulfilling existence. For me, music is pure escapism. It has always fascinated me. As a teenager, I would use my pocket money to take the bus to Newcastle and visit record stores. On the journey back home, I would read all the credits of the musicians involved. Even now, when I attend concerts, I find myself standing at the side of the stage, observing what kind of equipment the artists are using. First and foremost, I am a devoted fan of music. If I can make my own music and people enjoy it, then that's a cause for celebration!
During your childhood, what kind of music were you listening to?
Ah, Steely Dan. That was my father's influence. A devoted follower of Steely Dan. On the other hand, my mother was a huge fan of Sting. It seemed like anything my mother loved, my father would detest, and vice versa. As a child, my taste in music was rather peculiar. When I was eight years old, I developed a peculiar obsession with Genesis. It encompassed various genres of music, ranging from classic rock to soul and R&B. From a young age, I found myself captivated by a diverse range of sounds. Although it has caused me frustration at times throughout my life, making me question why I am pursuing this path, my fascination with music remains unwavering.
The music video for "Time Comes Around" is stunning, featuring ballet dancers gracefully twirling through the streets of North Shields. Did you come up with that concept?
We were incredibly proud of that video! I can take credit for choosing the location, but I must admit that the idea of incorporating ballet dancers and all the other elements was not mine. I wish we had more documentation of the filming process. The video was shot on the high street, just a couple of minutes away from where I reside. The reactions from the onlookers were quite amusing. As for the song itself, it reflects a recurring theme throughout the entire EP, which is the notion that things will turn around for the better after a prolonged period of sadness. The roots of "Time Comes Around" can be traced back about eleven years. We are now embarking on the creation of the album, which will be more up-to-date. However, for this EP, I knew I had a couple of songs that I had been holding onto, and I truly wanted to release them before embarking on a new body of work.
Covering Joy Division's iconic song "Love Will Tear Us Apart" can be a touchy subject, as it is adored by many. Did you believe you could offer a fresh perspective?
Bloody Nigel Gallagher went and covered it recently as well, the cheeky bugger! I'm quite curious to see how people will respond to our rendition. I performed that song for years in bars and other establishments. There have been countless cover versions of that track, but I always felt that there was room for a more stripped-back interpretation that captures the rawness of the original. It is an incredibly heart-wrenching song, isn't it? Hopefully, I have done it justice, and no one will be offended by our rendition!
The EP concludes with the uplifting track "Love Will Conquer." How did that song come together?
I composed that song two or three years ago. I'm not the type of person who forces themselves to write. If the ideas flow naturally and it feels right, then the song will come to fruition. I don't wake up every day and write a new song. "Love Will Conquer" was one of those rare moments where I woke up in the morning and could already hear the melody in my head. My phone is filled with half-formed ideas, but this time, I had a clear melody in mind. By the end of the day, I knew that if I didn't write that song, it would fade away like so many others. That's where I believe the quality lies. I didn't have too much time to overthink or deliberate on it. I simply went in and recorded a demo, and it had a certain indescribable essence to it.
How is progress on the album coming along?
Currently, we are in the preliminary stages of production. If everything continues to go smoothly, we should anticipate a release sometime in the following year. I am filled with anticipation as I prepare to immerse myself in this project. Our recording sessions will take place at Blank Studios, a reputable establishment located in Newcastle. The atmosphere within this studio is absolutely incredible, and it is home to an exceptional group of individuals. Numerous bands from this area have utilized its resources, including The Pale White and Pigs x7. It serves as a marvelous and thriving hub for creativity. Witnessing the newfound enthusiasm and energy emerging from the North East is truly remarkable, especially when comparing it to the beginning of my own career. It is a genuinely exhilarating time to observe these developments unfold.
"Liam Fender's 'Love Will...' will be available on July 28th.
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