The number of singer songwriters out there these days is astonishing, just head to any ‘open mic’ night, a bar or a country pub and you are guaranteed to see someone, sat on a high stool, knocking out cover versions of classic tracks whilst the general public chow down on carveries and sip cocktails. So just how do you stand out from the rest? well, I think this is all down to your presonal style, what you actually play isn’t the key factor, it’s HOW you play it, I’m not talking about turning up with a plethora of effects pedals, laptops and backing tapes, it’s more HOW the musician takes a song and sprinkles it with their own magic dust in order to make it that little bit more unique.
We were fortunate to be in Plymouth recently when a young Totnes singer songwriter called Sam Fearon was playing at the B-Bar on the Barbican and I can honestly say that he epitomises everything that I mentioned above, not the part about overloading the effects and backing tapes but the ability to play a classic track in his own style.
I saw Sam play at the Glas-Denbury festival in 2014 and I was impressed by his set, fast forward one year and we take our seats at the B-Bar and wait for him to take the stage.
The minimal stage setup consists of a couple of monitor speakers, twin microphones and Sam’s magical box of sorcery, let’s call it his loop pedal, although, like the car in Stephen King’s cult classic ‘Christine’, I think it might be a little bit possessed!
From the off he launched into a cover of Ray Charles’ classic ‘Hit the Road Jack’, showcasing Sam’s ability to flex his musical muscle in order to provide some real bluesy, soulful output. He had a bit of a false start with Tom Petty’s ‘Freefallin’ as he forgot the opening line, after a short amusing debate with the audience, it came to him and he was off, doing a splendid job of injecting some ‘Fearon’ magic to the original which enhanced it greatly. He played a variety of self penned tracks including one for a ‘special young lady in the audience’ called ‘She’s the One’ and told a sad tale about a friend of his who had gotten engaged and wanted the track to be ‘their song’, no doubt to be sung by Sam at their wedding, this wasn’t to be as they have since broken up so Sam said that the song was up for grabs if anyone else wanted it but he wouldn’t be responsible if anything happened to the relationship!
The great thing about Sam is that he is always learning, new songs, new styles, new ways of adding his own personal touch using his loop pedal and experimenting with vocal harmonies, this was very clear when he kicked into Billy Joel’s ‘Always a Woman to me’ which he admitted he had only started to learn about a week ago and commented at the start that if it all goes belly up, he’ll simply move on, there was no need for this as he nailed it first time, looking at the chords he was playing, I wouldn’t have lasted 2 minutes so full credit to him for that!
It always amazes me how firstly a guitar player can play with their eyes closed, I can’t even play guitar and sing at the same time let alone thinking of doing it with my eyes shut! I have a problem where my voice follows the notes being played on the guitar so I can knock out a nice tune but if I dare open my mouth, that’s where it all goes Pete Tong! Sam clearly doesn’t have this issue….damned talented youngsters!
Sam wrote a song for the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ which is a charity to help those who have been wounded in Britain’s conflicts, the track centers around a fallen soldier and what he is thinking before he succumbs to the inevitable, it’s a real heartfelt track that I hope will do really well and go on to raise loads of money for the charity. There is even talk of him providing the track for the charity to use as their Christmas song, who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing Mr Fearon on the tellybox having beaten whatever manufactured crap that Simon Cowell et al produce from this years ‘Pop Factor’ (or whatever it’s called), maybe….
He went on to sing a song about his mother and how she wasn’t too happy when he left university to carve a path in the music world rather than advanced education, he sang of the mellow ‘hippie’ vibe of his hometown of Totnes which showcased some tight guitar work and brilliant vocals.
He covered John Mayers’ ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’, which he said he had first played as a spotty teenager, his magic box of sorcery providing the backing guitar part, allowing Sam to noodle over the top, very impressive and again, a great take on the original. His set continued with an awesome version of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ followed by his own stunning version of the much covered Leonard Cohen classic ‘Hallelujah’ which nearly brought the house down, his vocals so tender, his playing so precise, it really was a beautiful moment!
Sam took a few minutes to tell us that he has CD’s for sale and also a range of T-Shirts, made of the finest Egyptian cotton that ‘wash very well’ courtesy of Vistaprint, he’d do well as a salesman if he wasn’t so darn good at being a musician!
He ended with a great version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ which prompted a number of the females in the audience to roll out some cringeworthy MJ impressions including a few shouts of ‘Shamone’, which was nice….
Sam will be appearing at the Glas-Denbury festival on Saturday 11th July, for more details check the festival website. If you get chance to pop down and see him at any of his other local gigs, please make every effort to do so, you’ll have a great night and who knows, because you’re attending, he might even be able to find two socks that match!
Upcoming Gigs (June)
5th, Crabshell, West Hoe Bar
9th, The Abbey Camden, NW1 9QB
10th, Amersham Arms, London, SE14 6TY
11th, The King William, Pimlico, SW1V 3LG
12th, Cool Cats Cafe London, Talking to Rachael, SE5 7EW
13th, Proud Camden, Talking to Maria, NW1 8AH
15th, The Library Islington, N1 1RU
16th, Goblin Centre Bristol
19th, The Flavel Dartmouth
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by 241photography