Growing up in a small Northern England town, Sam Fender was given some early advice. "An old man told me to leave fast, or stay forever," Fender sings.
For the 24-year-old singer-songwriter, music has suddenly offered an escape.
"It's been a very surreal year, that's for sure," Fender said. "The last sort of six months, things really flipped on their head."
In December, Fender won the BRIT Awards Critics' Choice Prize, the same prize that helped launch the careers of Adele, Florence & The Machine and Sam Smith.
Fender was influenced by an American rocker who also has working-class roots: Bruce Springsteen.
"I love the guy," Fender said.
Fender was a teenager when his older brother introduced him to 'Born to Run.'
"It just changed my world," Fender said. "The thing about Springsteen, his music, although he's writing about, you know, New Jersey and Asbury Park, all of them places, it's blue collar towns that like-- it's similar to Newcastle where I'm from."
Fender admires artists like Springsteen and Bob Dylan who write about what's happening in the world.
"They all had something to say," Fender said.
With his song "Dead Boys," Fender found he had something to say.
"I lost a friend to suicide like a couple of years ago. And essentially just wrote it as a reaction to that," Fender said. "I've read up on it. And it's the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, more than cancer and car accidents. So that was staggering for me."
Fender said he was scared of putting such personal material into a song.
"I was utterly terrified," Fender said. "And I wasn't even sure about releasing it, because it's very close to home."
But the song struck a chord and started a conversation. The video has been viewed more than a million times.
"The important thing about my tunes is that I don't ever express I'm an expert on these things," Fender said. "I write from the perspective of an early 20s kid who is trying to grasp an idea of what the hell is going on. I'm asking questions that most people are asking, but just putting a melody or a song to it."
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