A new song released by Liam Fender this Friday comes with a remarkable video shot in the heart of his home town and including ballet, comedy, art, drama – and some very familiar faces.
The North Shields singer-songwriter, brother of Sam Fender, called upon family, friends and contacts to help create the video which accompanies his new single Time Comes Around which seems set to prove a hit with fans. As the video plays out to the soundtrack, it shows a pair of ballet dancers whirl their way through the town’s high street; passing the likes of local actor-comedian Fin Healy and a ‘street artist’ at work, who turns around to reveal he is popular ‘gadgie’ artist Alexander Miller.
Save for a scene-setting beginning and end, it is one continuous shot which runs for nearly five minutes, with Liam himself briefly stepping into the frame between scenes showing an ambulance crew at work and an orchestra in play. In blink-and-you-miss-it moments, as it pans the length of North Shields’ central Bedford Street, viewers can also spot the likes of post-punk-pop artist Bugman; social media stars Ginger Cal and Angry Bob and magician Chris Cross. It is great advertising for the shops there too.
While the council and police knew about the recent shoot taking over the street, which is mostly pedestrianised, it was not closed off and Liam says “with the ambulance there we did have quite a few passers-by wanting to know what the hell was going on!” And he admits that the single long shot idea – which took “about 12 takes” – was “a bit of a challenge!”
The result is Liam’s most ambitious music video to date and promises to generate plenty publicity for Time Comes Around, a song described as incorporating beautiful guitar-led melodies, lilting drumbeats, strings, and ‘poignantly genuine yet feel-good lyrics’. Liam, who describes his music as post-industrial romance, says: “It’s really about things that come good after a long period of s***.”
Following the likes of his debut Love Will Conquer and then Don’t Follow Me Down, it more captures how he feels right now. Having previously taken a break – longer than intended – from music, which had been a full-time career, he had been thinking about dipping his toe back into the industry just as the pandemic hit “and the world imploded”.
Now the 37-year-old is getting back to where he wants to be. It’s not his full time job again yet – he works in house removals – but that’s his plan for the future. Time Comes Around is actually an ‘old’ new song.
“I’ve had that song sat in the vaults for about 10 years!” he says. “It’s been a long time coming.” He always knew it felt like a strong song but was keen to get a couple of others out first to help raise his profile.
Also, he could never have done such an ambitious video for his first track, he points out. He remembers the day making the video, directed by Sam Gannie, as “a day of creative people coming together”, with the local YMCA becoming the base for the day. With a “shy bairns get nowt” attitude, a mix of friends and shared contacts were invited to take part and Liam says “they jumped on it!”
The local ballet dancers at the focus of the action, Hayley Walker and Owen Kennedy, were the “real stars of the day”, he says; adding that they choreographed their own work. As for the painting of gadgies seen being created – Alexander Miller’s trademark – this was actually on board, not the wall itself, and they are thinking of putting it up for auction.
Still living in North Shields, with no intention to ever leave the region, Liam says of his songs: “They all come from a real place. I always struggle when people ask what a song is about.
“I don’t really know until a few years down the line. I write as a steam of consciousness and it’s not until about three or four years later that it clicks.”
His new song’s sentiment about things getting better chimes with how he feels now, with his renewed enthusiasm for making music and wanting to get back out there. A headline gig he did at the Riverside in Newcastle was a big hit – “I’d forgotten I’d created a bit of a following and it was lovely that those people came back” – and in April he played at a Rock ‘n’ Raise event at Wylam Brewery.
He’s described in his artist profile as “a musical underdog”. They weren’t his words he says but then adds “I’ve always been a bit of an underdog”, referencing his Brit Award winner younger brother Sam as “doing pretty well!”
People always ask if they might ever perform together and in April last year he did join his sibling on stage for a song during Sam’s Seventeen Going Under tour gig at Utilita Arena. But with a nine-year age gap between them, the brothers, whose dad was also a musician, came to music at different times.
“Certainly there’s nothing in the pipeline, put it that way,” he says of any potential collaboration. “As much as we love each other, if we were both together on stage it would make the Gallaghers look like Jedward!” he laughs.
“Never say never – in a nutshell.” But they’re different artists, both focused on time-consuming work. Liam doesn’t often get a chance to watch Sam perform and ahead of his brother’s upcoming big double-date at St James’ Park in June, he says he’ll probably be there but has things of his own lined up too.
He says: “I’m conscious not to be seen jumping on the bandwagon.” He’s keen to do his own thing – doing what he’s been doing for 20 years – and “it’s nice to be doing it again, at this age, with a bit more mileage on the clock.”
Ahead of a debut EP due later this summer, Liam’s upcoming local dates include the new In Between Days festival in Newcastle’s Times Square on May 26 and Coastella Festival in North Shields on July 1. Other shows include Bingley Weekender Festival on August 5 and Hardwick Festival on August 20. See his Facebook page here.
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