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CAA’s Paul Wilson on Sam Fender’s global breakout

Sam Fender’s agent Paul Wilson has spoken to IQ about the BRIT Award winner’s international ambitions ahead of his biggest headline show to date this summer.

The singer-songwriter tours venues such as Halle 62 in Zurich, AFAS Live in Amsterdam and Zenith in Munich in May, and also has festival slots lined up at Southside, Hurricane and Rock Werchter, prior to headlining London’s 40,000-capacity Finsbury Park on 15 July.

“We managed to get in a small Berlin show and an Amsterdam show before the end of last year, and then we were going to do more shows in Paris and Holland in December, which had to be cancelled because of Covid,” CAA’s Wilson tells IQ. “And we had some festivals at the end of last summer.

“We’re going to do shows in May which, fingers crossed, will happen. Then we are playing a whole bunch of key festivals, which were booked on the first album campaign two or three years ago, but never happened, so he’s now going back but he’s returning in a much better position on the back of two albums.”

Originally set for 2020, Fender’s first UK arena run in support of his debut LP Hypersonic Missiles finally took place in autumn 2021.

“He’d sold 60,000 tickets and that was too big a tour just to lose,” explains Wilson. “Obviously, those were people who were super-excited to see him the first album campaign, so we had to see that through. The challenge then was trying to get those shows done as soon as things opened up, but with nobody knowing when that would be, we had to keep moving the dates.

“We ended up doing some of the smaller shows from that tour around some festival runs in August/September, and then we moved the bigger arena shows to November last year.”

“We were into the second album campaign before the first album campaign had played out”

Fender’s acclaimed second album, Seventeen Going Under, was released last October, topping the charts in the UK and reaching the Top 10 in Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Its success, and the reception to Fender at his festival shows, persuaded Wilson to put the star’s spring 2022 arena tour on sale before the rescheduled 2020/21 dates had taken place.

“We were into the second album campaign before the first album campaign had played out, but it sold out straight away.” he says. “Then, when we were looking at Finsbury Park, for example, the conversations were, ‘Sam’s got to play two nights at Alexandra Palace [10,400-cap] and he’s got to play two Wembley Arena [12,500] shows, that’s too many tickets in order to do Finsbury Park. But a lot of the tickets were sold a long time ago and there was renewed excitement around Sam and the new album.

“We put his arena tour on sale and it sold out straight away, so there were no new tickets. So we thought that Finsbury Park made sense.”

Fender, who also tops the bill at UK festivals Tramlines, Truck and Victorious this July, won the award for Alternative/Rock Act at last week’s BRITs. And after trending on TikTok, he scored a Top 3 hit single in the UK – a rarity for a rock song in the streaming age – with Seventeen Going Under‘s title track.

“It’s opening him up to a whole new audience because that’s come through TikTok and he’s getting really big streaming numbers,” suggests Wilson. “In terms of his live work, all of that single success has been since we put all these shows on sale and sold out, so we haven’t really seen whether that’s had an impact on his crowds yet. We will see that with the shows to come.”

“He’s now moving quite quickly to headline festival status. The key now we’ve reached that point in the UK is to try and achieve that in other territories”

Fender’s long-held ambition to headline St James’ Park in his hometown of Newcastle remains “on the bucket list”, reports Wilson, while his shows supporting The Killers on their 2022 UK stadium tour, originally scheduled for 2020, will be honoured.

“They’re probably going to be slightly different shows now, because there’s going to be a whole stadium who knows who he is, which wouldn’t have been the case when we booked them a couple of years ago,” notes Wilson.

“When he moved up to arena level at the end of last year, that was a big step. That tour was originally going to be a couple of years ago, so it was probably a positive thing from the pandemic that, when they actually happened, he’d played a whole bunch of big festival shows. He was in a position where he was ready to play arenas and he put on a fantastic show.

“It was partly seeing the reaction to those shows that made us think we could go and do something like Finsbury Park – the bigger the show, the better he gets. He enjoys playing for big crowds, which is not the same for every artist, and he’s now moving quite quickly to headline festival status.

“The key now we’ve reached that point in the UK is to try and achieve that in other territories. We need to get back to Europe; he is going to America in August to try and get that started. Then we’re going to try and get into Australia before the end of the year. As the world opens up, we have to get that message internationally so people can see just how good Sam is.”


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