THIS is one of those interviews…
where you delve into an artist’s heart and really discover what drives them. Fergus has been telling me how music enriches him and what it means; what the story is behind his current single, Sinking; he tells me how it improves/differs from his debut, You or Nothing.
Fergus talks about overcoming hard times and which artists have inspired him to go into music; which three albums have made the biggest impression on him; a few new artists we need to keep a watch over; what he wants to accomplish before the year’s end – he leaves some helpful advice for songwriters emerging.
Hi, Fergus. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! I'm well, thanks. Been soaking up some sun this week, working on a couple of songs and getting ready for hitting the studio again next week.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I'm Fergus and I'm a singer-songwriter. I write based on my mood and tend to find a lot of my imagery and inspiration in nature. It’s a cathartic process for me and I hope people can also find some catharsis of their own within the songs.
Above all, I want to make something beautiful.
Sinking is your new track. What is the story behind it?
Sinking is really about feeling helpless and not being in control. I wrote it when I was feeling directionless, personally, and also very much under someone’s control. It’s an intimate and scary song full of stormy imagery to evoke an inner-turmoil with an end in sight - but not the one you want.
It follows your debut, You or Nothing. How do you think you have developed since then?
I'm growing in confidence all the time for a start and taking more risks; evolving the sound through experimentation. Sinking is a much darker song with more going on in the production - definitely a sign of things to come.
Will there be more material arriving later in the year?
Yes, absolutely, there will be another two singles coming out of what is now going to be a half album, due to release end of summer/early-autumn. Can't wait!
The music industry is busy and competitive. It can be stressful. What is it that keeps you pushing and aiming high?
I think, deep down, I’ve always had very lofty dreams and fiercely-guarded ambitions. I have spent a lot of time thinking about them and imagining doing the stuff I want to do so vividly it gives me goose bumps. Sometimes, I feel like I'm crazy and the obstacles to overcome are insurmountable but I remember that feeling and it keeps me going, keeps me hoping. I've received a few knock-backs in my time - and will many more I'm sure - but I'm at the point now that all they will do is fuel me.
My relationship with music is just that - a relationship -: sometimes I don't love what I do, but it is what I have to do and I think that complexity comes across in the songs. Someone once asked me: “So, is music what gets you out of bed in the morning?" and I said: "It's what keeps me up at night”.
I notice there is a certain emotion and melancholy in your music. Is it true you used to perform with choirs? What is it about a sense of inner-investigation and wistfulness that attracts you?
Yes - my musical background is in choral music. I spent my childhood and adolescence performing around the world. Amazing experiences, amazing training; did miss out on some kid stuff though. After all that was over, I was suddenly an adult with no idea who I was or what I wanted to do. I spent years soul-searching, drifting. It helped that I'm a classic over-thinker and spend most of my time going over things in my head, reliving bad moments...it's not so much that it attracts me; just the way I’m wired.
I spent most of my life feeling numb, so now I feel things very deeply but often struggle to rationalise them and digest really what I'm feeling and why. It's important for me to get outside and see the bigger picture.
Which musicians inspired you growing up? Did you grow up in a musical household?
I always gravitated to singer-songwriters growing up: KT Tunstall, Natasha Bedingfield and Norah Jones. My mum can sing and play the piano and my sister's very musical too. My dad is the biggest music fan - but sadly can’t play or sing at all! The house was a filled with everything from Classical to Punk.
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?
Yes. Stay tuned for some announcements there (smiles).
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I can’t wait to get the half-album out - we’ve done some interesting things on it and I think it will really tell a story. Then, I’m getting some gigs under my belt and building a fanbase.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Yes! A few weeks ago, I was in the studio and Jake wanted to record this song I'd been sending him little vids of me singing (such a tease). I'd only written the chorus though, so Jake spent about forty mins making this amazing beat to go under it while I wrote the verses.
I saw my parents that night and played them the song. My dad said to my mum: “Look how happy he is!". We're putting the finishing touches on it next week and it'll hopefully be the next single (smiles).
If you could select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Al Green - Let’s Stay Together
This was always playing at home in my earlier years. Hearing it takes me back to those days: when times were simpler and we were all together. It’s warm, full of life: timeless. Always brings a smile - happy or sad.
Sharon Van Etten - Because I Was in Love
Sharon is my favourite artist. This album can be hard to bear sometimes, which is a good thing! It’s incredibly cathartic. Her voice is rich and heavy with emotion but still soars. Her songs are raw and vulnerable and still sweet. I love her completely.
Rhye - Woman
An education for me - that it was not only ok, but actually sexy, to have androgynous vocal vibes going on. The songs and arrangements are so luscious. When The Fall dropped…it was life-changing.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I think, for hungry artists, knowing when to be patient and when to be impatient can be a tricky thing: impatience is great when it drives you to reach higher and higher but, equally, you can’t run before you can walk…
As with most things, timing is everything. Frustration is a feeling you can actually use that everyone has had and can relate to. At this stage, feeling like you are keeping busy can be tough but it is important to embrace some downtime and look after yourself; to keep from burning out. Before long, you’ll be fighting to carve out some time for yourself anyway! Write as much as possible but don’t force it: some songs need time to form and settle and decide what they wanna be.
Everyone is different, but if you are planning to have a very long career (like I am!) I think you have to be willing to let things take their time to build up more naturally and reach your true fans.
Be open to and supportive of others, we’re all in the same boat - paddling is more effective when you’re doing it together.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Jade Bird. Loving her song, Lottery; already well on her way to being huge. The Modern Strangers. I caught these guys a few weeks ago at Birthdays in Dalston; great, catchy tunes, THICK live sound. My mates The Shantics have their first E.P. coming out around June/July and it’s gonna be a good one! Stevie Nicks gets me going.
IN THIS PHOTO: The Modern Strangers/PHOTO CREDIT: Stew Capper
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Honestly, it's never really not on my mind - head full of songs! Now the weather's nicer, I'm spending a lot of time outside which really helps me gain some clarity. I do like to watch T.V and love films. Sillier the better if I want to unwind (smiles).