A young artist with a mature head on his shoulders leading the way in 2019
The rising star of Sam Fender seemingly knows no bounds. From auspicious beginnings where he was spotted by his manager whilst playing to punters in the bar where he worked, to being longlisted on the highly respected BBC Music “Sound of” list in 2018, and not forgetting his recent Brits Critics’ Choice award, the North East native is selling out tickets faster than they can be printed.
However, for such a young talent he clearly has wisdom beyond his years. Engaging in lyrical themes that range from taking a much-needed swipe at popular culture “Poundshop Kardashians” to poignant and reflective songs such as the heart-wrenching “Dead Boys”, this is a man with the confidence to do things his own way.
With that in mind, Fender’s sound is delightfully restrained, favouring subtle tonal nuances rather than a bombastic approach that complements his vocal delivery and lyrical style. We’ll look at a couple of routes that you can take to achieve the same dreamy guitar-driven soundscapes.
Sam Fender’s Guitar of Choice?
Though we’re sure it’s a happy coincidence, it would appear that Sam Fender’s instrument of choice is a Fender American Pro Jazzmaster in Sonic Gray (pictured below), which he can be seen playing in many a video.
Boasting a pair of Michael Frank-designed single-coil Jazzmaster pickups with treble bleed circuit to maintain highs when reducing volume, Fender can retain that sweet chime even when he dials things back. A modern “Deep C”-shaped neck profile provides ample support during the most frenetic of live performances, whilst the reassuringly accurate Jazzmaster tremolo bridge with brass Mustang saddles is as steady as they come.
For those who want a more affordable option there’s the outstanding Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazzmaster in Sonic Blue.
A pair of Fender-Designed Alnico single-coil pickups with extensive tone-shaping options via lead and rhythm circuit controls. Producing the same punchy mid-range output along with sparkling high-end clarity is a doddle thanks to the electronics’ setup. A solid C-shape maple neck offers an anchored support in the hand, whilst the 21 narrow tall fret Indian laurel fingerboard affords an agile playing feel that mirrors the American Pro. The 6-saddle vintage-style bridge with non-floating vibrato upholds intonation and sustain resiliently, whilst responding dutifully to the subtle inflections of your performance.
As with his guitar Sam Fender opts for Fender when it comes to amps too with the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb and the ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb (pictured below) both featuring in his live rig.
Once again, for those looking for a more affordable option the Fender Mustang GT series offers stellar performance with a vast range of amp models and effects built in.
The Mustang 40 is ideal for practising on at home (headphone connectivity for silent practise), recording with thanks to the built-in USB connectivity for direct and easy connection to your DAW of choice. Thanks to the pairing of two 6.5-inch speakers it is capable of kicking out 40-Watts in mono mode or 2 x 20 Watts in stereo mode, making it beefy enough for small gigs. Built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect wirelessly to Fender’s Tone app to backup and save your beloved settings for later recall whenever and wherever. There are presets galore with regular firmware updates expanding the number of amps and effects for you to play with.
We can see in the screenshot below from Fender’s video for the song “Leave Fast” that he has a carefully cultivated pedalboard with some impressive firepower at his disposal.
Listing what we can see by brand there’s the:
- BOSS RE-20 Space Echo
- BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
- Electro Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi
- Electro Harmonix “Holy Grail” Reverb
- Electro Harmonix Memory Man
- Electro Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave
- Electro Harmonix Polychorus
- Electro Harmonix Small Clone (alternative option Nano Clone)
- Electro Harmonix Small Stone Phase Shifter
- Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive
- Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- Strymon BigSky Reverberator
- TC Electronic PolyTune Noir
- Way Huge Red Llama 25th Anniversary Overdrive
If you want to go all out, then by all means get each and every one. But if you break it down into effect types then it becomes clear you can get by with:
Yeah, we may be oversimplifying massively there but if you look at the list above each pedal is a variation on a theme. There are multiple ‘verbs, chorus, drives, modulations, etc. Don’t get us wrong they are all unique and produce difference results – the Red Llama is not the Green Russian and vice versa. However, unless you’re planning on emulating every single lick and riff with distinction then using a more modest setup will suffice.
There’s no doubt that Sam Fender knows a thing or two when it comes to crafting his tone, and he has clearly spent countless hours honing his skills. But, for the sake of keeping things simple and more generalised, you can adopt a more stripped back approach to achieve the same results. The beauty of the Mustang GT40 mentioned above is that it has all those effects built-in for you to play around with!
Thanks to this Tweet from Fender himself, we can see him re-stringing before a gig with the D’Addario EXL115 Nickel Wounds with a gauge of 11-49. Offering a nice balance between substantial feel and powerful response, they are perfect for lashing at during performances.
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Uncovering the gear behind the artist is a privilege and a pleasure. Check out our articles on The 1975, Brian May, Mumford & Sons, Squarepusher, Deftones, Jimi Hendrix, and Tony Iommi, with more to come!
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.