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Sam Duckworth
'Amazing Grace' Interview

Scout Beck, Editor

Southend UK singer/songwriter Sam Duckworth can never be accused of resting on his laurels though he would be more than justified in doing so.

After a decade of success as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, last year the 29 year old retired that moniker and reverted to his own name. Last week he released solo album 'Amazing Grace', and today he offered up the latest video from new incarnation, Sam Duckworth and The Brackets.

'Dr Feelgood Hit of The Summer' was shared today and showcases his venture with The Brackets before they debut at performances in Yeovil, Bristol and Glastonbury this weekend.

Sam's solo album, 'Amazing Grace' is borne from a difficult time in the singer's life. A prolonged period of illness as well as personal issues meant the singer had to take a step back. This enforced break from the world of touring and performing led him to write and create the collection as a means of coping with the strain and sadness he experienced at the time.

Friends worked with him to bring the album to realisation, resulting in the appearance of over 40 musicians on the piece, including Kate Nash, Gomez and Grace Petrie.

With this background the album is understandably a work of reflection. It mixes styles beautifully from folk to touches of jazz and blues and moves from the melancholy to the optimistic.

Now preparing for his Glastonbury appearance, Sam spoke to us about the album and the creation of The Brackets.

What can you tell us about 'Amazing Grace'? How much did your experiences influence the album?

"Amazing Grace was a record I made in late 2012/early 2013. I was going through a pretty horrendous time in the process of making the record. It started with a few trips to A&E via ambulance, the first collapsing after the BSM 5 aside tournament and then subsequently during rehearsals for the GCWCF "Maps" summer shows. I was booked in for more testing but unfortunately had to cancel a whole bunch of shows.

"The first test showed a large lump in my bladder and a biopsy was booked. The biopsy lasted a decent amount longer than expected and quite a big part of my bladder was removed to try and remove the lump. A catheter was fitted and I spent the 2012 Olympic experience in bed thinking I had cancer.

"Thankfully (although frustratingly) it appeared that the lump was caused by parasites that I had picked up at some point in my travels to Africa. It was curable, but due to having already being tested for this on a couple of occasions, it deemed all of the surgery and subsequent worries a little redundant.

"The record was made as a result of trying to cope with the situation and also to try and deal with a few other sad things going on at the time. Friends were in and out of the studio helping me piece it together from jams and hangouts, as a way of dealing with the sadness and stress.

"As a result the record has about 45 musicians on it and is very mellow. I'm thankful that something beautiful was able to come out of this time period."

You decided to use Pledgemusic for Amazing Grace, what did you think of that process? Was it a more positive experience than with previous releases?

"I really like Pledgemusic, I think the concept can work really well and offers both artist and fan a great new platform for interchange. My pledge campaign couldn't have gone any worse, but this is not the platform to go into the semantics, but what I will say is that the blame does not lie within the hands of pledge. It's been an overwhelming experience as I've got to see how fantastic and understanding pledgers can be within dark times. It's been more a lesson in being thankful than a smooth clean roll out. I'm chuffed with how the record has eventually turned out though and wouldn't have got there without the support from the pledgers."

You seem to embrace change a lot, for example retiring GCWCF, -what led to that decision?

"I was in a conversation with an African musician who I had a lot of respect and admiration for and on the third explanation of "get cape..." I eventually gave up trying to explain it. I felt the same embarrassment I feel when asked where the name came from. Explaining that over and over again was driving me mad.

"A combination of that and feeling like I was being suffocated by my 20 year old self lead me to the decision. Some of the songs will always stay part of my catalogue, but I couldn't be further from a bohemian teenager anymore and it was the only way to let people know that I have moved on from that era."

What did that free you to do?

"It made the introduction process of talking to strangers a lot easier and hopefully it allows people to view me in a different light. Killing the cash cow was not the easiest of decisions but it was one that will be the right move in the long term, personally and creatively."

Do you think you do consciously strive for change?

"That's an interesting one. I feel that we are in a time of rapid social change and adaptation is critical for surviving artistically. Positive social change is also a big subject of my songs so I guess in that sense, politically speaking, its a very conscious decision.

"I don't really like change, but I don't want to feel like by standing still I'm watching the world pass me by, so more often than not, having to play a part in the change is the only way for me to not feel lost."

Do you see the music industry as a whole to be in need of change or rejuvenation in any way?

"Absolutely. In a nice soundbiteable way the issues are two fold, wastage and wasters. Far too much money is being spent on the showbiz side of things - cabs, free bars, lavish hotels and not enough is being spent on studios and rehearsal.

"For some reason the budgets that got cut in the downturn of the industry were at the frontline, the music. Its a wonder that the marketing world was able to carry on as per, whilst the music side of things became about streamlining. Maybe they did cut down, its hard to tell, but to me, as someone who has to justify spending more than two weeks making an album, it seems a little bit backward to me.

"If the industry was more economical with wastage and got out of the mindset of chasing the radio/top 40, I think it would be a lot easier for bands of a small/mid level to have decent careers, focusing on breaking records even and turning sustainable profits, rather than playing chart roulette."

A lot of your songs reference wreckage and fatigue and weariness, how much of that is personal? Does it trigger wanting to move forward?

"I guess with Amazing Grace, that's very personal as my world was falling to bits. In other examples I would say its a more third party observation. Living in London is a strange window into society as more often than not everyone you meet is knackered and stressed and seeing that so much of my writing is observational, its bound to permeate into the lyrics.

"I'm also very much a subscriber to the 'collapsanomics' ideal - that for real wide spread positive social change to take place, the current free market model needs to collapse and be rebuilt from scratch, taking into account issues such as scarcity of resource and over population due to longer live expectancy."

What keeps you going personally and musically?

"Ironically, fear of change. Also I love music and writing music, I can't imagine life without it."

What is your writing process like?

"Messy and ever evolving. I like to try and write a song before I take it to any other platform, be it band or studio, then it keeps changing until a deadline is put in front of me that means it can't change any more. Sometimes this is super quick and it just feels right, other times its a process of revision and reinvention over months."

Now you have formed new band Sam and The Brackets - what can you tell us about it and it's sound?

"I'm an emo kid at heart and this is the closest to that I've ever sounded. The aim was to take influence from classic British music and update it through the emo/punk lens. I wouldn't go as far as trying to say its a return to the pub rock movement, but its certainly in that ilk. Loud, fun and opinionated. Influences range from Dr. Feelgood and the Stranglers, through the SFA and the Clash."

What was the thought process behind forming the band?

"I've been playing solo gigs and really enjoying them, but as I've got more politically frustrated over the last few months, I felt it would be healthy for me to vent this in a positive way. Put my anger into something good for a change. Also its really fun playing in a band."

What do you hope to achieve with the band?

I'd love to play gigs and people not to ask me if I'm going to play GCWCF songs (I mean I will but....) Also it'd be really nice to be able to tour and play festivals without having to sell a kidney. Otherwise I'm happy to see how it goes."

And what's next for you in the short and long term future?

"Short term, I'm off on tour promoting Amazing Grace this week and then its the first few Brackets shows over the next week in the run up to Glastonbury. There's a lovely hometown show in Southend on the 11th in the park near where I grew up and then its back in the studio to play some loud music in front of microphones!"

Catch Sam on tour:

24 - Yeovil, Westlands 2,
25 - Bristol, The Exchange
28 - Glastonbury, Leftfield Stage

11 - Southend-On-Sea, Village Green Festival

Find out more about Sam here