17:43 Thursday 13 February 2014

Why making music is the perfect Feeling for Dan

Written byNIGEL POWLSON

DAN Gillespie Sells admits that his hit-making band The Feeling have never been fashionable.

“Well maybe we were fashionable for five minutes...” he says. “But we have never been a band who have relied on style over content. We have always relied on content alone so I have had to keep writing the songs, making them better and better or there’s no point.”

The Feeling’s strength has therefore always been the craftsmanship of their music.

“I have a lot of respect for the genre of pop music,” says Dan. “That’s why I keep working at it and enjoying it. Pop music gets such a bad press but the truth is that, if you are up for a challenge, it’s the ultimate genre to work in musically, as it has to be so right.

“It has to be a little bit mad but at the same time not. It has to let people in and be generous of heart. It must be honest and truthful and yet still come at things from a slightly different angle, so it’s not boring. There can be no dead wood or wasted time, it has to be a perfect pocket-sized thing that’s short, sweet and yet epic. I love all that and that’s why I work so hard at it.

“I also have to keep working at it and make sure I don’t lose that skill because it’s the only thing that has kept us going.”

Boy Cried Wolf is the band’s fourth album, the first under a new deal after breaking away from their previous home of Island Records, and it has received some of the band’s most positive reviews.

The album has spawned two Radio 2 A-listed singles and was hailed as the album of their career by both The Sunday Times Culture and Q magazine.

But Dan doesn’t necessarily agree.

“I can’t really bring myself to judge it in those terms,” he says. “I don’t really need to as I’m the one who has to go back in the studio and make one that’s just as good. In a few years time, I might say we did well back then but that’s really for journalists – as an artist I tend to get on with it.

“What I do know is how I felt when I was making that record and we knew we were doing good work because it felt right and natural and easy. There were points earlier in my career when the recording became tiresome because there was so much pressure involved. To have that pressure taken off and to be able to make a record just for the love of it was maybe why we had such a positive result. I want that to be the mode when we make records from now on.”

The Feeling hit pay dirt with their 2006 debut album, Twelve Stops and Home, which topped the UK charts, and yielded three Top 10 singles.

They were the most-played band on UK radio that year, and their success was capped the following spring when they were named Songwriters of the Year at the Ivor Novello awards.

Dan says: “When we started we didn’t have management and we didn’t now what we were doing. We were turned down by everyone several times.

“You look at the most amazing books that were turned down by every publisher and then became smash hits. So it’s normal as an artist to get turned down but to keep on trying.”

Dan always knew that sooner or later the hits would come.

“I believed in it and felt that at the time it was there was no-one doing anything quite like it.

“I thought that if it made me smile that much, surely it would make other people smile.

“What we had to do was circumnavigate the hyper-trendy press. Because it was melodic, a bit camp and pretty sounding it was seen as less valid rather than the thing of the day, which was all this post-Strokes stuff. I loved The Strokes but there were all these bands like them that the NME loved with their leather jackets and skinny jeans. But they loved the packaging and at the heart of it you either had good songs or you didn’t and I have always believed that if you can get past all that, the public have an emotional response to a song or they don’t – whether that’s the coolest band in the world or Westlife.

“If people like a song they don’t care what the NME think about it.

“So for us, it was about getting to our public and we did that through radio. We were very lucky as we just got played across the board.”

Even just a few years on, Dan believes that avenue would no longer be open to The Feeling if they were a new band.

“It was pre-Twitter,” he says. “Now you have to have a million followers to get on a playlist. We wouldn’t get on radio if we were starting now as you have to have a social media presence.

“Luckily for us there was a definite time when we sounded like a breath of fresh air on the radio. I wasn’t surprised by our success but I was relieved as I thought we might be scuppered because we didn’t want to grow beards and pretend we were rockier than we are.

“The industry has always been a bit that way. I’m not totally innocent as I want my favourite artists to look a certain way and I want to buy into that. But I also want to buy a decent product. What’s being packaged has to have a certain quality to it.

“The Emperor’s new clothes element of it all can get frustrating but if you can get to the general populace they know what’s good and things that are only fashionable are soon gone.”

Fall Like Rain, the band’s third single taken from their fourth album, Boy Cried Wolf, is out on March 24. The tour takes in Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms on Thursday, March 13. Tickets and more details at www.thefeeling.com/gigs

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