Dan Gillespie Sells of The Feeling: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

The Feeling are a great pop band out of the UK, who have already delivered consecutive hit singles from their brilliant debut album "Twelve Stops And Home." The album was recently released in America, and the band is currently touring the country as part of VH-1's "You Oughta Know" tour with Rocco DeLuca and The Burden, and Mat Kearney.

The album has so many amazing songs on it, and really wins you over with its amazing lyrics. The first single "Sewn" (in Entertainment Weekly's Hot List this week) is a slow ballad that builds beautifully with a great melody, although my favorite track on the CD is "Never Be Lonely," which has a lot of emotional messages going on under the hood of a fun, upbeat pop tune.

The Feeling were recently in San Francisco, and I had the chance to interview lead singer and guitarist Dan Gillespie Sells on the band's tour bus, our interview ending 20 minutes before the band would take the stage. Despite the laidback vibe of the band on their bus, they all came alive onstage, working the crowd and bringing a great energy and enthusiasm to the stage.

Gillespie is openly gay. He's been going to pride events since he was a young boy, because his mother is a lesbian feminist. His dad is a hippy. If anything, Sells said this upbringing created its own amusing hurdles: "I was so annoyed with myself for having done something as obvious as to be gay and come from a gay family."

Here's what Sells had to say prior to playing onstage at The Fillmore:

I'd only heard of you somewhat recently, though a Perez Hilton link.

Oh really? What was he going on about, that boy?

The Sun made some reference to you having two mothers, and he had linked to that. So, that's when I first heard of you and went to check out what your music was all about, and it was immediately like, 'How have I not heard this before?' So, could you give us some background about the group, and how long you've been around?

I met Rich (Jones, bass player) 10 years ago... uh, 11 years ago now, actually, at college. I say college but, for us, that's like high school. So I was 16 years old, and we started a band then. And we've been in all kinds of different bands ever since really, to cut a long story short. We've always worked together in different ways, me and Rich; and then Ciaran (Jeremiah, keyboards) a year later, and then Paul (Stewart, drums), and then Ciaran's brother Kevin (guitar).

We'd always worked in different bands and different lineups, and working as pop session musicians sometimes, and working as pub bands another time, and working on our own projects and doing creative things. Doing stuff just for money and doing whatever we could to avoid getting a proper day job.

And, really, that was our existence and three years ago, we started recording our own material under the name The Feeling, really as a way of putting a bunch of song that I'd written into a kind of band form. And it wasn't really anything that we considered would be successful or something in order to get a record deal, if you know what I mean. It was much more of a hobby.

When you get into your mid-20s, you start to realize that a lot of the dreams that you had as a teenager are really not all they're cracked up to be, and you start to just do things for the sake of the music. So, we started recording just for the sake of music. It really was like that, and that's how the record came about. And it's ironic that that's the one project where we weren't trying to get a record deal with that we got a record deal, and it got released and was a success, so it's funny how that works.

Because to me, the whole UK music scene, standing back from here, I never quite understood how the Arctic Monkeys are on magazine covers before they have an album. Whereas here, rock isn't given that sort of treatment, you have to be pop to get any attention here. The UK seems far more rock-centric...

At the moment. There's a fashion for it at the moment.

So, was it a pretty quick rise for the band once the album came out?

It was quite quick. We planned it quite well, because we had the music recorded. Pretty much all of it was done, because we recorded it and it all sounded great. The record company were like, 'Ooh, we love the way it sounds.' We even tried to do a bit of extra production on it, and used very little of it, pretty much using what was in our original demos. And they weren't even demos, because demos makes it sound like you were trying to get a record deal, but it wasn't. It was that we were just recording for fun.

But the original recordings were the ones that had all the love on them, if you know what I mean. So we ended up keeping those. There wasn't much need to kind of spend ages recording. It happened fairly quickly. We released the first single, went top ten, got loads of radio play. And then all of the singles after that just did really well, just all got number one, number two radio slots. It was just really well covered by British radio.

I don't know what to say, really, it just went really well and it happened over a year, steadily. But just over that year 'Sewn' was a big hit, 'Fill My Little World' was big, 'Never Be Lonely,' then 'Love It When You Call,' you know, it's five singles we've done now in the UK. So, over that year, I suppose it was pretty quick. For us, though, you've got a bunch of guys that have been playing together for 10 years, so nothing seems quick.

Yeah, there's always those overnight successes that take a decade.

Yep, it's another one of those.

(Photo on this page by Phil Kirkwood, reprinted with permission.)