The Feeling front-man Dan Gillespie Sells talks Harvest at Jimmy’s

Helping The Feeling front-man Dan Gillespie Sells piece together the events of the night before, he and entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talk hangovers, Harvest at Jimmy’s and why young bands should head to the French Alps

I’m hung over, but otherwise I’m fine,” says Dan when I ring. I hope it was a good night?

“A little bit too good I think. I did a gig at Kew Gardens, it was lovely but I ended up drinking too much,” he laughs.

Weren’t the rest of The Feeling there to look after him?

“I’ve no memory of it actually,” he jokes. “I’ve no idea how I ended up at home but I did, which is always a bonus.”

Resisting the temptation to ask if there were 12 stops on the way, I move on to the band’s forthcoming Harvest at Jimmy’s gig.

The three-day celebration of food and music at the Wherstead farm is a feast for the ears as well as the stomach.

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Dan and co will join Eliza Doolittle, The Kooks and Fat Freddy’s Drop among other music acts; chefs appearing include James Martin, Italian maestro Gennaro Contaldo and world-renowned Yotam Ottolenghi.

There will also be a special visit from The Gruffalo, who will be performing the hit musical adaptation of the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

“There’s all kinds of stuff in the diary, but that’s one of the things I’m genuinely looking forward to,” he laughs. “We’re a greedy band, we love performing and the combination of that and great food... it’s a no brainer for us.”

The Feeling’s debut album Twelve Stops and Home was an immediate hit, making them the most played band on UK radio on its release in 2006. The four singles got a total 97,436 plays meaning, on average, one of their songs was played 267 times every day or once every five minutes.

“We were lucky with the radio play and the timing of it more than anything else. We worked for ten years before that in music but we came up with something that sounded very different from what was around but kind of sat across the board on radio,” Dan recalls.

“Back in them days we were getting played on XFM and Kerrang but also on Heart, Capital, Radio One and Two. Nobody knew where to pin it or where to pin us because people hadn’t heard that kind of sound for a while.”

Their second album Join With Us hit number one and their long-awaited third Together We Were Made - recorded in the band’s new studio, a converted East London pub complete with dartboard and an old honky tonk piano - is doing well.

“We feel kind of established now. I’m prouder of this record than I am of the last one really, it’s more the record we wanted to make and it’s got some great guests on it.

“Sophie [Ellis Bextor, wife of bassist Richard Jones] sings on one track which is one of my favourite on the record. Then we’ve got people like Roisin Murphy singing with us and we do a song with Cathy Dennis; all these female artists who have been kind of heroes of mine, all sorts of interesting people have contributed to this record.”

It must’ve been strange for Richard, having his missus follow him to work.

“She came and sang with us last night; it was lovely, a really nice moment. I think he kind of enjoys it,” laughs Dan.

So the band were there; it seems our chat is jogging his memory.

“I don’t know where they all went, they obviously all went home and left me.”

There’s always one in a group that always gets left behind I suggest, “Yeah, last night it was me.”

Kew Gardens and topping the charts is a long way from their stint as the resident band at ski resorts in the French Alps.

“We did ten shows a week earning our pennies in various resorts; we did that from the age of about 20, God a good ten years ago but I think that was possibly one of those seminal moments for us,” he says.

“We’d had a record deal before that which fell through and we all kind of ran out money and didn’t know what to do. We saw an advert in NME or something and before we knew it we were in the Alps, playing covers and stuff and we’d never played covers before.”

As it happens, covers weren’t the only thing they hadn’t played before, blagging their way through the audition by claiming they could perform 50 songs when they only knew six.

“I don’t think we even knew that, we knew about four. That was only because we’d been p****** around in the rehearsal studios while we were making our own records, playing the kind of songs you play when you’re young and just jamming.

“We did those at the audition, claimed we knew another 46, got the gig and were out there,” he laughs. “It was fine, great pop songs kind of play themselves.”

Playing 60s and 80s pop songs, making sure the bar manager was making enough money, worked; allowing them to learn not just how to get an audience going but the anatomy of pop music and how it works.

It was their take on The Beatles playing Hamburg and The Stones doing the club scene. Dan recommends it to young bands.

“When you’re young you think ‘oh, I’m just going to play my own music’ or ‘I’m going to be an artist’. Quite a lot of it is bull****; All you can do is get out there and learn your craft, play your arse off. Once you’ve got 150 live gigs under your belt, then you’re a real band and you know what you’re doing.

“What happens is bands get signed, do something like five gigs and think they know it all; there’s a kind of certain arrogance in that - especially the kind of middle class kids who’ve got their parents paying for it all.

“For us it was away of surviving and we’d done absolutely hundreds of gigs before anyone would take us seriously; it stood us in good stead over the years.”

In these days of X Factor and similar talent shows, paying your dues this way may seem old-fashioned but there are advantages to heading to the Alps.

“You’re not paid much per gig, but when you do ten of them a week it financially worked out all right. You’re working your arse off but you’re having fun, can drink as much you like and they’ll feed you. It’s not a bad life and you really learn a lot; I recommend it to bands.”

A word of warning about squeezing in some skiing though. Dan dislocated both shoulders while, in his words, snowboarding badly.

“It was stupid; I ended up singing with my arm in a sling quite a lot but it was one of those things; I was a bit clumsy and a bit gung ho so now I ski instead of snowboarding; you tend to do your ankles and your knees in and that’s easier for gigs. I could still do a gig with a broken leg.”

So, any message for fans coming to see The Feeling at Jimmy’s from September 9-12?

“Don’t eat for about like two days before you get there; then you can gorge on the day,” he laughs.

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