Sam Duckworth is 22. He writes, records and gigs alot as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
He grew up in Southend in Essex, home county of his hero Billy Bragg. You should hear Sam's version of 'A New England', then you should hear his own song, 'The Lighthouse Keeper', detailing his love/hate relationship with the 'scummy town' he calls home.
In his teenage years he served time in local hardcore bands, before realising that he could say more on his own. He took himself off round the UK on self-generated, self-funded, wing-and-a-prayer-and-a-rucksack tours. In January 2004 he released 'Eyespy' as a split single (150 mini-CDs, long sold out). In April 2005 he released the five-track 'Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly' EP on Big Scary Monsters (500 copies, some still available, if you know where to look).
In autumn 2005 Sam played an open mic day at music industry conference 'In The City' in Manchester; an impressed Huw Stephens of Radio One promptly offered him a session. By the beginning of 2006, 18 months of inter-city gigging and a panoply of agit-folk/emo-tronic/bloody catchy songs had stoked huge interest in the mystery man with the unusual name. He was the young tyro-troubador with the hearty internet following who could gig anywhere at the drop of a plectrum (myspace or yours)? Eventually, in March this year, Atlantic Records signed Sam Duckworth. Then he headed off to Austin, Texas, for what would be a series of brilliant gigs in barbeques, in car parks, in the vicinity of Billy Bragg and of the similarly spiky acoustician Plan B at the SXSW festival.
Suddenly, everyone was talking about Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
That punctuating-defying name? He took it from the sub-headings in an article in a computer gaming magazine. Rather than just use his own name, it was a way of projecting something beyond the limitations and prejudices surrounding the idea of the singer-songwriter (another one).
Those songs with the forceful, beguiling melodies? With the classicism of folk music but shot through with youth's-eye view of contemporary Britain? They're Sam's reboot of protest music. As he discusses in single 'I Spy': it's the song, not the singer.
'People get caught up in pretension, as if music has to be redefined all the time. Why? Communication is the thing. Getting a message across. Think of Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg. Just because a song's got a simple melody doesn't make it less important than something more convoluted.'
As he says in the other side of the double-A-side release, 'Call Me Ishmael', it's important to celebrate the simple stuff. And don't sweat the hard stuff.
'We all have things that we use to displace negative energy from work: playing guitar skateboarding, drinking on a Friday. Escapism is important. The title is the first line of Moby Dick,' he explains. 'The song and the book are a call to arms: make life worth living.'
'The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager Parts One to Four'? They're a quartet of songs Sam wrote on his gig-to-gig, sofa-to-floor, hand-to-mouth, bus-to-train journeys across Britain. 'Part 1' has had 50,000 plays on his myspace site and was written in a railway carriage en route to a show in Oxford. Both it and 'Part 2' are like Paul Simon's 'Homeward Bound' (written on the platform at Wigan station) reflections on the life of the lonely singer-songwriter. 'They're about the emotional issues that bubble up for you, about meeting people on the road, and how they end up becoming some of your best friends 'cause you share common experiences.'
'Part 3' began life as an instrumental before Sam's ever-evolving songcraft used it as the basis of 'Call Me Ishmael'. 'Part 4' has since been retitled, and appears on his debut album as 'If I Had A Pound For Every Failed Song Title I'd Be 30 Short Of Getting Out Of This Mess'. He's gonna get back to us on what that means.
This summer saw Sam keeping up his furious gigging pace, with a drummer and brass rounding out his acoustic-and-laptop setup. As well as rock festivals aplenty, he played the Martyrs of Tolpuddle Festival, an event to commemorate the historic revolt by six Dorset farm labourers that paved the way for the founding of the trade union movement. Earlier this spring he played the Love Music Hate Racism gig in London's Trafalgar Square. Do we call Sam a protest singer?
'I've been labelled that a coupe of times and I find it kinda uncomfortable. I'm using whatever platform I've got to express things I feel. But musically, that tag limits you. Every artist, if they're passionate and have something to say, in theory, is a protest songwriter.'
Meanwhile, sensible and low-key record company contract in hand, Sam has released his debut album 'The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager'.He used his own studio in his old bedroom in his mum and dad's house,and a set-up in an industrial unit in Letchworth.
'There's a preconception that when you sign to a big label, everything changes, but it doesn't need to. I wanted to record in way that fits with everything else I've done,' he says. 'Do it for yourself, don't spent Â£150,000. Keep it home grown and let it stand for what it is.'
Angry, cheerful, impassioned, inspired, solvent (sort of), tuned-in and tuneful: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is ready for lift-off.