Shaun Farrugia, the man who has charted thirty million streams, written tracks for Mimi Webb and The Script and now released his five-track EP, Heaven Like Mine, sat down with Ewan Gleadow to chat about just that. The humble soon-to-be pop titan opened up the door to his writing, his style and what is next for the rising star.
Ewan Gleadow: We’ll have to reenact that magic where we talked about dislocated knees and hangovers.
Shaun Farrugia: Oh yeah. Basically, to everyone who’s reading the interview, my name is Sean, we’ve got Izzy on mute and we’ve got Ewan, who had a massive night out from quiet drinks that turned into a bottomless brunch.
Ewan: You know what, I knew when the night had turned into a feral one when I was thinking of getting a bottle of wine for myself.
Shaun: If you were in London, that would’ve cost you at least £35.
Ewan: I’ll have to bring a hip flask. But no, I listened to the EP, it’s absolutely fantastic mate. Really, really enjoyed it.
Shaun: Is it?
Ewan: Oh, no, it’s horrible. Nah, it was absolutely brilliant mate.
Shaun: Thank you so much. You know how it is. When you write, like when I wrote this EP and I have so much more music coming, but when I wrote this, I made a rule with myself to write from the heart. I don’t know if I can ever do it, write a story which isn’t true. I feel like I’ll be lying to myself if I’d done that. So you telling me that you really liked it honestly means the world, and it’s something which I didn’t ever expect.
Even when I read comments from people who heard the songs out now, like one of the greatest honours is having people relate to the music and I can’t wait, obviously, for them to hear the EP. I try to describe love, my goal for the EP was to describe the feeling of love in different situations and I hope people resonate with the way I describe, which is simply “I love you”, you know? Comparing it to heaven in Heaven Like Mine, comparing it to spiralling down in doubt and anxiety on Vertigo. Obviously having a bit of a sad song in there was needed. I feel like I needed a sad song, it helped me recognize the melancholic type of road. I wish people well because this life is too short to have grudges against people.
Ewan: It’s what you mentioned there, a lot of music relating to love is either looking back with frustration or looking forward, and it’s just nice to hear something different and something from the heart rather than the majority of what is out there right now.
Shaun: I can’t wait to show you what I have. I honestly do try to do that every day. This EP is just a taster of what I do. My life is writing songs and writing how I feel. I feel like I struggle. I’ve been in therapy a couple of times and when I’m sitting down face to face with somebody who I don’t know that well, I struggle to open up. But when I have a piano in front of me and there’s no one around and I can just place some keys and speak and sing, it’s one of the only ways I’ve been able to express myself freely. I feel like all the cracks come out, and everything shows. I’m at my most vulnerable place, but at the same time, I feel I’m in my safest place.
Ewan: It’s a nice balance too. You have 30 million streams too, which is quite impressive, to say the least.
Shaun: I really don’t like to take credit because realistically I had an opportunity to work with one of the greatest DJs. Let’s be honest, not everyone’s there for Shaun, they’re there for Martin Garrix, and I’m trying to build my own little world in my own way. I’m grateful because there have been millions of people who have related to the lyrics and told me ‘I really like your voice and your message and your lyrics are special to the song’, and I really appreciate that. But obviously, it’s a nice thing to have, I’m very grateful to see the world react to something I’ve been part of. It only gives me hope that what I have next is going to be, hopefully, received the same way. Good things take time, but I’m here for the long haul. I can’t wait to have you interview me every other month.
Ewan: It will be, every time you’ve got some release.
Shaun: I’m always going to ask you about the bottomless brunch, those two quiet drinks.
Ewan: I feel for a first-time bottomless brunch, I made the mistake of not getting other drinks. I just stuck with one type.
Shaun: Honestly, we should go for brunch together. We’ll go out to zone five, zone six. We’re not paying London prices. Have you got a favourite song from the EP?
Ewan: You know what, it’s going to sound basic, but I do like the singles you released. I like both of them. It’s one of those things where there’s such a nice range there, the theme comes together, and as it goes on it gets more intimate and it feels relatable, which was just a shock. I get so much music through every day in my email, it was nice to have something stand out.
I imagine it was quite the emotional experience when it was released too, where you see listeners apply their own feelings and experiences to your work.
Shaun: Realistically, yeah, I love my music but after a bit, you get sick of it. At the same time, you need to go back to the moment. When I wrote it and the feeling I felt and the fact people relate to it, one of the things I speak about in every interview is Dear God, a song about my girlfriend finding her way to stay in London. Funnily enough, we’re in a situation where because of travelling and stuff she might need to go back for a little bit and it sucks, but we’ve been together so long it’s manageable.
But I wrote that song about that and then somebody reached out to me saying he had lost his baby daughter, and he related Dear God to begging Jesus and God and the world to bring his daughter back to life.
In my head it was like, that’s your song now man. You know? That’s your song. That’s your message. People get to interpret the songs in their own way. It’s so special for me. I’m just really grateful to have that chance, to write music that people relate to. It is something really special, and it’s something which we shouldn’t take lightly. People feel so many emotions every day and having that opportunity, to write a song which they can relate to, it doesn’t come every day. We need to be grateful for that.
Ewan: Vertical is one of those songs, for sure.
Ewan: There are so many songs out there that you attach a little piece of yourself too, it’s just nice to see that there are five right here.
Shaun: Absolutely, and I think for me the EP is a way that I can express myself and show the world who I am and who I’m trying to be. The fact that I’m able to do that alone is special.
Ewan: Regardless of what that feeling is, too, if you can feel something towards music then that’s succeeded. Gorillaz’s new album, I didn’t like it. A lot of their fans have told me what they think of my thoughts, but it’s the feeling that comes regardless, positive or negative. Thankfully yours was a positive one, but it’s the connection. The community that comes from that experience.
Shaun: It’s a long game and the fact that it’s a long game and takes a long time, it makes me aspire to release music and the more people who get it, who resonate it and really feel the lyrics, like the woman next to me bawling her eyes out when Coldplay played Fix You. She felt something in a way that nobody else could have felt that day. To me, that’s incredible. When she was looking up at the sky and I’m sure she was feeling or thinking about that special person. I feel the same about Vertigo. I feel the same for Heaven Like Mine, especially, since I was looking for a safe place in my life.
Ewan: Your bio reads that you are a “regular guy doing extraordinary things”.
Shaun: I get shy when I see that, it feels really big for who I really am. Dear God has been crazy. It keeps growing every day and it’s – I’m grateful for it man. All I can say is it’s people like you who helped spread the word and even the fact like, let’s put aside that you’re writing an article about the music. The fact you came to me and you told me you resonated with the songs made my day.
Ewan: And in that bio, there was a note about how you moved over here in 2019, how did you feel? Did you know in the moment that was the right thing to do?
Shaun: I sold everything I owned and showed up in January, I think it was. It was probably the most fearless, craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. For the first time I didn’t overthink. I overthink everything. But that was the one thing I didn’t overthink. It’s like when you dive in the deep end, not knowing what is waiting for you underwater. Are you going to hit your head or not? But you want it so much you just go for it anyway.