Guest Column – The right kind of dramas: The Feeling on moving into ballets & musicals

Guest Column – The right kind of dramas: The Feeling on moving into ballets & musicals

TheFeelingReturning with a self-titled new album (out 4 March) and single Spiralling – watch the premiere of its video below – The Feeling's Dan Gillespie Sells explains why he's also found himself creating ballets and a new musical.

The Feeling has been going as a successful band now for 10 years (not to mention the 10 years before that as an unsuccessful band) and we are now about to release our fifth album. Looking back to when we started I never thought I’d be the frontman. I always thought I would be the guy behind the scenes writing and producing. These days I feel much more comfortable on stage but I have always loved the idea of writing for other voices.

This is probably one of the things that drew me to writing a musical. I’ve been told over the years that my songs can be quite theatrical – and over time I think the appeal of writing a show just grew and grew. I am a homosexual man, after all, and though I kid myself that I am no walking gay cliché, I do have my moments (it appears).

So now I have started this parallel journey alongside my career with The Feeling. I’m writing the music for a show commissioned by Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre which is due to open next year. It's a completely original show with all new songs. The story is inspired by a true story of a 16 year-old boy who decided to go to his school prom in a dress. It's a modern coming of age story all about identity. The brief I gave myself was to create songs that would work even when heard separately from the show. It's like I'm writing a concept album, really.

It's hard work but I really love it. It’s great being the new guy once again. The novice. The one asking all the stupid questions. I’m learning all about choreography and movement, lighting, stage design, script work, dramaturgy… it’s endless!

And then there’s the songwriting, which in theory is the bit I know about. Actually writing for theatre is often tricky, though in some ways it’s easier than writing for myself. The Feeling’s songs are always personal, I sing them after all, and over the years I have sometimes found it exhausting mining my experiences and feelings, thoughts and memories. In theatre you know when the dramas are going to happen and writing for a character that’s not me is somewhat liberating. It’s as if my imagination, rather than my emotions, have been given a runway to take off from and it can really fly!

A couple of years ago I collaborated with principle dancer from The Royal Ballet called Ed Watson – who actually stars in our video for Blue Murder – and a wonderful choreographer called Javier De Frutos. We reworked a lesser-known Feeling song into a new, modern ballet piece, which premiered at London’s Coliseum . Don’t worry, I didn’t dance myself… I am no friend of Lycra.

Collaborating with people who are the best in their worlds and seeing how they do it is an amazing experience. It renews my passion for what I do.

And does any of this help a pop/rock band? I’d have to say yes, it was more than a musical summer job. I found when I returned to work with The Feeling I had a clearer idea of what our band is. It made me realise what makes us the band we are and reminds me why we’re different – in a good way, I say – to everyone else. Feels like I’ve found a kind of balance. Dan Gillespie Sells @DanGSells

For more, including details of the band's UK tour in March, head to Thefeeling.com.