‘My best buy was a VW, my worst buy was an Audi’
But Dan Gillespie Sells made thousands from an ‘odd’ M&S billboard, he tells John Wright
DAN GILLESPIE SELLS
Dan Gillespie Sells, 43, is a singer-songwriter and guitarist for the Feeling, who found fame in 2006 when their million-selling debut album Twelve Stops and Home reached No2 on the UK album charts. Their second album, Join with Us, reached No1. In 2017 he composed the music for the hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Today he lives in Hackney, east London.
HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD INFLUENCE YOUR ATTITUDE TO MONEY?
I was based across two households in north London of two mums and a single dad. My mums were determined to enjoy their money; one’s a doctor and my birth mum came up through nursing and became a writer and teacher.
My dad was a kind of mechanic and handyman/builder who rejected being middle class and aspiring. He was happy pootling down the garage, rebuilding old cars and living a simple life.
My gran on my dad’s side gave me a fiver now and then from when I was eight, and I spent all my money on musical equipment, like guitars, from quite a young age. I was determined to be a musician from the age of five.
My parents were big music fans and my dad would take me and my two brothers to the Glastonbury Festival when I was about six.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST JOBS? At 15 I worked in a guitar shop in Denmark Street [“Tin Pan Alley” in central London] and spent all my money on musical equipment. From 15 to 18 I did lots of jobs, such as filing at Westminster council and doing out-of-hours reception at the doctors’ surgery. All the jobs I did outside music were pretty miserable and at 18 I became a full-time professional in the music business.
HOW DID THE FEELING START AS A BAND?
We met at the Brit School [in Croydon, south London] at 16, and at 20 were doing 10 shows a week in the French Alps, playing covers in bars. We’d get £20 each for playing bars in Camden, then became session players playing for other artists in studios or live, such as Sophie Ellis-bextor and Jennifer Paige. Some of the guys played in a house band for a TV show. We did loads of gigs and at 25 got our record deal.
ARE YOU A SAVER OR A SPENDER? Spender: either on musical equipment or for my home, where I have a recording studio. I own an old pub in east London long since converted to residential. I’ve still got the old honky-tonk piano my dad got me from his mate’s pub for £50 when I was five. I taught myself to play piano and went through two piano teachers because I’d been teaching myself and my technique was wrong. I was stubborn; we clashed, and my mum found me one who let me play boogie and rock ’n’ roll.
HAVE YOU INVESTED IN PROPERTY?
Yes. My brother’s good with property so I’ve collaborated with him in the past, but mostly it’s been places I’ve lived in. I rent out my first house, bought in 2006, and I’ve built an extra house on the back where I currently live. I was lucky: I was able to get that first house when the banks were giving away mortgages left right and centre, and used the advance from the first album as a down payment.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD SERIOUS TROUBLE WITH MONEY?
* I had an accounting error a few years ago, which meant I suddenly owed a load of money to the taxman. It was one box my accountant hadn’t ticked properly. I put aside what I thought it would be but it turned out it was £50,000 more. It was a case of “right, go to work to pay that”. It was to do with capital gains I was supposed to be paying; they’d put a property down as residential and it wasn’t.
WHAT WERE YOU PAID AS COMPOSER OF ‘EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE’?
I get a royalty that comes from every version or production. The creators have a share of the profit pool, which adds up if you’ve got enough produc- tions happening and they’re successful.
The West End was fantastic and the tour has been selling out all over the place. We’ve played most UK cities and it has been touring for two and a half years. We have productions in Italy, Japan and Korea and a run in Los Angeles recently.
You never know where it’s going to go, and so far I’ve received tens of thousands of pounds. Hopefully they’ll do school productions in a few years and other versions.
WHAT WERE YOU PAID FOR THE FILM ADAPTATION?
I got a fee as composer and for the use of the music. It was in three payments: I did several jobs on that movie. I was paid for the arrangements, for being the composer of the score and for the underscoring work I did.
It was a very complicated deal because we also wrote new songs for the film. And I got tens of thousands of pounds for that, too. I’d like to say I’m living a glamorous lifestyle through the theatre and music but I’m not. But I can have nice holidays as I travel a lot through work.
I also do 25 festivals every summer with the band, although once you’ve paid all your crew and it’s split five ways with the band it’s not eye-watering amounts of money. But it all adds up. HAVE YOU DONE ANY LUCRATIVE ADVERTS?
We had a really odd request in 2007 to have our photograph taken by Bryan Adams that ended up all over Marks & Spencer billboards. My nan loved it and it was tens of thousands of pounds.
HAVE YOU COLLECTED VALUABLE THINGS?
I have a 1957 Wurlitzer jukebox and I collect 45s to play on it. I bought it six years ago for £12,000; it’s probably worth more as it has been kept in good, original condition.
WHAT ARE THE BEST AND WORST THINGS YOU’VE BOUGHT?
The best is a 1972 VW Westfalia campervan I bought 15 years ago for £9,000. I don’t use it much, but the dream of using it more often is what keeps me going. Worst: a new Audi estate I bought for £40,000 when they told everyone to buy diesel. Turns out it wasn’t that efficient and clean, and I ended up giving it to my brother.
The Feeling’s latest album “Loss. Hope. Love” was released on May 6. Their UK tour runs from Oct 18 to Oct 30. thefeeling.com