Audrey Murphy talks to Newton Faulkner about his music career, new album, and ongoing tour.
Newton Faulkner is an English singer-songwriter with a career spanning over ten years. He’s mostly known for his unique style of playing the acoustic guitar with lots of percussive elements. I caught up with Newton to discuss his growing success, unique styles and current tour. I decided to jump way back to 2007 and the start of his career. Newton’s first album ‘Hand Built by Robots’ soared to number one and gained double platinum status. But with its highly unique style at the time surely he expected some of this success.
“It went completely mental,” he said. “I didn’t even hope for that, that wasn’t my motivation to make an album, it was for the love of music.”
Newton Faulkner was launched straight to the top, playing Glastonbury, Oxygen, Isle of Wight and other music festivals all in his first year or two as a solo artist. “I had been in a band before that but this blew up pretty early. It was still a lot of work though, when I was in college I was gigging and worked hard since I was about sixteen.”
But with his quickly growing success came a potentially career-ending incident. In between the first and second album, Newton broke his wrist. He told me how he took minimal time out so as not to disappoint his fans. “That totally sucked, it was terrifying but I was back on the road in three months – I shouldn’t have been but we already moved the tour and I didn’t want to move it too far.” He went on to tell me how the accident affected his music. “I held back – playing wise for a bit but was very lucky and got full movement back.” Newton continued to tell me about how this accident should’ve been the end of his career:
“when I was going for surgery [the surgeon] said not to worry, that I’d be fine, but later when he was asked on TV how bad it was, he said it should’ve been a career ending injury. That was the first I heard that from him.”
Luckily the injury didn’t have a long-lasting effect, and Newton Faulkner’s solo career continued. We spoke about whether Newton prefers performing solo or if he misses the days of being in a band. ‘I had a band for the album before this one and found it so much fun! I think vocal harmonies are such a special thing.’ He continued to tell me how he’s tried to hold onto the fell of a full band in his music, ‘I’ve took the band element and adapted it into the show I’m doing now, which is solo but the sound is chunky.’ I couldn’t have agreed with him more. From being a follower of Newton Faulkner from the start it’s clear to see that this new album ‘Hit the Ground Running’ has a fuller sound that the rest. He replied by saying that it is the exact sound he’s been trying to find. “I just want people to check out the new album. I’m really, really happy with it. It’s the sound I’ve been searching for since the first album – even before the first album, that was too clean!”
Being on the topic of Newton’s sound, I asked him about his unique percussive style. Many have tried to mimic it, but Newton Faulkner was the innovator. I asked him about the origin of this and if it was inspired by anyone or if it simply just developed.
“I learned piano, then drums, bass, electric guitar and then I moved across to acoustic. I was looking for somewhere where I could put everything. It all went onto the acoustic – a more percussive sound with lots of bass techniques, the acoustic kind of became a home for it all.”
Other than his extremely unique and admired sound, Newton Faulkner gains a lot of attention from his highly unique music videos. The videos feature jigsaw pieces and Lego men to name but a few, but all have the common theme of just Newton himself with a guitar, although sometimes represented in cartoon or Lego form. I asked Newton if he designed these videos, but he replied that he stays out of all that and sticks to the music: “I’m very audio-centric and have very few visual ideas.” And of course, I had to ask about the video for ‘Get Free’ when the iconic dreadlocks were cut off. “One take and six hours of rehearsals” was his initial reply, but he went on to tell me that he’d planned to cut them off so thought he’d do something fun with it and cut them off in the most terrifying way possible!
After discussing Newton’s rise to success – his ups, downs, his unique sound and videos – we finally spoke about his current tour and new album. The album is also available on vinyl, which many artists are opting for these days, but Newton had much to say on this topic.
“I think vinyl is really important to the music industry as a whole now.” He claimed, adding
“I think Spotify is great, it’s a means to finding new things and discovering new music. I feel if people find a band they like on Spotify, and then support the band by buying things or going to gigs, it cancels out the fall in CD sales and whatnot.”
Newton’s current tour has sold out about half of its dates, and the others are also close to selling out. Newton, still being a very humble man, was adamant to mention how honoured he is by this. “It’s amazing, and it’s a long run too, I think it’s the longest tour I’ve ever done which makes it really amazing!”
Before finishing up the interview I had to mention the little cartoon version of Newton, which is featuring in the new video and seems to be somewhat of a mascot for the new album and tour. Newton had some very interesting things to say about this little character. “For me it kind of represents a whole section of the live show, which is just me messing around. The playing and songwriting is always relatively serious, but the performing is an element of fun which is hard to do in photos so I think when we add this silly cartoon it kind of balances out and represents me as a whole.” Newton continued with this thought trail and went on to tell me about how artists are forgetting to have fun with their music, and people no longer improvise when performing live. He says it’s something that needs to come back to the industry.
“I think [improvisation is] a huge part of music and a part people neglect at times. I think if you use a track you’re kind of stuck and can’t change things as you go. That’s why I never used a track on anything, it massively stifles how much fun you can have!”
Newton Faulkner’s album, Hit the Ground Running, is available now