When you think about it, Newton Faulkner has been around for a fair old time. Ten years since he burst onto the music scene with the ever-sunny ‘Dream Catch Me’ way back in 2007, the ginger-haired singer-songwriter has now shred his once famous dreadlocks and recently released his sixth studio album, Hit the Ground Running. Last week Laura Hendry got to chat to him about his new music and upcoming tour.
You can catch Newton playing in Edinburgh at The Liquid Rooms on 28th October.
So, whereabouts are you right now Newton? Are you currently in the UK?
I’m currently in a taxi just going across London - I’m going from North London to East London.
You’re playing a gig in Edinburgh in a few weeks time at The Liquid Rooms - have you played here before?
Yeah, I’ve played The Liquid Rooms a few times, actually, it’s a great venue. This tour we’re heading back to a lot of places that I’ve either have done not that recently, or did years ago. I’m heading back to a lot of places that I haven’t been back to for a while.
I’m super excited to see that you’re playing in Findhorn, which is a tiny coastal village not far where I’m from in the North of Scotland! What is it that’s driven you to play some of the more remote parts of the UK this time around?
I think they’re generally better gigs! I’ve played so many of the larger places so many times, it’s nice to explore a bit more. There’s always a great vibe to a big city gig, but I think you get a deeper connection with the crowd in the smaller venues.
I definitely agree with you on that one. Do you find that you get a bit more of a variation in the type of people that come to your gigs these days?
I don’t think there could be any more variation in the crowds that come to my gigs! It’s honestly the most diverse group of people that I’ve ever come across. I recently had three generations of a family stay behind for a photo after a gig. The other thing that I hear quite a lot is that my music is often passed around families; I hear that kids have introduced their parents to it or vice versa and then everyone ends up coming to the gig. It’s a beautiful thing.
Your new album, Hit the Ground Running came out on 1st September 2017, which is 10 years since your first album was released. What’s changed for you personally in that time, or in terms of your musical style?
Well, I just dropped my six-year-old son off at school, if that answers your question! But also, musically… well, the whole game’s changed. The first album was big on MySpace. People were still talking about Bebo! And now it’s obviously completely different. The way that the charts work is different, the way that people experience music has changed. And that’s global. I’ve never had more people ask me about vinyl than on the last European tour.
Do you always release your material on vinyl in addition to the digital copies?
Yeah. The latest record is independent, it’s my own label. So I was definitely doing vinyl for this one! But when other people are in charge, they sometimes say “Oh, we really don’t need to do vinyl”, and I’m just like, “Come on, man!” But for this one we’ve had some really good vinyl copies. In fact, I signed 500 of them over the last few days.
Are there any particular gigs over the last ten years that have really stood out for you? Where’s your favourite place to play?
I’m just trying to think… I just really love playing, and I really don’t care where. I almost don’t even care to how many people! I’ve had great gigs in tiny venues in other countries, countries I’ve never been to before - places where I’m just starting out - and there’s a completely different vibe to that.
From your most recent album, who would you say that your greatest musical influences have been?
For this one, it was much more soul influenced. Vocally, I was listening to stuff like Donny Hathaway and Chris Stapleton, quite serious vocalists, which is slightly different to usual because I’m usually more of a guitar-nerd than a vocal-nerd. But then I think over the last few years I’ve developed my voice a huge amount, partly through lessons and partly through really exploring it and pushing it on my own. I’ve basically gained an octave and a half of range to play with. Most of this record I couldn’t have sung a few years ago, like ‘Hit the Ground’ - there’s no way I could have got up there! And now the album lends itself to being played live so much more.
I’m a big fan of your cover of ‘Get Free’ by Major Lazer from the Human Love album. Do you have any other songs that you’d like to cover in the future?
I think covers should be outside of your comfort zone, there’s no point in covering something that you could have written anyway. Actually… I’m not quite sure how this happened, but there was a certain character that at a gig of mine once, kind of Kenneth Williams-esque… for some reason he started rapping, and I started doing a bit of ‘Ante Up’ by M.O.P, in the style of Kenneth Williams… it was completely random, but I kind of like that when an artist goes slightly off piste when they’re live. Everyone knows you’re just making it up as you go along, and as soon as they realise that, everyone’s more engaged and more interested.
You’ve been pretty big on the festival circuit in recent years. Do you have any big ones that you like to play in particular?
Glastonbury will always be special to me, that was one of the first big festivals that I did. I actually played Bohemian Rhapsody in my pants one year… a weird way to spend an afternoon! A cold, cold experience. But gigwise, when it’s just you on your own, you can react to anything, and every night I’ve been playing songs that I didn’t think I was going to play. It’s a different level of freedom, it’s so much fun. I do a huge amount of crowd participation. What I’ve started doing recently is getting the crowd to do two different parts, then I do a part that harmonizes with half of one and the other half of the other, and every night I’m astonished by what I hear coming back and how it sounds as a whole. It’s just a really beautiful thing, it’s a form of communication. I’m very much from the school of thinking that I’m there on stage to do whatever the crowd wants me to do, as opposed to the idea of “I’m gonna play and you’re gonna listen”. So if the crowd talks, that’s my fault.
Amazing! Okay, one final question from me. I’m going to go a bit Desert Island Discs... If you were stranded on a desert island, what is your one luxury item that you’d take with you, one book and one singular record?
Okay… I think my luxury item would definitely have to be a guitar. As long as there’s some coconuts on the island that I can use for percussion. Book-wise… I think I’d take Jonathon Livingston’s Seagull. I read that book once, if not twice, every year anyway. It’s a beautiful book. Very short and easy to read but really beautiful - it reaffirms everything that you already know but which just occasionally might need reconfirming. And a single record… god, that’s so hard! [long pause] I do think Joni Mitchell Blue covers a huge amount of ground. It’s got some funkier tracks and then heartbreakingly beautiful things as well for when you need that.
Thanks so much - looking forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in a few weeks time!