“Live is really what I do” – An Interview with Newton Faulkner

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Hot on the heels of the release of his new album, The Very Best Of Newton Faulkner… So Far, Newton Faulkner is getting ready to embark on a UK tour throughout April and May that starts off just down the road at O2 Academy Bournemouth. Newton, or Sam, talks to The Edge about how the music biz has changed since he started out over a decade ago and his ambitious plans for the new tour.

How does it feel after over a decade in the music industry, and how much has changed since you started out?

It’s been a very interesting journey and especially the industry side of things has changed beyond recognition from when I started.

Is that in terms of streaming, and things like that or…?

All of that stuff plays a part but the way that people think about music as a thing has fundamentally shifted, which is fascinating to kind of see. Even the way I listen to music is different to the way I listened to music. Like, I put on Spotify concentration playlists which are just like quiet noise and it’s basically just avoiding silence, is what you’re doing. But it’s just enough to keep me going and I wouldn’t have done that before. I would have probably just talked to myself all day which I still do but I do it with some music in my ear, which I think is healthier on some level (laughs). But yeah, everything’s changed. It’s a very different landscape. The first record (Hand Built by Robots) really was one of the last records to sell proper numbers of physical copies. The second record (Rebuilt by Humans) wasn’t even that long [after], it was only just under two years, a year and a bit, and it [had]changed completely by that point, and there were loads of other huge shifts, like, radio completely changed.

Do you have to learn to evolve with that, or did you just continue as you would have continued either way?  

I kind of pick and choose when I want to play the game, and when I’m like, actually, I don’t want to do that, so I’m not going to. I’m going to do what I do and wait for people to be like, “aww, that’s nice” (laughs) and to be honest, it’s kind of weirdly paid off.

Do you still get the same buzz out of live performance?

Hell yeah! Live is really what I do. To be honest, I get more of a buzz out of it now than I did at the very beginning. At the beginning, I didn’t really fully comprehend how lucky I was to be allowed to do it. And now I completely understand how lucky I am to have live performance as part of my job. That is the most amazing thing, and to step out over a decade later and still feel people’s enthusiasm, still split crowds into three different vocal groups and all that stuff is truly astounding. The last tour was the longest tour I’d ever done. I think we did a solid three-month tour of the UK, which basically involves playing literally everywhere you can name and a bunch of places you’ve never heard of, so that was really interesting and great fun.

As you were part of the Green Day musical, American Idiot, a few years back, have you ever considered what a musical made up of your songs would be about?

Oh god, no, I’ve never even thought about it. I’m not sure what kind of thing it would even be. I mean, it’s weird, I write some incredibly happy songs, and I write some really depressing songs. I think it could be quite hefty in places because I’m slightly too honest for my own good, sometimes. It’s quite an interesting challenge, I might start having a proper think about that… See if I can link them all together.

Do you always see yourself doing music? Are there things you’d like to dabble in that you haven’t yet?

I’m never going to stop doing music – music is very much the core of everything else I do. There’s things that I’ve found fun, like the little bits of acting I’ve done have been fun. I would love to do some voice acting at some point but it’s quite hard to get into. It’s hard to find an in, but it uses all the same muscles as the singing. And also, it’s a lot of the same equipment. It’s probably something I could do at home (laughs); just go into the studio I’ve already built in my house and just shoot off random stupid things. I’ve been toying with the idea of making something myself and playing with it.

But also, just as a technical singer, I’ve done some stuff, like what I did with War of the Worlds, which was just pure singing. I went out and I sang some songs and that was interesting because that’s not usually what I do. Because normally I’m playing guitar and I’m talking a lot and it’s very much about personal connection and communication whereas that was more [like]I was a character in a story and I came out and I sang and then I went away again, and it was really interesting as an exercise. I had to learn all kinds of new tricks, like how to move my arms, which I didn’t know, to be honest, before I did that (laughs). How to walk like you’re not going to Tesco, as well, was something I also had to learn. I watched the video back and everyone was walking off and everyone was doing this epic movie walk and I looked at me and I was just like “duh duh duh duh duh, I’m going off the stage and aliens are coming and la dee da dee da”. I just looked so out of place. It was in rehearsals, so I got my shit together, but it was very funny.

How are you feeling about the new tour?

I’ve got a really good feeling about this tour. I’ve built new rigs and come up with new trickeries and I’m going to go for a dual setup. So, one maximum multitasking set-up which is going to be me doing everything that a human being can possibly do at the same time which should be really fun. But to juxtapose that I might even just have one mic dangling and just play the guitar acoustically into it and strip it right back. Like, I uploaded a video of me sitting and playing guitar in my kitchen and it was like, you just sounds good, you don’t need anything, it just sounds good just when you’re there. I wanna kind of tick both boxes for the people who are into both things. You can have loads of fun with lighting as well ‘cos you can go from like one spot to crazy strobe-y flashing.

Do you organise that yourself, or do you work with some lighting people?

I’ve been working with the same guy for a really long time and he’s really good. He’s great and he has an idea that he wants to put into place and then we sit down, we talk through the set, we do rehearsals – we do lighting rehearsals as well – and make sure it’s all feeling juicy.

Newton Faulkner’s new album, The Very Best Of Newton Faulkner… So Far, is out now, via Battenberg Records. His full UK tour kicks off with a date at O2 Academy Bournemouth on 22nd April and runs through until May. Purchase tickets here.

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Fourth year French and English student and 2018/19 Live Editor for The Edge.

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