Guitar virtuoso Newtown Faulker is heading back to Australia for the first time since 2013. Newtown first came onto music lover’s radars in 2007 with his acclaimed debut album Handbuilt By Robots, which secured platinum status in Australia the UK. He has since released four celebrated studio albums Rebuilt By Humans (2009), Write It On Your Skin (2012), Studio Zoo (2013) and 2015’s big, beat-conscious and astonishingly diverse Human Love. Fans should be excited with new music on the horizon aand Newton Faulkner was so excited to talk about it in my interview.
Another Australian tour, you must be pretty excited to be coming back and playing Bluesfest?
It’s been so long. I can’t wait. The recent tour I did in the UK was I think the best tour I’ve ever done. I think in terms of this album I wrote with live stuff in mind anyway, but I think it definitely translated so much quicker than anything I’ve done. To be honest, even quicker than the first one did really I think because I the first one I kind of had to work out how to do live after it had come out, there were still bits that … well, stuff like Dream Catch Me, I had no idea how to play that live when I started doing it. These tracks I have been playing in gigs for years and then Dream Catch Me was such a big hit I was like, “I have to find a way of making this interesting.”
Is there less pressure now that you’ve established yourself now? Being six albums in now surely and having had chart success you can just get on with just making great music and whatever else happens, happens?
Yeah. It’s a different kind of pressure obviously. The pressure is kind of survival as opposed to trying to break into the industry. It’s my first independent release so there was no one above me in the hierarchy coming to me, saying “Actually, can you do something that sounds a bit more like this. Can you make that a bit less weird?” It was my first opportunity to be completely un-interfered with and actually find stuff I’m been searching for years, but I couldn’t do that with people trying to lean me in certain directions. I definitely think the sound of this record is what I’ve been searching for years, I mean over ten years’ worth of recording music to find the right balance between the looseness and the realness and the kind of roominess of all the sounds, but also it sounding good and full enough.
Do you also think that there’s no going back now that you’ve gone down the independent path particularly not having the record company interference?
I can’t think of anything they would offer me that would make me change my mind. It’s not worth it. I mean, in my position, with the existing fan base I’ve got, the people I can communicate with, it’s a really exciting point to be at independently because there’s so much potential growth and there’s also such a solid base at the behind. There’s an amazing hard-core fan base, which I’m eternally grateful for because they’ve been amazing for years now, for decades actually!
Have you started thinking about the next album?
Yeah! With Christmas and birthday season things started winding down so I got straight back into studio because I learned a lot making the last record. Stuff that I learned, I couldn’t apply because I learned it too late in the process so I’m able to do that now.
Is this album with a band or solo?
I did Human Love which was a band album and a band tour and then with this one I was back solo again. Mainly because it’s what people think and want. I loved playing with a band. It’s like its great fun and it opened up loads of doors to other things. It’s slightly more complicated when you’re solo, but I think on a communication level, that’s what music is, which is an ancient form of communication. On that level, there’s something about performing on your own and making a huge amount of noise on your own, which isn’t the same.
As soon as anyone else gets involved, it kind of messes with the freedom of it because one thing I can do with the way I’m doing things is that I’m playing a lot of stuff with my feet as well. I’ve got a kick drum on my left foot. I’ve got a bunch of bass peddles on my right foot and I’m triggering samples, but they’re all single hits, so there’s nothing that’s long. There’s nothing that ties me down so I’ve got complete musical freedom within that. Its two things where I feel like that works in a two hour set. The rest of the time, I can speed up. I can slow down. I can make sections longer or shorter. I can change my mind. I can rearrange tracks just for the sake of it as I go, which I do and I love doing that.
I think people can feel it’s something fresh, new and exciting. If I’m improvising with all of my limbs at the same time, which I can kind of do now. I’m at the point where I can change what I’m doing with my feet to fit the mood of the venue and that with a band, you’d have to play together every session of every day to get to the same point, if that makes sense. It’s freedom! It’s the freedom to mess around and obviously there’s things that you occasionally have to do, things that help the track. So on Hit the Ground, there’s a little guitar loop that runs through the whole track and I wrote the whole track around it for that.
Where’s the inspiration come from your next album?
Well, there are doors I opened up and vocally I’ve massively pushed myself in ways that I hadn’t done on any of the other albums. The vocal on Hit the Ground is acrobatic. That’s one word I’d use to describe it. It’s just the key of Hit the Ground that I wouldn’t have been physically able to do four years ago; I wasn’t brave enough to do two years ago; and then a few things made me want to play around with my voice more. I had some weird side projects. I did some music for a film that had to not sound like me so I had to mess around with my voice and it reminded me that it’s such a fun tool to play with and I hadn’t really goofed around with it. I’d been using it and taking it quite seriously.
I had to really mess around vocally and try and do things, which are incredibly technically demanding, but also fun. I definitely want to do more of that but I want to do it in different ways. Last time was probably the most soul influenced vocals that I’ve done. Stuff like Fingertips is very soul influenced vocally and musically. The whole track is leaning in that direction, which is something I actually avoided before because I felt there were too many people doing it especially in the UK. When the first album came out everyone was really following soul like James Morrison so I kind of purposely went in a more Peter Gabriel-ish vocal direction. I went over there and now I feel like there’s a bit of a gap so I came back.
What is great is hearing that sense of enthusiasm and how much fun you’re having with it. That must be more exciting in itself that it’s not just a job, you’re doing what you love and it’s just fun?
Yeah! It’s an amazing job to have. I’ve been in a really quite bizarre writing situation because basically I’m not meant to be writing. I’m meant to be practicing and working on things and then suddenly, writing becomes the most exciting thing I can possibly do. So I’ve been getting up early and I’ve been in the studio at seven in the morning coming up with new ideas because I know it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing, which is quite fun. I’m trying to think if I can make more of that loophole in my own brain somehow.
What do you love most about coming out to Australia?
The crowds are really good. Stuff like, obviously that Blues & Roots Festival was a huge part of me learning my craft years ago. It’s one of the things I always come back to in my head. Its like, “What did I do then? Why did that work? Okay, so let’s do that again, but let’s add this to it and I think we can make it even better.” Australia was the first country outside of the UK where it kind of kicked off and it was completely mind-blowing for me. I remember when I got off a plane and landed, I had seen the video had been on fairly heavy rotation and somebody came up to me and was like “Hey are you Newton Faulkner?” And I was like, “Yeah, but how the fuck do you know?” I could not be further from home. I’m on the other side of the planet. It completely blew my mind. It’s incredible!
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Newton Faulkner on the following dates