In the Middle with Newton Faulkner

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Ahead of the release of his new album, The Best of Newton Faulkner…So Far, Jennifer Hyman talks with the singer-songwriter about his
career to date, tour preparations, his songwriting process and plans for the future.

A household name in the music industry, Newton Faulkner has had numerous notable achievements to date. His debut album, Hand Built by Robots, went double platinum and knocked Amy Winehouse off the number 1 spot after its release in 2007. Since then, he has released five albums, sold over 1.5 million records, and had over 180 million online streams. Before he continues to expand his horizons once again, Faulkner is now rounding off the end of an era with a ‘Best Of’ album.

When I spoke to Faulkner, he’d had a full day of music programming in preparation for his upcoming tour. He claims his playing style and live performances are unlike any other acoustic performer: “I’ve developed a weird way of doing it that is very technically difficult but also really fun! It is basically a musical playpen that I’ve built for myself, that I sit in the middle of.” 

Of his new sounds, Faulkner hopes that, despite the big differences between the two, he can “keep the people who really like Studio Zoo and the people who really like Human Love happy.” Therefore, in his upcoming live sets, we can expect to see a mix of songs featuring triggered sounds and some purely guitar and vocal numbers. 

I wondered why he felt that now was the time to do a ‘Best Of album’. With continuous releases, his journey so far shows no sign of slowing. However, Faulkner explained that “it was all part of the same thought process so it was all striving for a particular thing which I found on the last record. I was looking for that for a really long time. I finally kind of crack it but I feel like I’ve done that now. And finding it – that was that journey. From the first album to that album was me trying to get to that point via all the other albums via life in general. When I start working on the next batch of stuff it feels quite different.”

Since parting ways with his label prior to his fifth album, Faulkner has done the production and programming of his sixth album himself – although he has had the help of friend Dan Dare, the producer artist behind the project SLANG. Faulkner claims that Dare was there to help give the album a “modern sprinkle.”

The first half of the album, which showcases his original music, has three new tracks. ‘Wish I Could Wake Up’, ‘Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ and ‘Take What You Want.’ On ‘Take What You Want’, Faulkner said “I’ve got a really good feeling about that one. I think that’ll tap into something that I haven’t tapped into for a while.” Interestingly, when it comes to the specifics behind his songwriting, Faulkner poignantly considered that “I purposefully avoid having a system because I think that if I sat down and went oh it’s time to write a song, let’s write a song, it just doesn’t feel as satisfying to me.” It seems that his music must come from a place of emotion and spontaneity. 

The second half of the new album is a covers album featuring songs including, ‘Million Reasons’ and finishes with a unique take on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Of this diverse artistic choice, Faulkner reflects that “I feel like I learnt a huge amount from the covers album. I think I learnt more about producing the covers album than I did the previous two!” 

With his next tour coming up, we also discussed Faulkner’s pre-gig rituals as well as the differences between his current tour and his previous ones. “I definitely warm up my voice a lot”, he says, “I pretty much go as high and almost as low as I can every night. Which is a big physical ask!” But Newton is no stranger to touring. Describing his previous tour as the touring equivalent of “carpet bombing”, Faulkner “toured just the UK on its own for three months solid so instead of doing one big gig we did like five small ones. It was really fun! This is kind of the polar opposite. It’s a short run of big dates. It’s all big cities and much bigger venues then the last run.” 

So what’s next for Newton? First is the album release on 8th March; the ‘Best Of’ album is currently available to pre-order and will be shortly followed by a tour of the UK and Europe. Whilst this album signals the end of one sound for the artist, it seems like it is just the beginning of the next step in his career.  Hinting at this, Faulkner then elusively went on to mention “a top secret project.” It seems fans will have to wait and see exactly what he’s got planned in the near future. 

Newton Faulkner is playing at Leeds Beckett Student Union on May 1st.