NEWTON FAULKNER releases his Best Of album, THE VERY BEST OF NEWTON FAULKNER … SO FAR, on 8 March, with a major UK headline tour taking place this Spring. Ahead of the release of the album, we spoke to Newton about the last ten years, his favourite cover songs and the future.
1. Thanks for your time Newton. You have a “Best Of…” coming out in a few weeks. How does it feel doing a retrospective of your career?
“I do and it feels very strange. It’s very odd. You imagining it happening when you first start and then all the time you’re imagining happening at some point in the future then someone says “we should probably do this”. It does feel like the right time to do it now though. From Hand Built By Robots through to Hit The Ground Running I feel is all part of the same journey and I think that Hit The Ground Running is the conclusion to that journey. I felt that a lot of the albums in between were part of a journey learning what my sound was. With Hit The Ground Running I feel like I had found what I was supposed to do. To be honest, that wasn’t something I was expecting. I thought that it would be a journey that never stopped but then, when I got to the end, I sat and realised I’d done something I’d been trying to do for ten years and that’s great.. errr.. what’s next?”
2. Which leads into my next question. As this chapter has closed, what is next for you?
“Well, the batch of new material I’ve been working on feels different. It has a different vibe to it. It feels more… settled. In a way everything I was trying to do and succeeded in doing I can now stop trying to do because I’ve done it and it’s just got a different vibe and different tone to it so it seems like this is a logical point to do the retrospective.”
3. You’ve already mentioned that the last album felt like the end of a chapter. Was there a point during recording Hit The Ground Running where you realised that?
“No, not at all. I didn’t really clock it until I’d finished and even then it was not for couple of weeks. I think it was listening back to it for the first time after mastering it where I thought I was actually ready to listen to it in a normal way. It’s very different when you’re working on it because you’re analyzing every different thing, it’s not casually on in the background. You’re listening to it really loud and picking out every hi-hat and bass frequency. It’s not how people listen to music at all.”
4. When you were looking back over ten years, what was your criteria for picking out songs?
“Well, that was a tricky one because the stuff I’m most proud of is all the wierd stuff, not the stuff that people want on a Best Of album [laughs]. People were telling me that it was a Best Of and it needed all the big cuts on there so we had to cut tracks out. We had to consider factors like which ones would go at which point in terms of things like Spotify playlists there are ways of doing things that are better than other. We had to think about things like vinyl and which side would work best. It’s so different to ten years ago. The industry was completely unrecognisable from what it was when I started ten years ago and I think Hand Built was just at the end of something in the industry and it was kind of the last record to sell proper numbers. It was literally like the last record where real record sales were noted and it was between that and the second record where the internet really came into play.”
“At that time as well, the change in Government really affected radio and especially Radio 1 and Radio 2 who now thought they were too close together because, obviously, they’ve got different Government rules. One is supposed to be for one age group and one is for another and, during the change in Government, they realised they were overlapping and playing some of the same things. One was worried that it would get its licence revoked and that meant that was in the middle and was being played on both soon didn’t get played on neither. You went from being in the best possible position in radioland to the absolute worst where nobody was playing you overnight. It was an interesting time. Somehow I can still tour, I can do pretty big tours and I can sell records. Looking back at where everything has landed. I’ve had a number of top ten records, two number one albums and it’s wierd. I purposely try not to think about it but, with this, I’ve been forced to look at it.”
5. Looking back over ten years you must have some really proud moments?
“Yeah, when I was looking back, people were saying “Look at all this stuff you’ve done!” and yeah, I’ve done loads of really good stuff. Being honest though, with how turbulent the music industry has been, whenever everything has gone really well, it’s been ten minutes of “yaay, this has gone really well” then literally, within ten minutes, we’ve been thinking “right, what do we do next?”. The thing is when something goes well you have to ride on the wave of positivity then you’re already working on the next thing and you’re thinking you have to go back to Australia or go here or there.”
“My girlfriend asked me the other day what the things were I’d like to do before I die. It was a morbid question but it was framed nicely. I said to her that I’d really like a two-week break. I’ve managed a week once and that was the first time I’d been away in seven years an actually holiday. I’ve had some fake holidays were you end up doing a gig in a country and a load of people come with you and, while they go off and have a jolly, you’re preparing for this gig. Loads of those but I’d love a real proper holiday, it just never happens.”
6. The second disc of the package is a compilation of your covers. Do you have particular favourites?
“[Laughs] I’d forgotten about that! With a lot of the cover versions, especially the ones I’ve done live, have come out of quite random conversations like “what shouldn’t you cover?”. That’s how “Teardrop” came about. I was asked what I shouldn’t be covering and someone mentioned “Teardrop” so I said we should cover that. Another one was “Bohemian Rhapsody”, someone asked me what was physically impossible and the answer was “Bohemian Rhapsody” so we dug in on that one. The first wave of live covers came out of that! I like poking at nostalgia with my covers. I wanted to do the Baywatch theme but, for some reason, that never made it. After that we chucked in a few new songs which I thought I could do in a different way and that I found challenging. I do a lot of things just because they’re hard, not quite sure why but that’s just how I am. I was working with someone the other day who looked at my live set-up and said “you literally do everything the complete opposite to how everyone else does things!” and they’re right. My bass player said to me that most people he knew made things as easy as they can but you try to make things as difficult as possible which I like.”
7. If you could duet with any of the artists you’ve covered who would you choose?
“Gene Wilder would be amazing. Jess Glynne has an amazing voice, it would be amazing to work with her. Lady Gaga – that was really interesting because we were trying to do something different with it although have a male vocal automatically makes things a bit different in terms of feel and tone. I like to challenge myself or there would be no point as you’d never improve!”
8. What was your ambition when you first started out and what are they now?
“I set myself a challenge while I was writing the first album and that was keep the same level as I don’t think there were many people who I would consider had done that. I’d like to be as good a player as I am a singer as I am a writer and I’ve also added production to that as it all goes together in a way that it didn’t when I first started. Back then you needed a thirty thousand pound studio to make a record and that isn’t necessary any more. It’s trying to keep the production and engineering side on the same level as the guitar playing as the same level as the singing on the same the level as the song-writing. Doing it that way keeps you on your toes because, as soon as one thing gets better, you have to dig in on everything else to keep them at the same standard.”
9. One thing you did which must surely have pushed you was appearing in War of the Worlds. How was that?
“It was a lot of fun. I didn’t have to do that much and it was quite chilled. I’d definitely do it again and there was a lot to learn but, once I knew exactly what I had to do, it was a lot of fun. They were such a lovely bunch of people and it was really silly backstage. The main thing was getting used to singing without a guitar or a microphone. I learned a Sinatresque style to sing with just a mic where he used to literally pin it to himself but, for this, there was no mic, no guitar, nothing. I had to literally learn what to do with my hands so spent hours practicising different things. It was the most bizarre thing to learn and a lot of the time I looked really silly trying to sing and move my hands. Yes, it was a lot of fun though.”
10. Thanks for your time Newton. Just to finish you’ve got the album and the tour coming up. What about after that?
“I never really stop writing. I’ve also got a top secret project coming up which I’m working on which is a lot of fun and I think people will like it and then, yeah, getting into the next album. I’m really excited about the material I’ve got for the next album so just want to get stuck into that. Basically, I just want to keep going while it is fun!”
Mon 22 BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy
Tue 23 EXETER Great Hall
Wed 24 LONDON Palladium
Fri 26 BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Sat 27 LIVERPOOL O2 Academy
Mon 29 GATESHEAD Sage
Wed 01 LEEDS Becketts Students Union
Thu 02 DUBLIN Academy
Sat 04 MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sun 05 LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Mon 06 GLASGOW Old Fruit Market