added: 9 Jul 2012
interviewed by: Rahsian Parris
There is one overriding theme that comes to mind when you think of Newton Faulkner, and that is uniqueness. From his voice, to his trademark dreadlocks, to his unrivalled creativity and his guitar playing; Newton Faulkner is distinctive. But despite it being three years since his last album Rebuilt By Humans was released, and five years since his number 1 debut Hand Built By Robots spawned the massive hit 'Dream Catch Me', not much has changed.
With new singles, a new album, and a tour just around the corner, the diversity and dreads remain - in a time where the 'cool kids' have all turned to dubstep, it's a breath of fresh air. Sunny personality in full bloom, Newton Faulkner tells Music News all about his new releases, why a positive mental attitude works wonders, and why he prefers to be unfashionable.
Music News: It's exciting to hear new material after so long. Your current single is called 'Clouds', what is it about?
Newton Faulkner: I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it because it's still relatively new. It's about 'something having to change', which actually sums up a big chunk of the album, so I'm glad it's the first song to come out. Clouds is very observational, it's not a really personal song, it's just about looking, and watching things.
MN: How does it fit in with new album Write It On Your Skin?
NF: The overriding thing that's appeared on the new album, not by design, but more by what people were leaning towards, is that we needed a way of balancing out the positivity. I'm naturally quite positive, and I like songs that are positive, but I think there's a line that they can cross if there's not a layer of 'something else' - otherwise, they become very one dimensional.
NF: Songs need a layer of darkness to make sense, and also to make sense in the world that we live in. These are pretty hard times at the moment, because of that, and partly because of needing to balance things out, a lot of stuff on the album is about how things aren't great now, but they're going to get better. You've got the positivity of knowing that things could be amazing, but also that you know things are hard now - which they are for loads of people. I know lots of people having a pretty hard time right now.
MN: Have things been hard for you?
NF: I've had a strange few years, I've been up and down a huge amount, it's been crazy. Since my second album, literally everything from birth to death has happened.
MN: How do you stay positive?
NF: I just do! I had a friend that got really into [self-help book] 'The Secret', which is about positive things happening if you believe in them, that's how it works. It was weird, because my friend was really excited, like 'this solves all my problems! I visualised this thing and really focused on it and then it happened the next day, and it was amazing'. But as he was explaining the general approach to me I thought '...and?! That's kind of what my brain does naturally anyway. Of course you would hope for the best - why wouldn't you hope for the best, what are you doing?', so I think I have that kind of thing in me anyway.
MN: You do seem very vibrant and positive, is that the energy that comes out in your music?
NF: I hope so. Obviously I love fantastically depressing music as well, it's some of the best [laughs]. You have to cover some of that and just be honest with whatever you need, but it doesn't always workout the way you think it's going to. When you are having a really bad time you sometimes write a whole bunch of really happy stuff, but it's not because you're really happy, it's because you're trying to cheer yourself up. I'm trying to think if I've written a really happy song whilst being down...maybe...
MN: Your last album was three years ago, how do you think music's changed since then?
NF: I don't know if music itself ever really changes - everything else around it changes, the industry changes every few weeks. I think there's always people making great music and there's always something going on, so there's an illusion of change, but it's mostly fashion-based. It's not really any more than. I witnessed it first hand actually. During the first album [Hand Built By Robots] it was me, and there were lots of other male acoustic people out around the same time as me, we all came out and it worked really well. Then the second album kind of came out around the time that Grime was at it's peak, and I kind of poked my head in and thought 'is this what's cool now?..okay I'm gonna go now, but I'll be back'.
NF: I kind of ducked out a bit, but I just thought 'this isn't going to work right now'. Radio wise, it just wasn't what was on the radio, but this time around we've kind of gone full circle. There's loads of really great up and coming people and lots of good guitar players that have either come up or are coming up, and incidentally opening doors for me, which is strange. It's weird seeing music go around and then come back again.
MN: So do you ever listen to the radio and feel out of place? Ed Sheeran is good at balancing trends in music with classic acoustic pop, is that something you'll do with your new material?
NF: Cross-over music that sits right on the line is very interesting. It's something I did a long time ago. When me and my brother first started writing together, I was coming from a folk background with artists like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, and my brother was a Drum and Bass MC at the time, but we met in the middle and wrote a whole bunch of stuff, which was completely irrelevant then, but it'd fit in really well now. I should dig some of it up and use it. I guess there were lots of people doing similar things to that, just at a time when it wasn't cool, but now it's cool - it's fascinating.
MN: Do you feel like you have to keep up with the fashion?
NF: No not in any way. I've made a conscious decision not to. I've found what I do, and I like what I do, and live wise it's really fun. In fact, people were asking me to make my live shows less fun and more serious, but I'm not going to do that. I'm really happy with the balance on Write It On Your Skin and where it sits with the old material. One of the major differences with this new album is that it's been written to be played live - the whole album went straight into the live set almost instantly. It's wicked! Now there's loads of people that are already really familiar with the material.
MN: What are the other differences on the new album? Is there anything we'll be shocked by?
NF: It's a different animal isn't it? There's been a lot of major changes and major events in all kinds of different directions in my life. I don't think I changed much between the first album and the second album - maybe I drank a little bit more [laughs], but in the space between the second album and Write It On Your Skin, I've changed a huge amount, I'm also listening to different things. At the moment I'm really getting into vinyl and I'm having a great time.
MN: Now I feel like I need to try harder to enjoy myself because you just seem to have a great time whatever you're doing.
NF: Yes! I do! I get spat out in loads of weird and wonderful places. One of the best times I've had was at Singapore Airport. It has a bar that's outside that overlooks the runway, and it's awesome. I was delayed there for over 6 hours, but it turned out to be great, and now it's one of my favourite places to be stranded. Although, I've also been stuck in Hong Kong for almost a week, so I ended up going to the races and I also bought a suit, it was brilliant. The main thing is if you don't get good at having a really good time wherever you are, there's a chance you could end up having a really bad time and why would you want that?
Newton Faulkner's new single Clouds and new album Write It On Your Skin is out now!
For tour details and more check out www.NewtonFaulkner.com
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