Ahead of his socially distanced tour beginning at the end of May, Robyn Walford caught up with Surrey singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner to discuss polyrhythms, deep-sea fishing, and all things musical.
Four years since his last studio album, Newton Faulkner is excited to be back with something bigger and better than ever. After spending lockdown reflecting and writing, INTERFERENCE (OF LIGHT) was born, and it’s shaping up to be as striking as the singer’s locks.
After warm welcomes and a momentary scare as Faulker notices a man in his garden (who was supposed to be there… I think), he begins to explain how he had “no idea that he completely relied on gigs for his entire validation as a human being.” Having been on the gig scene since the age of fourteen, the singer admits that he doesn’t really know any different. “It seems you don’t really understand how much you need something until you miss it,” he reflects. “It has been strange, but lockdown has been a super weird time for everyone”.
“A lockdown album about a lockdown would just be totally irrelevant once the restrictions lift“
Despite the strangeness of the situation, Faulkner was able to use lockdown to his advantage, working almost “obsessively” to get everything finished. He explains how in a ‘normal’ setting, you’d be working under pressure to meet strict deadlines in order to produce material to prepare for an album. Yet, lockdown allowed the process to slow down. Faulkner explains how he spent nearly four months perfecting one tune; the time being hugely beneficial in allowing time to reflect and perfect everything that he wanted.
Not only did he create a superb new album, set for release in mid-August, but he also began to learn many new skills. “I would normally get people in to play different parts,” he explains, “but due to lockdown, I couldn’t. We would send a piece across to someone to play and send back to us, but it felt so disconnected.” He discusses how he did not like being so removed from the creative process so rather than relying on others, he took it upon himself to learn the parts himself. Spoken like a true musician, he chats about bringing his parts to life with his own work without the need to outsource. Having played a little bit of drums and piano here and there, he practised hard to be able to use his own sections on the album. He’s a one-man-band it seems!
We discussed the notion of writing in lockdown, and he explained how his new album focuses on the thoughts and feelings of everyone being back together that would occur after lockdown. “A lockdown album about a lockdown would be totally irrelevant once the restrictions lift,” he admits, so he sought to create something that captures the elation and joy of the coming summer of freedom.
The future looks equally bright for Faulkner and not just because his album is titled Interference (of Light). As well as a rearranged socially-distanced tour beginning at the end of the month, there are even bigger and better things being planned for his November tour. “It is going to be heavy on tech,” he explains with a grin, “things are being made even as we speak.” He teased whilst he talked about the way he was going to be multitasking and using different instruments on the stage. “It will allow me to take up space” rather than being stuck to one area when you’re doing lots of technical things with a guitar, and “it’s going to be very physical but also very colourful,” to keep in line with the title of the album.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’d just lie down in a ditch [if I couldn’t do music].”
Newton goes on to explain how this album had time to grow naturally: “The name came early on and affected the production of it; the tour will reflect the name too.” Interference (Of Light) and the associated artwork have allowed Faulkner to become a little braver with areas such as the instrumentation, bringing in brass sections among other things. With everything from “heavy introductions” to “Nintendo samples,” Faulkner reassures that “it goes in many directions yet somehow seems coherent.” The artwork depicts colours coming in from random angles and the album will follow in vibrant tandem.
Newton recalls how people often think of him as an acoustic guitar player and whilst it makes up a large part of his work, it is not the only thing he wants to show. “This record is much more about the songs than anything else, not just the [acoustic] guitar but how it all sounds together.” He explains how he used to blend things in with the guitar, but this won’t be the case anymore, we can see the multiple parts to each of the songs. “It has become about the songs and not showing off with the guitar.” He spoke of complicated polyrhythms and other technical aspects that were used on stage. However, he reckons only “2% of the audience would fully understand what was going on.” Therefore, “I want the records to feel current and new, I don’t want to question what the artist Newton Faulkner ought to do next.” He explained how it is about creating what feels right and then going on to do whatever it was that was required to make it work.
Not only is Newton Faulkner immensely talented on the performing side of the industry, but he has also begun to learn about production too. “Having sat in rooms with producers, a lot rubs off on you,” he admits with a smile, going on to explain how he’d like to mix and engineer things himself eventually. “It’s very healthy to keep learning new things, it keeps it exciting.”
When discussing his passion for music, I ask whether there is anything else he’d like to do outside of the industry to which he replies thoughtfully, “I always said about being a deep-sea fisherman, but I don’t know if I believe that anymore… I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’d just lie down in a ditch [if I couldn’t do music].” It would seem that the thirty-six-year-old has well and truly found his calling.
‘Calm, thoughtful, and honest, in many ways, Faulkner’s character resembles his music.’
The conversation turns to Faulkner’s new single Together which is set for release in June: “I wrote it in Australia about coming home,” he explains, “it’s about reuniting with people that you love, but it also works with gigs and people coming together too. I’ve always been nervous about writing songs that are just about relationships, so I want to add concepts that run parallel through the songs too.” Calm, thoughtful, and honest, in many ways, Faulkner’s character resembles his music. Interference (Of Light), out August 20th on Battenburg Records, is not to be missed.
You can pre-order the album here.
Featured image courtesy of Newton Faulkner via Ian Cheek Press. Images granted to Impact by their owners. Image use license found here. No changes made to this image.
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