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Interview: Newton Faulkner on his new album, self improvement and visiting Manchester on tour

By Claire Holden

MM caught up with Newton Faulkner to chat about his new album, his forthcoming tour and, of course, his love of Manchester.

Having spent the last three years writing, Newton is now ready to release an EP, Sketches, his third studio album, and is preparing for a summer of playing festivals.

After the great success of Newton Faulkner’s first two albums that gained Newton worldwide popularity, he describes his latest album, Write It On Your Skin, as a ‘different animal’.

Already having one album that went platinum twice and another that went gold, MM asked Newton what was going to make this album different from the others. He said: “The first one was like a sunshine barbeque; the second was like a headphone album because you needed to get right in there as it had loads of layers of really subtle detail. This one has a much liver vibe.”

Newton is clearly looking forward to taking this album to live shows. On this, he mused: “The general tempos have gone up which I think is a part of me realising my place; my main home is festivals… this one has been very much written to be played live.”

Having recorded much of the material himself, the remainder of the recording took place in a garage in L.A, which Newton described as hilarious. He said: “If anyone had ever said ‘do you think you’ll record in LA?’ I would have said ‘no way, not at all!’ because in my head I saw a very swanky producer in a really swanky studio and lots of dark glasses. Instead I was in an Express by Holiday Inn.”

Having spent time in his home and in an L.A garage, the record was produced, not on dry land, but on a river. He said: “It’s amazing, it’s an old lightship boat with a lighthouse on the back, and he gutted it by hand and built a studio inside. You get picked up twice a day because obviously its tidal, so you sit there, you’re in the middle of a take concentrating then all of a suddenly you just go blub blub blub blub [sinking noises].”

Although once the ball was rolling the recording process happened quickly, it had taken him much longer to pen Write It On Your Skin. He said: “I guess it took two or three years. I was ready to release an album last year, but I couldn’t because of record company stuff. I was ready but I don’t think anyone else was. It was really interesting because it gave me a chance to go back to square one and look back over everything.”

Newton is clearly dedicated to his art, and will pick over his work with a fine-tooth comb until he is satisfied enough to put it out into the world. It is clear he will stop at nothing to achieve the perfect sound.

On self improvement he said: “I want to get better. I still have lessons in singing and guitar; I find it really inspires you.

I came from an instrumental/acoustic background but then strayed from that kind of early on but that was still where I started. So in that area there are like a million players who are just a million times better than me.

 The hardcore playing world is really small, there’s not a lot to it but there is a lot to be learnt.”

Newton Faulkner is no stranger to Manchester, having spent much time here with friends, he now uses it as a base when he is touring the North of England. From all the places in all the world that he has played at over the six years he has been a professional artist, Newton would still pick Manchester Apollo as his favourite venue.

He said: “I’ve had so many good times there. I must have played there three times and they always stand out on the tour, they’re always really good nights and the crowd is always amazing.

It’s such a beautiful space. One time I was lying in the middle of it when there was no one there; I was lying on the floor and I realised the whole venue looked like a giant harp. I love playing there.”

Anyone who is anyone knows a Newton Faulkner gig is never complete without a really great cover, his most popular, Teardrop by Massive Attack being his favourite. He said: “Teardrop is still a real pleasure to play. I love it to bits as it is such a spectacular track and to do it in a way that people don’t want to kill me for is the risk you take as it is so unbelievably loved.”

He is of course taking a big risk in tinkering with such a well-loved song, and Newton is all-too aware of this. He said: “I knew it was dangerous at the time and I remember the first time I played it thinking ‘oh what is going to happen to me for this?’ I’ve hated people for messing up my favourite songs in the past, it does happen.”

While discussing other covers, Newton very nearly spills the beans to MM about his next cover: “I was messing around with um…actually no I’m not going to say. I’m going to save it; it’s a surprise because nobody’s ever heard it. Ha ha!” Despite my pleading to spill the beans, he would not give in.

Instead, we chat about what will be next for him, now the album is ready to go. He said: “Loads of gigs again! I’m done with sitting in small rooms with no windows, I quite fancy getting out and about for a little bit. I want to go for a wander.” That wandering could well reach America, where Newton dreams of taking a stadium tour. 

Having toured with stars such as Paulo Nutini and John Mayer, Newton would like to work with the likes of Dave Matthews, but said: “Collaborations have to come naturally, you know? You have to bump into someone and say ‘hey, we should do that!’ otherwise it’s just going to come across a bit weird.­­”

Write It On Your Skin seems to have been a long time coming for Newton Faulkner, but it was worth the wait?

“I’m so freaking happy, I’m having such a good time!”

Catch Newton as he returns to Manchester on May 19. Sketches EP is released 17 April, and Write It On Your Skin will be released later this year.

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