There are downsides to being one of the best live
acts around, as Newton Faulkner has found while making his third
record. Chris Price caught up with him.
Sitting in a room surrounded by “most” of his guitars, Newton
Faulkner picks up a Chinese lute he cannot resist playing.
“You sound like a hippy until you start doing this,” he said
before launching into a twanging rock-style solo. “That is on the
He counts nine guitars on the wall “and that’s just downstairs”
and there is also a harp nearby as he chats in his East London
home. The dreadlocked performer is in the process of mixing his
third album, Write it on Your Skin, having just released the
tantalising Sketches EP this month.
“The new album is definitely different,” said Newton, 27. “It is
different to the first two albums. Those two had a real link
between. The guy who produced the second album produced the singles
on the first one and there was a link in the titles. They felt
close and so I let them be close.
“This one has a different producer and I recorded a lot of the
stuff at home. In fact, one thing I have avoided completely in my
career is a proper studio. I did stuff in my house, stuff in my
garage and on a boat in London. It is amazing how little space you
need to make a record these days.”
That simple approach is what has remained endearing about Newton
since he made commercial radio-loving mums and their daughters wilt
into wide-eyed kittens with his 2007 single Dream Catch Me. His
debut album Hands Built By Robots went to No1 and spent more than
10 months in the top 40.
He has sold more than one million records but despite his second
album, Rebuilt by Humans, reaching No3 – complete with title
inspired by the doctors who had to put a metal plate in his wrist
after he fell on ice – success in the singles charts has been
The singer-songwriter accepts it is his scintillating live
performances which sets him apart these days, something which
festival-goers at last year’s Hop Farm will agree with.
“That was such a good gig,” he said. “Something clicked that
day. That was probably the best reviewed gig I have ever done. The
only other one that has ever come close was at Isle of Wight
"I came back again for Prince (who headlined the last day at the
Hop Farm last year), which was amazing,” he said before putting on
his best Prince voice.
“This is real music. These are real musicians. You have been
deprived.” The impression was about a 7/10.
One thing for sure is that Newton’s live reputation has posed
him a few problems in the recording process.
He said: “It is a tricky one. There is no point in recording the
style of music and guitar playing I am best known for because it is
a visual thing. When you see me on stage, you see one hand over
here and then another hand trying something over there and it
sounds like a whole record live. But when you are recording, it
never sounds like a whole record live. You do not have the sheer
volume you can get on stage.
“Also there is no way of telling if it is one person playing or
not. There could easily be five people each doing very little. The
only way around it is to film a live DVD which supports the audio
as well. Then you might watch it and listen to it.
“Everyone says live is better. They say the sound is exactly the
same live as it is on the record.”
Monitoring his reaction online
Sketches, the EP Newton released earlier this month, is not to
much of a giveway for the sound of his new album.
He said: “The album will be stripped back but the EP is
completely stripped back.”
One trap he has fallen into though, is monitoring the reaction
to his songs online.
“I have been checking on YouTube and it is all good. It is scary
to do that, though. I remember when you would do a gig and know
that moment would never be heard or seen again. Now that is not the
case. Everything you do can appear online within hours.
“The first song I played on this tour was on YouTube before I
had finished the gig. That is a worry because I do go out on a limb
and push myself to the limit of what I can achieve, which is great
when it works but a problem on the occasions when it goes belly
“This record has been written to play live. I have 10 new songs
which have developed well into my live thing.”
Newton Faulkner performs at Folkestone’s Quarterhouse on
Sunday, April 29. Tickets £16. Box office 01303 858500. His third
album, Write it on Your Skin, is out on Monday, July
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