Multi platinum selling artist Newton Faulkner released his most recent album Studio Zoo last week and very kindly gave me 15 minutes of his time so I could pick his brain.
Studio Zoo was recorded in front of an audience, via livestream which was a unique experience for both the artist and fans which thus created a unique community and arguably one of the most important times of Newton Faulkner’s career.
How are you today?
Yeah, not too bad!
How do you feel your music has evolved since Hand Built By Robots?
Shall we go album by album?
Because it is quite interesting, yeah…
The first album was written in a very short space of time; it was written in the last few weeks before release. It was quite acoustic, but, the most successful song from that album was the least acoustic one from the whole thing, which was Dream Catch Me. It was kind of an anomaly! [laughs]
After that, on the second album, we tried to get everything up to that same level on production. It was the same producer from the previous album.
Back then, in terms of what I was doing live, it was getting even more acoustic. I had a band and people just said that the best parts, the best parts were always when I performed alone so I thought well, lets just do the best parts! So I became a solo performing artist.
With the third album, I was under a lot of pressure to get on radio so again, the singles had to be very big.
With this album, album number four, I’ve basically just done exactly what I’ve always wanted to do and tried not to think too much about it which has meant that I’ve gone back to kind of my , sort of my prehistoric roots to back to the first album, to what I was doing before anything kicked off.
It’s been a strange journey!
How would you describe Studio Zoo in three words?
Three words! That’s very few words, that’s worse than Twitter!
That’s the challenge!
Uh, oh god that’s really hard. I’ve usually got stock answers for theses kinds of questions, but they’ve not developed yet. It’s definitely my best album. Can I say it’s my best album?
That’s great actually.
I really think it is. I’m really, really happy with it. I don’t think I’ve been so happy with anything I’ve ever done.
I really like it too.
How do you feel about Kickstarter and other such websites in which fans fund the production & distribution of albums in return for rewards?
I think it’s awesome, I think the more different ways there are of doing it the better. Yea, with as many doors that have closed with the way things have gone, when there’s money dried up in some areas it’s become bigger in others, there’s been a massive shift in the balance of control with record companies. I say ‘The more options the better’. And whether it’s Kickstarter or …. loads of other really weird fucking ways of funding a record, it’s cool!
Have you found your influences have changed as you’ve grown, musically?
Not really. I’m kind of standing here in front of my record collection. And a lot of my stuff I’ve got because my parents had it, including Paul Simon, Graceland, The Kinks (dad had that), Chad Baker, Grinder Man… sorry I’m rambling.
It’s okay! The more you talk the better. What should fans expect from your live show?
We’re just trying to work it out at the moment; we’re just trying to work out what else it needs. It would be great to have a cellist. And we’re definitely kinda mixing up the sound but I honestly think this can sound a lot more like the record than anything I’ve done before; because obviously, with the second record was quite built up. It wasn’t something I could do without a seventeen-piece band. Whereas this one, it’s acoustic, so it’s perfectly achievable to kind of recreate it, relatively. It’s something I’ve never really done before. And one thing I like about doing things on my own is you can cut things out or make them longer. You can kind of roll with whatever’s going on, which is very fun.
What do you prefer, recording or performing?
I think performing, but then that’s what this whole streaming thing kind of bridges the gap between the two. Half way between recording an album and doing a gig because I was playing it and people were listening. I was playing it into a mic but was very aware that there’s two cameras. Two cameras with both the microphones on that are going straight onto computers. There’s people sitting there with headphones on. I was amazed with how long people were watching for; people watched it all day! They just got up and turned it on in the background! It was all day, which was hilarious!
What are some of your favourite albums at the moment?
I don’t know; I kind of went into lock-down in my head. With the albums in the past A&R have said ‘You need to reference this, this is what’s cool’, and I kinda said ‘Okay, so that’s what’s cool, but that’s not what I do. You want me to kind of, hint towards this somehow?’, and I didn’t do that this time at all. I didn’t listen to anything. There are a few reasons for it, ‘cos usually I tend to listen to very little, but then on this one I actually couldn’t listen to anything that had been released because of the copyright (laughs) and that would have been copyright infringement, I couldn’t watch any movies and I couldn’t listen to any music that had been officially released, I could listen to stuff on Youtube if it wasn’t signed to a label, which doesn’t leave you that much stuff. So yea, this has kind of kept inspiring itself; each track lead to the next. It was kind of self-influencing.
What’s your favourite song from your new album?
I have no idea. I can’t separate them in my head, they’re just one big bulk of work. (laughs) – It’s all too fresh.
At The End of Innocence, though, when the bass comes in that’s Ted from Mumford & Sons, which is amazing! He plays on a couple of tracks.
We had India Bourne as well who is a fantastic artist in her own right but she plays cello with Ben Howard. She’s playing cello on a couple of tracks. guitarists in the entire world are on the track as well.
Are you tired of performing Dream Catch Me yet?
No! People like it.
It is a good song.
I still forget it sometimes; I know it’s probably my most successful song but there was a gig in an old slate mine. I’d just written a new record and I kind of assumed that as I’d been playing the first album relentlessly for two or three years that I’d just remember that. So I took loads of time learning the new stuff and really got my head around it then all the new stuff was flawless but I kept forgetting how to play whole sections of old songs off the first album, which I did not see coming. A song that I’ve played, literally like I did a radio tour of Australia where I was playing it six times every morning on different radio stations. You’d think that would stick! I got to the first chorus and I was looking at my fingers like ‘Come on, guys! You told me you had this!’. I had the crowd singing it to me and I was just sitting there looking really, really embarrassed.
What’s the hardest part of your job, other than forgetting your own songs?
I’m a bit of a freak, I kind of enjoy all of this! I know I’m not supposed to. I actually really enjoy this bit, people complain about this and I like touring. I feel more comfortable on a bus than I do in a bed in my own house. And I like waking up and not knowing where I am. I find that kind of reassuring. When I’m talking to somebody and they say ‘I don’t really like touring’ I’m like ‘What is wrong with you? It’s the most fun in the world, what’s not to like?’. That’s how I feel about my job; it’s the most fun in the world.
Newton Faulkner is touring next year. Catch him at a date near you:
9-Feb-14 Belfast Limelight
11-Feb-14 Edinburgh Picture House
12-Feb-14 Glasgow O2 ABC
13-Feb-14 Newcastle O2 Academy
15-Feb-14 Leeds O2 Academy
16-Feb-14 Liverpool O2 Academy
17-Feb-14 Manchester Bridgewater
19-Feb-14 York Barbican
20-Feb-14 Birmingham O2 Academy
21-Feb-14 Nottingham Rock City
23-Feb-14 Norwich UEA
24-Feb-14 Ipswich Corn Exchange
26-Feb-14 Bournemouth O2 Academy
27-Feb-14 Bristol Colston Hall
28-Feb-14 Cardiff University
2-Mar-14 Portsmouth Guildhall
3-Mar-14 Bexhill On Sea De La Warr Pavillion
5-Mar-14 London Roundhouse
6-Mar-14 Guildford Glive
7-Mar-14 Exeter Great Hall