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In conversation with Newton Faulkner

With a brand-new album Interference (With Light) and a UK tour underway, singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner is emerging from the pandemic with a unique sound.

By Charlotte Carpenter, Second Year English Literature

With a brand-new album Interference (With Light) and a UK tour underway, singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner is emerging from the pandemic with a unique sound.

Discussing the struggles of the pandemic, Newton reveals the highs and the lows he has experienced leading up to his most recent tour. Having adopted a new way of creating music, Newton outlines the challenges he overcame and how his musical influences helped along the way.

Credit: Stevie Kyle

How did you find being in the music industry during the pandemic?

It was totally catastrophic…brutal. Live music is how most people survive, so it was a real challenge. From the financial side of things, I was getting no money from gigs. What really got me though was all the other things I relied on gigs for. l realised all of my self-worth was balanced on this precarious gig-based pillar, so I had some really dark brain time.

I can only imagine how isolating and tough it was. Do you think this ‘brain time’ worked in your favour, giving you time alone to develop your song writing?

Yes, I definitely had creative ups and downs. In lockdown one I did absolutely nothing. I’d just sit in the studio and stare out of the window feeling very confused. Everything ground to a halt.

Did things improve at all in time?

They did in lockdown two when I properly dug into making this record. I’ve never spent that long making anything. Every single other album has been a process of ‘when does this track need finishing by’…usually with every album I have ever made, I always felt like time just disappears.

How did you find working without a time limit, do you think it made you scrutinise your work more?

I’m very aware that a lot of music that is considered totally timeless is made under a huge amount of pressure. However, it was interesting working without this time limit. It definitely made me scrutinise things. I did not have to give up on anything because it didn’t come quick enough. A lot of the time I have an idea, and sometimes when things aren’t quite right the whole track ends up in the bin. Whereas with this record if it didn’t work, the world was shut, so I kept chipping away at it. At the height of my most obsessive working, I spent three months on one track.

That sounds very intense! How do you think this new process of working affected the outcome of the music?

I must admit now I have got to the end of the process and the album is finished, I am so proud of it from a sonic production point of view. It’s such a massive step up for me as a producer. This is the first album where I am making top shelf pop-sounding records on my own equipment just in a room – which is an amazing thing to be able to do. I didn’t set out to do this, I have just acquired a bunch of skills to be able to.

Credit: Stevie Kyle

Seeing as you created this album during the pandemic, have you found it to be more ‘solo work’ than the others?

Definitely. Making this record, I didn’t have access to anyone. So instead of getting someone to come in, I just learnt to play instruments better. There’s a handful of tracks where I played the drums, the bass, the keyboard, the guitars, the vocals- it is literally just me on my own losing my mind in the middle of a pandemic! It is very intense way of working, which is inherently a bit lonely. You are essentially cloning yourself over and over again.

I have noticed you have altered the album depending on what medium it is- vinyl, CD, Spotify album – is this unique for Interference (With Light)? How did you decide the order for each medium?

Recently I felt like there was a type of listening for each platform and they each had a different purpose. I found vinyls were used for focused, event music, and Spotify is more distractive. I looked at classic vinyl albums, like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, and began mapping out the tempos by drawing a waved line which stopped and started at the tempo of all the songs. I then fitted the songs of my album to that shape, constantly going back and forth to a bunch of different albums. One of the biggest surprises for me was the last two tracks changing round, which makes sense only in the vinyl setting.

That’s so interesting, it sounds like you really thought about the position of each song. What is your preferred medium?

My favourite thing to do is keep pressing ‘influenced by’ on Spotify until I don’t recognise anyone.

Credit: Stevie Kyle

And who would you say you are influenced by?

I started off specialising with acoustic, inspired by an endless list of innovative acoustic players: Tommy Emanuel, Mike Doors. When you get into making records the kind of visual acoustic thing doesn’t make much sense. So, production wise I am influenced by artists such as Shawn Wasabi, Major Lazer, The Books. Cornelius is a Japanese guy who makes beautifully weird music…it’s headphone gold! For song writing it’s Carole King and Tom Waits. Everyone has their own little bit, it’s a stupidly long list which makes absolutely no sense!

How do you think these inspirations have influenced your music?

Thinking vocally, I have got way more into singing than I ever have before. There’s a lot more ‘balls’ in the vocals, where I am actually screaming, which works so well live. The last thing I want to do when I see someone perform is them playing it safe. My older stuff is more acoustic, so I’ve been playing a lot more electric, spending more time in the studio.

What is the most challenging part of being a solo singer-songwriter?

Obviously trying to write a song that totally stands up with just an acoustic guitar is a huge challenge, one you can’t get bored of. But recently I wanted a new challenge. After not having any income from live music during the pandemic, I couldn’t have a band during this tour. I made the record thinking I was going to have a band, so I had to totally rethink, which has led to huge discoveries for me. I realised I had to perform these things on my own, so started to consider how it would work on stage, with me playing all the instruments at the same time. With this record I started working with a looper board, the SY100, which I usually would’ve been quite against. Now suddenly I’m making different noises and playing keyboard sounds on my guitar.

That must be so exciting, especially now you get to perform this live!

It has totally changed the landscape of the live shows – what I hoped would happen. There is still an amount which is acoustic, but it means I can build from it into larger landscape pieces.

Newton’s distinctive vocals accompany his new combination of sound and unique, percussive guitar playing, making this new album distinctly well-considered and not one to be missed!

Featured image: Stevie Kyle

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