B: Your new album, ‘Write It On Your Skin’, has just been released. What was the inspiration behind the title?
NF: I think that track kind of sums up one whole side of the album; it covers the core of the content. It sounds interesting and it brings up really weird mental images. Everything from tattoos to writing stuff on your hand, there’s just so many weird connotations and pictures that spring into your head. It was another way I wanted to separate this album from the other two, because I feel that it’s a different time. I’ve changed quite a lot, I’ve had to; I’m paying a mortgage, I have a child. I’ve experienced everything from birth to death, which conspired in incredibly close proximity.
B: How would you say becoming a father has changed your music?
NF: I guess it’s had a few side effects. It’s certainly made me surer of my own ideas, and less willing to compromise than I’ve ever been before. I think it’s because before it was just me and I could listen to stuff and remember why that happened because that guy didn’t like that bit.Whereas, when my son listens to stuff he’s not gonna know all the weird back-stories and what goes on. It’s like the life-span of the song has just been telescoped into the future, and everything has to 100% stand up on its own.
B: What’s your favourite track off the new album?
NF: It kind of hops around a bit, because it does depend on my mood. I am really pleased with ‘Sugar in the Snow’, the last track. It reminds me of loads of stuff that I really like, and it’s got such a nice kind of subtleness. It’s a really warm, driving song.
B: How long does it take to create an album?
NF: It takes a really long time. It’s infinitely complicated, and the hardest thing is to say it’s finished. I’m quite a meticulous tweaker. It is hard to let go. Then the music goes out into the world and it’s weird how they change the more you get to know them. ‘I Need Something’ is a perfect example of a song growing up over time. What I constantly do is develop things. I think it’s partly because I’m completely on my own, so I can sort of make up stuff and fill in gaps, and there’s nobody looking at me going: “Dude, what are you doing? You changed that chord?!”
B: How did you come to develop your unique and recognisable style?
NF: I think that’s just me. It must be because I can change everything around it but there’s still something gluing the whole thing together. It’s just the way that I sing and play, because obviously that’s the centre of almost every track. It is just really fun. In fact I’m almost kind of mentally prepared to start the next album!
B: Well you’ve often said that you prefer albums to individual singles. Why is this?
NF: I am more of an album person. I always draw comparisons between music and visual stuff as well, so a single’s like an episode of a TV program, and an album’s a movie; it’s the whole picture. I don’t know if I’m out-of-date, thinking like I do, but I don’t think I’m ever going to stop making albums that are meant to be listened to in their entirety.
B: Who do you draw your inspiration from?
NF: It’s a weird combination of things. There were all the acoustic players that were doing instrumental stuff, but the singer-songwriter thing very much used the guitar just as a tool for getting the songs across. It almost wasn’t an instrument in its own right; it was just a backing instrument. But I was listening to stuff that showed that it could be a completely fascinating instrument when you got really into it. It’s almost more versatile than any other instrument I can think of. I don’t think people really knew that in terms of mainstream. I was not the first, but definitely one of the first, especially in terms of British pop culture, who mixed those two elements.
B: When your first album took off, did you expect it to be as successful as it was?
NF: Not in the slightest! No one involved really knew what the first album would do. It’s weird, but one of my favourite things which has been said is that this new one is better than the first. It’s exactly what you want. It makes me really happy because this is exactly the kind of album that I wanted to make. And it means I’ve got it right, because it’s really hard to trust yourself in these situations because you’re dealing with a lot of people who have their own ideas, and you’re jumping through the radio hoops.
B: Would it be fair to say you have been forced to make changes to your music because of the commercialism of the music industry?
NF: I have made compromises, some of which have been insanely successful, but there have been compromises which I have made where I have been like: “this is just not what I would naturally do and a step too far.” And then I play it to all my friends and they tell me that it is really good. You’ve got the label, and you’ve got your friends. Obviously you don’t want to do something that they hate, so they definitely come into it. And then there are the radio people, who have their agenda and then there’s even the press side of things and what they want. There’s a massive list of boxes that need ticking.
B: What would you consider to be the single highlight of your career so far?
NF: There’s not an aspect of it that I don’t really enjoy. I appear to be genetically modified to do this job. Most people I talk to, they’re like: “Ah, I just hate sleeping on a tour bus, I can’t sleep”. I sleep better on a tour bus than I do anywhere else! I love waking up and being like, “Where is this? I’m in a pink room... where is this pink room?” then looking out the window and seeing a big spike with a bowl on it and thinking “ahh, Berlin!” I love all that.
B: In October you are coming to Leeds’ O2 Academy. Can fans expect anything different from these concerts than they may have seen before?
NF: It’s kind of a mixture between new and old stuff. It’s actually going to be more stripped back than the way I did the second album. On the second album I kind of really pushed what I could do on my own to the very limits of what my brain could handle.
Newton Faulkner will be coming to Leeds O2 Academy on Sunday 14th October.