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With album number three making a big impression, Newton Faulkner is at the top of his game. He talks style, looping and the importance of writing with the live audience in mind.
Dave Hanratty, 05 Oct 2012
Newton Faulkner counts himself among those who were somewhat surprised when third album Write It On Your Skin beat hip hop’s newest megastar Frank Ocean to the top of the UK album charts upon its release in July. Faulkner may be notoriously humble, but the hype machine that powered Ocean’s admittedly excellent Channel Orange record seemed destined to steer it to the summit. Does the dreadlocked virtuoso’s triumph offer proof that ‘acoustic singer/songwriter’ isn’t such a stuffy tag after all?
“There is that instant thought”, Faulkner begins, “when you think ‘singer/songwriter’, of somebody standing on stage – actually, not even standing, sitting down – and telling you about how they feel. If that’s not an over-exaggeration! That’s obviously not what I do as I’m pretty chirpy at the best of times. It’s a weird one though, because if you go back, there are so many people you could think of as singer/songwriters but aren’t. You don’t think of someone like David Bowie like that but that’s essentially what he is. It’s a very wide-spanning thing.
“I did the London Acoustic Guitar Festival recently and that was really interesting because there are so many incredible players around at the moment. The playing itself has just kicked off to the max, which really wasn’t part of it before. It was like the instrument was a songwriting tool but not an instrument in its own right, which it very much has become. It’s amazing and definitely more fun too. I was listening to instrumentalists before I started writing so I had a huge respect for the guitar and its versatility and the amount of sounds that you could make on it. I knew that there was a lot more to it than just strumming chords.”
Something of a wizard when it comes to his instrument, Faulkner is forever looking to innovate. A common misconception is that he relies on loop stations and backing tracks, such is his ability to make an acoustic guitar sound like it’s doing several impossible things all at once. Alas...