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The Newton kid on the block
Overnight sensation Newton Faulkner talks about sudden success, his Irish guitar teacher and the challenges of covering Massive Attack.
Craig Fitzsimons, 08 Oct 2007
Easily one of the more promising 22-year-old guitarists in recent memory, overnight sensation Newton Faulkner still can’t quite believe the scale and speed of his recent success. As if out of nowhere, his debut opus Hand Built By Robots rocketed to No.1 within three weeks of its release, aided in large part by the radio ubiquity of standout single ‘Dream Catch Me.’
“It’s been pretty crazy”, he testifies, “I wasn’t really expecting anything. They put the record out and the label mentioned something about it going top 20, and I just thought ‘yeah, right’. Then it went straight in at number three: my mouth was hanging open in shock, it was dizzying stuff. It stayed at number three for another week, and by then, you’re expecting it to go down rather than up. The rest is history. I haven’t even celebrated. I should probably crack a bottle of champagne, but it hasn’t actually changed my day-to-day life in the slightest. I haven’t gone crazy.”
Stylistically, Robots is a real curiosity. Conspicuously talented both as a vocalist and guitarist, Faulkner serves up an arresting hybrid of Chilis-derived soul-funk with faintly bluesy overtones. His guitar technique – rhythmic, percussive, prone to unorthodox tunings and strange chord changes – occasionally summons to mind the pioneering Delta blues greats. Though Newton’s lyrics maintain a relentlessly sunny positivity that makes Jack Johnson sound like Ian Curtis, it’s tantalising to think of the dirt-tracked roads he might be inclined to venture down if exposed to a couple of Cypress Grove or Lightnin' Hopkins records.
Prompted on the subject of swamp blues, Newton confesses: “I’ve heard of most of these guys, but I have to say I’m completely unfamiliar with their music. I would listen to stuff that’s been influenced by them: I love that sound of slapping the guitar, tapping it, you can make it do so much more, get it to howl and move. In fact, my single biggest influence would be a guy called Eric Roche – he was my guitar teacher at the Academy of Contemporary Music. He was Irish, a lovely guy, passed away from throat cancer two years ago at the age of 37, I still miss him. He could play any amount of keys without needing a capo. A genius. He wrote this thing called The Acoustic Guitar Bible which is the best guide anyone starting out on guitar could have. I was really lucky to cross his path. It was perfect for me.”