Thursday night saw Newton Faulkner return to the Byron Bay Bluesfest stage for the first time since 2013 and he loved the energy of the crowd at his set. “It was fantastic,” he said, “my album only came out in February here, so it was nice to hear people singing along.”
Newton is a multi-layered artist that has a slightly different story to most, he has played Johnny in Green Day’s award winning musical American Idiot, he live-streamed the recording of his album Studio Zoo, he purpose-wrote songs for the soundtrack of upcoming movie Terminal (starring Margot Robbie) and has seen more countries than we can name. Talking about his latest album Hit the Ground Running he says, “Everything changed just before the recording of this album, a number of really fortuitous things happened in the lead up. I was in American Idiot and then I did some music for Terminal, doing some bespoke writing to brief and both of those reminded me of how to mess around with music, in a way that it’s hard to when you’re under pressure.” He doesn’t fear the heat of the writing process anymore and enjoyed how experimental some of his new tracks are.
“This album is independently produced,” Newton explains, “and I do think there are some tracks on there that a studio would have killed in the demo stages.” Newton has a lot of thoughts on the constant chase of radio play that a lot of studios are seeking and how the Internet hasn’t done what he thought it would yet. For him there was a hope that the rise of the Internet would bring with it a space for new and wonderful things, a haven for the unusual territories in life, “That may just be the kind of person I am,” he says. “What happened with radio seems to be happening with online streaming, where people just pay enough money to have songs repeated, sometimes it seems like something is played so much that you like it because you’ve heard it – a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Our talk turns to the strong fan-base that Newton has, “They seem to find me in airports a lot,” he says, “They come to me and they say the most horrifically depressing things, like beautiful stories about the affect my music has had on them, but so sad I have to stop for a moment.” Despite this he treasures the moments they share, “I don’t hold on to the stories because I feel like I would carry them around with me and it would drive me a bit mad, but they’re wonderful.” Airports are nexus points of interesting events for Newton and he goes through quite a few of them given his love of travel. “Airports are very strange,” he says, “I’ve seen some very strange rabbis. At one terminal I watched a rabbi kind of hover around oddly, then he walked up to this woman, grabbed her face and yelled ‘Yes!’ and then ran off.”
His fan-base doesn’t just find him in airports; he’s also had a few instances of humorous lyric misunderstanding. “There was someone that had listened to Dream Catch Me,” he explains, “and had decided that it was about a sexual encounter between a mother and a daughter and me. I remember, my mum rang me immediately and asked me if I’d heard what they were saying about me on the radio. That is definitely not what the song is about!” His songs seem to inspire a passionate response, with People Should Smile More seeing plenty of fan comments calling for Newton to lighten up. “It was actually written about a very specific incident, where I gave up on helping people for a moment. It was at an airport and I went to help this old lady with her bags. I don’t think she spoke English and she probably thought this weird hairy man was trying to take her shit, so she hit me in the face with her handbag. It was what inspired the line ‘I can’t change the world, ‘cause tryin’ to make a difference makes it worse’ it wasn’t my thoughts for all of life, I wasn’t waking up in the morning and kicking things, but the ranty messages were funny.” Luckily Newton laughs that off and manages to keep a sunny disposition about him.
After playing Byron Bay Bluesfest you can see Newton in Melbourne 4th April, Adelaide 6th April and Perth 8th April.