NEWTON FAULKNER You wanted the best?

Most of the time when an artists drops a greatest hits record, it signifies something like the end. But for British singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner, it was the basis for evolution. After gathering the best of his work – a career that spans over a decade – Faulkner is ready to embrace something new. His sound is changing, and he’s bringing the celebration of his past, present and future to Australia next month. With a string of intimate shows, Faulker will be hitting Freo.Social on the Friday, November 15. CAITLIN NORRIS spoke to the singer about his accidental Christmas song, the experience of creating The Very Best Of Newton Faulkner…So Far and the challenge of covers. 

Let’s talk a little bit about The Very Best Of Newton Faulkner…So Far record. How do you know it’s the right time for that kind of celebratory release? 

For me it was a combination of things. The batch of stuff I was working on for the next album was just different. It felt different, it sounded different – like an evolution from what I’d done before. So it was gonna take a bit longer because I wanted to get it 100% right – and someone tried to suggest The Best Of a few years earlier but it really didn’t feel right because I hadn’t finished what I was doing yet. And after (2017 album) Hit The Ground Running, I felt like that was the end of that journey. That was the album I was trying to make the whole time, it felt like I’d landed in the space I was trying to land in. I found my sound on that record. And what I thought would happen was that I found my sound and that I was going to sit in that for the next 50 years, but it was the complete opposite. Cool, done that, what’s next? With the new stuff sounding completely different, and the fact that they wanted to do The Best Of two years ago, releasing it now and putting all that stuff together in a time bracket, it means the next thing I do has to sound completely different. You can’t do a best of and then release something else that sounds like it could’ve been on it. It forces me to take a bigger risk.

The three new tracks that are on the album, did you write those with the purpose of them being featured? 

They were kind of within the batch, some of them were written for the album because we needed something that was between where you are and where you’ve been. We didn’t wanna give too much away. So something like Wish I Could Wake Up is actually quite traditional, which is why I like it. Take What You Want again is more traditional than I’d usually be. I was really enjoying singing at the time, they’re all vocally led. It’s kind of vaguely tipping the cap in the slight direction [of the next phase] but I didn’t want to give too much away.

When you’re selecting the best songs of your career, do you feel like that’s something you already know, or are people telling you which songs should be included?

If I did think that I knew, I definitely found out that I didn’t. I made my own list which I might put on a Spotify playlist or something because for me like, all my favourite stuff is all the weirdest stuff. It had to be singles off albums and then it had to be stuff that represents other whole batches of material. We needed the biggest singles and I just kind of wanted it to be an overview of everything I’ve done, really.

There’s a collection of covers that you’ve been playing at live shows for a while. Is it daunting to put something that’s usually reserved for a live crowd in the moment out into the world? 

It was absolutely terrifying. The reason I’d been doing it was to take the piss out of it usually, in a nice way. Coming from a place of love and respect. With something like (Rusted Roots’) Send Me On My Way, I was just goofing around for people to join in because it brought back amazing memories. When someone came to me and was like, “cool so, you know that thing you’ve been poking fun at live, can you do a version of that that’s like a serious record?” The hardest thing is the vocals, trying to calm it down and make it less comedic, reign it in the a point where it made more sense. There was either, it’s something I’ve been poking fun at or it’s something that I absolutely love and is genuinely a huge challenge. But it was a huge amount of fun. I probably learnt more about production making the covers.

With Wish I Could Wake Up, what encouraged you to release a Christmas track? 

To be honest, it was a song that had like a vaguely Christmassy vibe. It doesn’t mention Christmas, it’s got the word snow in it twice. But other than that there’s nothing about Christmas in there. When someone asked me to Christmas it up, which was an interesting phone call, I heard it in my head and I was like, “do you know what, it does do quite a lot of Christmassy things just by accident.” And then when I put the sleigh bells on it, I was like, this is a Christmas song I actually would listen to and also not just at Christmas because it’s not too Christmassy.

You’re heading back to Australia next month in support of The Best Of record. Is it challenging to play a set that’s comprised of the best tracks? How do you keep that fresh? 

The way that I approach songs I’ve been singing for a long time I think is to just really dig in emotionally, try and dig in to kind of the acting side of singing. Trying to be as honest as you can be in that moment with the stuff that you can remember writing, so it’s kind of going back to the thought processes that led to that. You’re not just regurgitating a song, you’re actually emotionally involved in it.

A lot of the venues you’re playing have a really intimate feel. Was that something you consciously wanted to do with this tour? 

I want to probably connect before I try and grow it again. You’ve gotta go in and get right in people’s faces and let them really see the whites of your eyes. See it kind of up close and then come back and do a slightly bigger one a bit later.

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