Hand Built By Robots, the forthcoming platinum-selling album by Newton Faulkner, debuted in the top five in the U.K. combined album charts, spent two weeks at Number One and secured the Number One spot on the U.K. iTunes chart for six straight weeks.On Hand Built By Robots – which includes the single “Dream Catch Me” – Faulkner combines finger-picking, string-tapping and percussive drumming on the guitar’s body to generate both melody and rhythm on the same instrument. Faulkner has also headlined his own sold-out U.K. tour and was honored with a 2008 Brit Award nomination in the “British Male Solo Artist” category.
Can you talk a little bit about your new album and how would you describe it?
The main thing I really wanted to do was make something that feels like a whole opposed to something that was just some singles and some random other songs. I wanted something that had a flow from start to finish. So it pretty much has a beginning, middle, and an end. Its got a little intro on the front, and there’s also quite a bit of one minute and 30 second things that give it a bit more flow.
It was hard to make something that was uplifting, but not unrealistic as well.
Were there any bands or singers that had an influence on you as far as this album?
Loads. All kinds of people. Eric Roche had a huge influence on me. I was actually taught by him for 2 years. Then, it’s kind of weird, the things that my parents got me into and then the things that I got my parents into influenced me as well. My parents got me into Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young), and stuff from that kind of time. Then I got my parents into Radiohead, Greenday, and The Presidents Of The United States Of America. So it’s all mixed into what influenced me.
What’s the song writing process like for you?
Very varied. Every song on the album is written in a completely different way. I think it’s because I’m still learning how to write, and I always will be.
Did you find one way that you felt was more effective?
No, not at all. Everything just leads to slightly different places. “I Need Something” took three and half years to write. “Ageing Superhero” took 4 minutes. “I Need Something” started in my head as lyrics, and then I had to work it out on guitar. Other things started out on guitar, and I had to work out in my head.
Hopefully it will stay that way, because I think that way you just end up with more varied material. I quite like writing on other instruments and then putting it back to guitar as well. If you write something on piano and then put it to guitar, you kind of end up playing the guitar in a different way. It’s quite interesting.
Do you have a song on this album that you feel like is the most personal to you?
Quite a few. “Feels Like Home” is quite personal, as well as “I Need Something”. Those would be the most personal.
I loved your cover of “Teardrop”!
Awe. Thank you.
What made you decide to cover that song?
I was really forced into a corner to be honest [laughs]. I love the song, and it was an absolute honor to do. It was a radio thing that had been booked for 6 or 7 months, and I was going to play “I Need Something”. I had been practicing it a lot, and it was going to be live. I had only done one other thing like that before, so I was pretty freaked out. It was a much bigger radio station. So 3 days before they tell me that I have to do a cover, and that moment, I didn’t know one other single person’s song from start to finish. So I had 3 complete days of full on panic that lead to all kinds of things. I ended up doing Teardrop. It’s strange, if I had known that I had to do a cover for as long as I knew I had to do the interview, there’s no way I would have touched it. It’s such a loved track, I only realized how dangerous it was to cover only after I done it. I was like “Shit that was pretty dangerous.” But yeah over here (alluding to Britain) it’s kind of this sacred, untouchable thing, that I kind of ending up touching [laughs].
What has surprised you most about the music industry? I know you’ve been in it for quite a while.
It’s generally a pretty bizarre world. The thing I like the most is how relaxed I’ve managed to keep it. I didn’t think I would be able to do that. I’ve got a really chilled out tour manager. Even if there is something going horrifyingly wrong, half the time I’ll have no idea, because he will have it completely under control [laughs]… which is awesome. Also the amount of press stuff that I do is very minimal compared to a lot of people in my situation. There was a statistic thing I found on the Internet, it was record sales being compared to public awareness. It was comparing me and a few other people doing well at that moment… I think they were comparing me to Kate Nash, because I was in the same sales bracket. Her public awareness was at, I think, 80 something percent, and mine was at 14 [laughs], so I just kept it really quite, just going on with it, gigging, and selling albums. It’s been wicked, it’s been exactly the way I’ve wanted to do it. I hope that I can do it the same way in other countries, and mainly build it off of gigs and word of mouth. It will be hard though, because I can’t be there as much as I’ve been here (referring to Britain).
What singer or band would you most love to tour with? What would you dream tour be?
I don’t know [laughs]. I’ve got Angus and Julia Stone for this tour, and they’re just wicked guys. They’re really fun. They’re quite big in Australia. Are they in the American at all?
I’ve heard of them, but they’re not as big here, no.
Yeah, they’re just really fun guys to hang out with.
What advice would you give to someone to make in the music business?
That’s a tricky one. Just do what you enjoy, and don’t let anyone take away you’re enjoyment. There will be a lot of people trying to tell you to do a lot of things, but just don’t listen, do precisely what you want to do. There’s a point that you reach where you have to decide between making the music you want to make that no one will ever hear or bending on one thing to allow you to do everything else that you want to do. That’s the tricky one. It’s the day where it’s “make or break it”, but it won’t seem like that at the time. You’ll realize it later.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not singing?
When I’m not singing, I’m playing guitar [laughs]. I have no idea. I’m reading a lot at the moment. It’s something to completely take my mind off things, so it’s reading and sleeping and watching Flight of the Concord.
Awesome show! Do you have any plans to tour here in the US soon?
Yeah definitely. I think the album is out on the 29th of April, so I’ll definitely be around then gigging all over the place. Last time I covered most of America in a month, it was insane. There was a flight every morning and gigs every night.
Yeah, I wasn’t that surprised when I got really ill by the time I got to New York. But yeah, I’ll definitely be back.
Interview By: Emma Loggins