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Newton Faulkner

Identified by his ginger dreadlocks and beard, power-ballad singer-songwriter had the British nation in a whirl for several years between 2007 and 2013 – pity then that it looked like his star had faded on 2015’s fifth set, which just failed to reach Top 40 status.
Born Sam Newton Battenberg Faulkner, 11 January 1985, Reigate, Surrey, time spent studying guitar at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford had been “exorcised” in a period of transition whilst performing for a GREEN DAY covers combo. Like most young men of his age, angst and noise were a necessary part of his surfing salad days; witnessed when he fronted funk-rockers Half A Guy (alongside Nicola Crawshaw, Matt Buchanan and Dave Elvy). Inevitably, after finding his roots – not only in his crusty hair-do – NEWTON FAULKNER branched out on his lonesome.
Bolstered by a healthy response while performing at the London Troubadour (not forgetting hitting a high note at the SXSW festival in 2006), he secured a publishing deal at BMG Records. A `Full Fat’ EP (featuring `I Need Something’) and the ground-breaking `U.F.O.’ promo EP fully convinced his bosses that this man was the missing link between PAOLO NUTINI and NEIL FINN. Despite the aforementioned `I Need Something’ failing to turn on the public, second single `Dream Catch Me’ (penned with ex-LONGPIGS’ Crispin Hunt) rocketed into the Top 10, whilst its parent debut set, HAND BUILT BY ROBOTS (2007) {*7}, chalked up his first chart-topper. A funky strum-thumb-patting-picking guitar style and tongue-twisting part-rap, Newton was leagues ahead of his peers such as DANIEL POWTER and JAMES MORRISON. An adventurous, acoustic rendition of MASSIVE ATTACK’s `Teardrop’ also set him apart, as did his flighty `Sitar-y Thing’ instrumental, whilst `All I Got’ (very `More Than Words’ by EXTREME) and `Gone In The Morning’, pushed him back into minor chart-land.
2009’s Top 3 follow-up, REBUILT BY HUMANS {*7} – named so due to an operation to his wrist – echoed its predecessor, although free-spirited eclecticism and an alt-indie approach gave it a slight edge. If one could imagine SNOW PATROL and LEVELLERS competing for studio space with DAMIEN RICE, then the melancholy breezes of its highlights, `If This Is It’, `Won’t Let Go’ and `I’m Not Giving Up Yet’, would resonate; a handful of interlude ditties showed off his acoustic guitar prowess.
A 3-year break must’ve caused consternation with his bosses (thinking fellow red-head ED SHEERAN was stealing the limelight), although multi festival favourite FAULKNER was hardly idle as he took his show on the road – as far as Argentina. Partly penned with MC brother Toby Faulkner and PHANTOM PLANET’s Sam Farrer (Scots “Fame Academy” winner DAVID SNEDDON also in session), there was certainly a pop-rock feel to his chart-topping third set, WRITE IT ON YOUR SKIN (2012) {*5}. Inoffensive and pleasant, Newton’s new-found nugatory was aimed firmly at America and beyond; while the aforesaid SHEERAN had worked his magic abroad, there was a same-old/same-old effect on `Pick Up Your Broken Heart’, `Clouds’ and the appropriately-titled `Pulling Teeth’. Suffering in its wake and almost rush-released in a vain attempt to claw-back flagging listeners, 2013’s STUDIO ZOO {*6} only managed to scrape into the Top 10; tracks `Treading Water’, `Losing Ground’ and `Can’t Give It Away’ were titles poignant to the man’s sharp decline in sales.
Trimming his locks to a manageable tied-up-bow, FAULKNER was ready for another bout of happy-go-lucky/bitter-sweet melancholia on fifth set, HUMAN LOVE (2015) {*6}. Roping in newcomer Tessa Rose Jackson on dual vocals for the SUZANNE VEGA-like `Stay And Take’, Newton pushed out the envelope somewhat. Mixed reviews, but appearances on discussion programme The Wright Stuff for Channel 5, created a new spin on a resurgent artist who’d slightly lost his way. Opening with a cover of MAJOR LAZER’s `Get Free’, and rootsier by comparison to his previous album ventures, loyal fans of the family man would vouch for `Up Up And Away’ and the emotional `Passing Planes’.
A No.1 artist only five years back, it was fair to say that AOR/folk star FAULKNER had had an up and down career ever since. For 2017’s HIT THE GROUND RUNNING {*7}, a slight resurgence had seen him peak at No.13; Universal Records having thrown him an extra slice of the cake via his own Battenberg Records. It was clear as day that Newton was at the centre of his comfort zone once again; songs such as the strumming `Smoked Ice Cream’, the funky title track, the romantic `So Long’ (another duet with Tessa Rose) and the BON IVER-esque `There Is Still Time’, would become firm favourites with his loyal fans.
© MC Strong/MCS Nov2015-Sep2017

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