It was a chilly winter night in Southampton when I was first introduced to the musical styling of Martin Newnham. Life can be undeniably tough for a support act, but Martin made it seem effortless with his immense talent and easy-going charm. The anticipation to see the legendary Nik Kershaw perform on his solo acoustic tour "No Frills" was in the air. Martin managed to capture the audience within the first song - despite his lack of guitar strings! Upon realizing he'd broken a couple he declared honestly, "It sounds better with all the strings!" and with that the crowd was on side.
When I approached Martin about an interview he graciously offered his own home as the venue. Upon arrival I was offered a nice cup of tea along with the insistence to sit down and relax. It is rare to find someone as lovely a person as they are an artist but Mr. Newnham is a shining example. I am happy to present to you an insightful interview with Martin Newnham that I laughed and smiled all the way through. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did conducting it.
An obvious but essential question - who are your musical influences?
Dad as he is a musician himself and got me into playing. The Counting
Crows made me want to start writing songs. When I was 15 and 16 that
was what I listened to, The Counting Crows, The Red Hot Chili Peppers,
things like that. As a little kid my parents really impacted me
musically. My Dad listened to a lot of Jazz, folksy stuff and everything from The Band to AC/DC, my Mum listened to things like
Steel. [Laughs] I mean Sting and Seal.
That's good, I'll have to steal that now. Steel!
Yes - the love child of Sting and Seal! Just things like Fairport Convention, Nik Drake, The Stones and Phil Collins. I visited America several times over the course of a couple of years, after I'd moved to London - mainly because of a girl. I really got into Phish, the whole jam band scene and things like The Dave Matthews Band. It was all about a vibe and I met some really amazing people. I really love James Taylor, Ben Folds Five, The Beach Boys. Someone I've really gotten into lately is Bob Dylan, love Bob Dylan. When I was younger I really struggled with only enjoying listening to singers that can sing. [Laughs] But you know what I mean, like Alison Krauss - always perfect pitch and tone. But now I'm allowing myself to enjoy the emotions and the lyrics and not just the perfect singing voice.
Coming from the Isle of Wight to London must have been a big step for you - how did you cope?
first year I didn't actually get into the College of my choice, so I
spent a year at Falmouth Art College and did a lot of busking. It was
an experience. It sort of prepared me for the leap, but yeah definitely
coming from that environment to here is a shock. I've lived here so
long now some of my mates will introduce me as "My mate Martin from
London." and I'm like what? No I'm not, I'm from the Isle of Wight! I
have three band members from the Isle of Wight including myself. The
newbie Thomas Day on double bass and long serving fiddler Andy Parkin.
Andy recently moved back to the island as he had a littlen.
aww bless! But yeah he made the leap back and just comes across for
gigs. I'm not entirely ready to make that step and commit to that - but
I do go back a lot. Maybe one day, we'll see!
What was your main inspiration behind 'City Folk'?
was coming from a rootsy all-acoustic scene of duos and trios as I
left the island. I moved to London and started listening to all this
new stuff, jammed with many different people, and performed in a number
of combinations with different instrumentation. I guess the goal of the
album was to put a bit of a twist on folk - hip-hoppy beats, horn
sections and other things you wouldn't expect on a traditional folk
album.as a sort of reflection of the way all these other genres have
affected my music. The album was produced by Rupert Brown and I see why
he took the songs where he did and what he was doing with it and I'm
really proud of it, it's out there. It's really great and also really
scary, when it's out on iTunes and all these other places and it's out
It's a great album. I have to say my favorite is "As Night Falls". It's a dark, beautiful song.
Yeah, I have to say I get a lot of feedback about it, I hear that often. I am very proud of "As Night Falls". The inspiration for the song came from a song my Mum used to sing to me as a baby. It's called "Matty Groves" by Fairport Convention. It's one of my favorites. I'm sort of aware my songs and lyric content can be a bit darker but that doesn't mean they have to be heavy.
Yes, you remind me of Damien Rice when he's in a happy place.
I am definitely not a rainbows and kittens songwriter! [Laughs] But that doesn't mean the music has to be depressing all of the time. I tend to write and sing through things, the toils and troubles of life, relationship issues, things we can all relate to. I like to tell a story, too.
You, drummer, "Vinny" Haapanen, and fiddler Andy Parkin recently finished up a tour supporting Nik Kershaw! What was that like?
His real name is Vesa, he's from Finland but no one could say it right
so we just started calling him Vinny and it stuck! In March of last
year I was offered the gig to support Nik at the Half Moon in Putney,
which I did with Andy Parkin. It was great but I wasn't sure if
anything else would come from it. Then in November I was asked to
support Nik again at his hometown gig in Ipswich which I did with
Vinny. It was packed - about 400 people all seated. Nik's Mum was
there! We met his wife and we all seemed to hit it off but we just
thought that'd be it. Then just after Christmas we got a phone call
asking us if we'd like to do the whole tour - everything except
Scotland as they'd already booked all the tickets. We were like, "Yes!
Please!" It really couldn't have gone better. He's such a funny and
down-to-earth guy; a really great musician and songwriter and generally
a bloody nice bloke. At our last gig together at the O2 in Islington we
added a few "Nikisms" to a couple of the songs. "Come Back Gracey"
turned into "Wouldn't It Be Good" and a little bit of "The Riddle"
crept into the middle of "As Night Falls". He was smiling as we came
off stage. We only did it the once though, as a tribute to him on the
A parting question, do you have any upcoming projects? I hope so!
Of course I'll be performing as and when I can. I have three new singles that I've been working on and recording. I played some like "Toothbrush" on the tour with Nik. Phil Gould, the drummer from Level 42 is producing the singles and the next album is in the pipeline. I feel the songs are a real step up, I've sort of realized this is who I am. I am a folk artist, but there will be some big arrangements in there. Hopefully with a bit of luck we'll go for a bit of radio play with the singles. There will be another album, definitely.Martin is a fantastic addition to the folk scene - or any scene for that matter. Delightful and lovely to the core, with music that nestles deeply into your heart and will be on your lips hours later. I simply cannot wait for a new release or an album - but to hold myself and the adoring public at bay, I would suggest making sure you see him perform live in abundance!
Mr. Newnham's music is available at HMV, iTunes, and Amazon - and hopefully a few new singles will be winging their way to us shortly. You can keep up to date with Martin's progress via his MySpace, or his Website.