With the recent release of his sophomore album Violet Road, Sydney Americana artist Sam Newton has certainly made good on the promise he showed on his debut Set In Stone. The new record is intensely honest and personal, the result of Newton’s focus and desire to become the best songwriter he can possibly be. With enthusiasm another key part of the mix, he’s clearly well on the way to achieving his goal.
Violet Road finds Sam Newton achieving a strong narrative and thematic flow to his songs and it has come about due to a concerted effort in his writing to “put more of a method to it and do it more regularly.” That focus on the art and craft of song is what defines the new album.
“As with every new album there are always new things you want to try out. I really wanted this to be a consistent release in songwriting and overall feel and sound. I’ve ramped up my songwriting and my personal aspirations as to where I want to be as a songwriter, what I write about and how I express myself,” states Newton. “I spent a lot of time fine tuning that, beginning at the start of last year. I’m always thinking about songwriting and even when I’m not listening to music I’m thinking about how songs are written. I’m trying to be more analytical about it and thinking about what they do lyrically, structurally and rhythmically and trying to learn from it. I just want to be the best songwriter I can be and make great music that I’m really proud of,” he says effusively.
The personal nature of many of the songs show Newton isn’t afraid to hit raw nerves, whether it’s with family or friends, and it’s an area he finds solace and subject matter in without having to always fall back on the well-worn path of love and heartache.
“In country music you can kind of gloss over some of the heavy stuff in songs with the sound of the song. You can’t escape cliches in songwriting and sometimes they are good but I want to avoid some of the crap and boring stuff about breakups. Where’s the depth? I’ve got a lot of personal and family issues and I’ve done songwriting as therapy for that,” reveals Newton. “Sometimes I might write a lot of songs and often it’s not necessarily the best song that will make the album but rather the one that means the most to me. The song that I think I need to get out – that therapy thing. Personal themes of mental illness and other things do definitely come up on the album. Every song has meaning and depth behind them,” Newton explains.
“In some ways I do want people I’ve written about to hear the songs and at the same time I don’t really give a shit,” says Newton. “I have some songs I’ve written in the past targeting family members for things they do – that I think they shouldn’t be doing. I feel like as a writer you just have to do everything.”
Being part of a local scene, a musical community that supports one another, is something that draws a passionate response from Newton.
“When I made my first EP I was a bit lost. I was making country music and I was gigging but I wan’t in the scene as such. Now it’s quite different. We are at the epicentre and it’s going to get bigger. Every Australian city has an alt-country underground scene. I’m really excited about it,” says Newton enthusiastically. “It’s a very friendly, helpful and talented scene. There are new artists and venues popping up all the time. There’s interest in the style and it’s sincere and genuine and people are looking for that human connection. At the end of the day it’s all about the song – the lyrics melody and chords. You can’t fake a good song.”
This interview was first published in Rhythms.