“Hey Woody! Great to talk with you, and hope you’re doing OK? I always like to talk about myself; I’m a man, ha! ha!!”
This album has come out really quickly after the release of your last album “The Art Of Balance”. Was the album fast tracked or have you been that creative and inspired over the past year?
“I guess it’s just that I had a lot of ideas throughout 2010, and so, was in a good position to start demoing and recording material, soon after Firefest, really? As you are possibly aware, I lost both of my parents last year and so I found great peace, and escape in writing?”
The new album is amazing! I can’t stop playing it! Are you pleased with how the album has turned out and has it come out as you had envisioned when you started writing it?
“Thank you so much. I am very pleased with this album, yes. I didn’t really have a direction in my mind and as it turned out, it was a very natural album to write. Certainly this has become one of my most personal collections of songs!”
What are your favourite songs on the album and are there any reasons why?
“At the moment I love them all; it sounds weird, but they are like children to me! I think they all offer something different. Hopefully people will see the depth in these songs? I really like the title track. I think this has a great groove to it. “Ghost In The Night” is another song, which is pretty engaging. “Wish You Were Here” holds a very personal message for me as it was written for my parents. Writing that song helped me to get closure on what was a very emotional year for me. I really hope that people who have suffered the same issues find solace in the lyrics and connect to it in some way! I love “Montserrat” too, as I’ve thrown the Newman book of song writing out the window and moved into a different kind of arrangement with that one.”
“Thanks again, but no, certainly no pressure from outside influences. I think, as I said, this was a very natural album for me to write. I almost used the song writing process in a healing way this time around. I think the songs are some of the most honest I have ever written and I hope this emotion comes through in my singing and performance? I felt no pressure to write in a specific way, no.”
“I was possibly aware of placing more melody into each song this time around and I guess this has come out on some of the Chorus’s? Possibly, this is where the ‘commercialism’ comes from?”
I know after your record deal with Escape Music finished with the “Heaven Knows” album you decided to release music independently on your Chrome Dome label. I thought some of this was to have full creative control on your sound especially after the infamous “Butterfly Tattoo” album got shelved many years ago. So why have you decided to go with a label this time out?
“It was a difficult decision to make this time around; I wanted to spend more time on promoting the band in the live arena and let a company like AOR Heaven take control of the promotional process. It was a natural choice to use Georg Siegl, as I have known him for years and he’s certainly one of the good guys in this business. After working on the “Big Life” album with Mark Thompson - Smith and I, I knew he was the man for the job; I respect him highly.”
Like I said previously, no two Newman albums are exactly the same, they always have your stamp without doubt, but individually they all have their own vibe or style. Has this been a conscious decision on your part every time you write a new album or just a natural progression of your song writing?
“I think really, each album is a reflection of where I am in my life. Certainly, the production side of things have improved; I learn so much each time I take on a new project, right through the writing and recording process.....? I suppose that is the art in music? I am still learning to convey my true feelings through music and the more I practice, hopefully, the better I become?”
I always find it very easy to connect with your songs and lyrics. I’m not sure if it’s an English thing, as I know some don’t find your music as accessible as I do. To me your lyrics always feel straight from the heart and REAL which is only accentuated by your heartfelt vocal style and delivery. Some of your songs will without fail bring a tear to my eye or make me feel a strong emotion and along with the poetic Martin Brothers you are one of my favourite song writers. So how do you approach lyric writing and vocal delivery? Do you always set out with a theme or is it more natural than that?
“Thank you again Woody; that is truly touching of you to say so!”
“I’ve always felt that the lyric is one of the most important aspects of a song. It can drive the mood of any particular piece. I am humbled by what you’ve said in regards to you being moved by my lyrics and vocal delivery! It is certainly what I strive for with every song, and if my music touches people in that way, I am really happy!”
You recently worked with American melodic rockers Far Cry; what was it like working with Pete Fry and did you feel pressure to deliver the goods?
“Wonderful!! Pete is such a nice guy to work with. He originally gave me the ideas as guitar parts, so I worked on the melody and the lyrics, taking some melody from the guitar lines as well. I was really pleased with the way the songs came out, and Pete was full of compliments. I’d love, and hope to work with him in the future!”
You have done a bit of studio work mixing and mastering as well as writing for other artists. Do you have anything in the pipeline you’re working on at the moment that would be of interest? And do you enjoy working behind the scenes so to speak?
“I love it, yes! I recently laid down some vocals for Frederic Slama as part of his AOR Project; the song is called “Kimberly”. I believe this is being released early next year? And, I am just finishing the Newman ‘Firefest’ audio; but, then I’ll be taking a break from writing and recording to spend more time bringing Newman to a live audience; that will take priority for the best part of next year!”
Are there any musicians or bands out there that you’d like to work or collaborate with?
“Oh, hundreds!! … Ha! Ha! There are a few people that I’ve spoken to recently, and who I’d really like to work with again; that’s Terry Brock, Anders Rydholm, and Nick Workman! I’m sure this will happen in the not too distant future.”
“It’s difficult to put into words; there was so much emotion that day; the audience were stunning, and everyone in the band played their hearts out! I couldn’t have asked for more! I think Newman came of age as a live band that day and it was great to play at what has become the premier Melodic Rock Festival in the UK.!”
Have you noticed a greater interest in your music and expanded your fan base since you were announced to be playing? It never fails to shock me how many people with greater knowledge of the scene than me still hadn’t heard of you prior to the event!
“I think we made a lot of new friends last year. But, of course, that’s down to the great band I have around me currently. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys.”
So when are we going to see your Firefest DVD? And will there be a live CD to accompany it? You mentioned working on it just then?
“That’s right! The Live CD should be released in the next few months, and the DVD will be released early next year.”
I know you have formed a full band around yourself with the intention of playing live as much as possible, and you mentioned it above? Do you actually have any gigs lined up to support the new album yet? Do you find the lack of opportunities to play live on a decent stage frustrating?
“We’re really hoping to have something lined up at the end of this year, or early next year. It is very difficult to get breaks and get out and play live, yes, but, hopefully, this will change over the course of next year?”
What have been your musical and career highlights?
“Every time I release an album, I never know whether it’s going to be my last, so I’m always very happy to receive recognition for something that I truly believe in. It’s all a high point for me. Firefest, last year though, is one definite one, on so many levels!!”
And what have been your lowlights?
“Once again, probably our appearance at Firefest, back in 2006? It really didn’t go very well, but I’m sure we’ve put those demons to rest now.”
Thanks for your time Steve; I’m confident “Under Southern Skies” will turn out to be your biggest selling and most loved album yet! Is there anything else you would like to add or say to Midlands Rocks readers?
“Thanks again Woody, for your time; it’s always a pleasure speaking to you. I’d just like to say best wishes to your good self and the readers of Midlands Rocks; thank you so much for your support; enjoy the new album, and hopefully, we’ll see as many of you as possible in the upcoming months!”