Amy Newton

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In the latest in her series of interviews with local musicians, Nickie Shobeiry on Amy Newton.
Nickie Shoebeiry interviews Amy Newton, a local singer-songwriter and owner of local recording studio, Saunton Road Studios.

What music inspired you most when you were growing up? Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
My dad was a working musician while I was growing up, so I guess I was influenced by him to pick up a guitar. As a baby, I would sleep through his rehearsals and when I wasn’t well, I remember sitting with him watching a Simon & Garfunkel concert video which I loved! James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and The Eagles were also favourites. I think I was around age 10 when I started playing guitar and thought, “This is what I want to do”.

What was it like producing your debut, Lost For Words?
The experience of making Lost For Words was amazing from beginning to end. The first time I met Derek Johnson (the producer) at Glastonbury, I knew there was something special about him as a person. He then introduced me to the musicians who played on my album. We had a great connection and I’ll always treasure that. It’s great because however much time passes, I can still listen back and capture that moment again.

What’s the writing process like for you?
The writing process varies for me – most of the time, the melody comes first, but sometimes I get the words and then add the music. An example of this is a song called All Made Sense on Lost For Words. I wrote that on a plane after a random encounter with a wise old man who inspired me to write the first verse, and I had no guitar on board so I wrote the lyrics, then added the music once I got to my destination.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you think living in Devon effects the music you create?
I definitely think I am influenced by my surroundings, and Devon is a pretty inspirational place! I do find that when I travel, I become inspired as I think you see things in a different way and are perhaps open to more experiences.

You play the guitar and piano – do you play any other instruments, and do you wish to learn more?
I can play drums (on a very average level!), but if I was to learn another instrument, I’d love to play a wind instrument like the saxophone or trumpet.

You self-produced another of your albums, Which Hand, by using a four-track in your father’s living room. How did recording in such an intimate space affect the finished product?
Which Hand was a bit of an experiment really – I wanted to see how much I could do on my own with very little resources! I’m a bit embarrassed about the production of it now, but I’m glad I did it, as some of the songs have been used in various things.

Your beautiful song, Turn Things Around, was used on Fiberglass And MegaPixels, an award-winning surfing documentary. What was the inspiration behind the song? How did it feel to see your music being used in this way?
I was really pleased that my song was used on Fibreglass And Megapixels. I went to the launch of the film in America and it was great to see it on the big screen! The inspiration behind it was feeling low and someone helping me out of it, but it works really well behind what’s being said in the film about the ocean and Mother Nature.

Do you have any favourite songs of your own?
My newest songs are always my favourite songs to play. I’m in the process of recording a new album in the studio, and I’m really enjoying the songs I’m putting on that.

Previously the guitarist of SWAN, you’re now in the SB band with Gary Stringer, Jack Bessant, and Dominic Greensmith. What does playing in a band bring to you?
I love playing in a band with Gary, Jack, and Dominic – they are incredible musicians and lovely people. Playing in a band is more rewarding in terms of the connections you make, but playing solo is sometimes fun when you haven’t done it for a while.

You’ve performed all over, including local festivals like Goldcoast, or the Landmark Theatre’s beer festival. What do you feel have been your most memorable performances, and why?
The Goldcoast performance I did with the band that I recorded the Lost For Words album with. It was memorable as we were headliners to a big crowd, and it was a chance to put the album out there after being in the studio. I also did a solo set a couple of years ago at the same festival and got called onto Seasick Steve’s tour bus to say hi!

On another note, yourself and your husband Simon Murfet – also a musician – decided to open up Saunton Road Studios in Braunton. As well as having top equipment, Saunton Road Studios offers guitar, bass and ‘school of rock’ lessons, as well as selling vinyls and delicious cake! What inspired you both to open up this very cosy coffee shop/recording studio?
After having a baby I didn’t want to travel as much, so I decided to bring the music here instead. I have got all my musician friends booked to play in the café, and I’m recording in the studio.

The studio also holds many gigs, open mic days, and jam sessions. Could you share some of your favourite memories so far of the place?
There’s already been some great live music in the café, and we’ve got loads more coming up. The rock school went well too – it’s nice getting to meet the next generation of musicians.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a musician (or as the owner of a studio/coffee shop!), that you believe is true for all folks?
Believe you can do it!

What can the world expect next from you as a musician, and from Saunton Road Studios?
I want to get my new album finished, and start gigging a bit more again. Hopefully the studio will start producing some quality music and more artists/bands will want to come to Saunton Road to make their albums. I also want the cafe to be buzzing with live music!