How I wrote ‘Dream Catch Me’ by Newton Faulkner

Newton Faulkner
Newton Faulkner

Newton Faulkner on Dream Catch Me: “I was just trying to get laid! I was just writing pretty songs for girlfriends…” Photo: Stevie Kyle

The virtuoso musician and singer-songwriter from Surrey reveals how his career-launching Top 10 single was simply “cut and shut” together

Singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner is well known for his percussive style of guitar playing and the laid-back acoustic sound he spearheaded in the late-00s, but the British musician has frequently adjusted to the changing musical landscape over the last decade. In 2007, he burst onto the scene after appearing twice at the Glastonbury Festival and releasing his first studio album Hand Built By Robots. The debut was certified double platinum in the UK, helped along by lead single I Need Something and the distinctive cover version of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, but it was Dream Catch Me that really lit the blue touchpaper on Newton’s career.

The single reached the Top 10 in the UK as well as in Australia where it stayed for 12 weeks and ended 2008 as the country’s 17th-best-selling single and their 97th-best-selling single of the 2000s.

We caught up with Newton in the throes of the first Covid lockdown of 2020, and heard how the ode to his girlfriend at the time was pieced together with renowned multi-platinum-selling songwriter and producer Crispin Hunt…

This article first appeared in Songwriting Magazine Autumn 2022

Newton Faulkner 'Dream Catch Me'

Released: 2 July 2007
Song: Hard To Beat
Artist: Newton Faulkner
Label: Sony BMG
Songwriters: Crispin Hunt, Newton Faulkner, Gordon Mills
Producer: Mike Spencer
UK Chart Position: 7
US Chart Position:

“[The story of Dream Catch Me] is so unromantic. It’s so business. I mean, if it was a car it would have a blue front, a green door and a different colour at the back – it’s a full cut-and-shut job! What I did is I’d made loads of demos of all my ideas, recorded loads of stuff with my first band, which was the band I had when I started writing songs. And a few things survived from that period. Then what I did is…

“The record label were like, ‘You’ve got all this stuff, which we kind of see potential in, but it has bits missing or the chorus doesn’t quite work, or the chorus into the verse doesn’t work. What we want to do is give all of it to Crispin Hunt and just let him have a dig through there, and see which bits he feels like he can work with.’ And the verses for Dream Catch Me were really old – they would’ve been maybe the second or fourth thing I wrote, ever. Then, with those verses, I’ve got this chorus that can go with it. And I was like, ‘I like it but I think we need to nudge things around a bit; we obviously need to make it make sense.’ And then kind of together – because I think he wrote the chorus with someone else as well (Gordon Mills). So we had this old verse and bits of a chorus. The middle I think was maybe from from something else as well…

“I love middle eights – or bridges, if you’re American. They’re my favourite bit of the writing process because it’s like, ‘Right, we’ve set up a bunch of balls, we’ve got a repeating thing, and now we get to do something completely different.’ That’s where I usually go to town.

“I’ve written loads of stuff with Crispin, he’s an amazing writer and a really interesting guy as well. I think I did a bunch of stuff with him on my third album as well… I write with other people quite a lot… I’ve been in with everyone. And I think you can learn stuff and that’s the thing I like most about going in with people: you see how they work. And you’re grabbing techniques and ideas from everywhere. I feel that if I write on my own for a long period of time, it becomes slightly different, it’s a much slower process. I think there’s a huge amount of quick validation that you get when you’re writing with other people…

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“So it wasn’t a massively kind of inspired or romantic experience. I mean, I don’t know what the experience was to like writing or writing like the bits that Crispin had already. But for me it was all kind of ‘business-y’. Strangely enough, when it came to putting the album together, I asked for it to be taken off!

“What I thought would happen did happen because I was being kind of bigged-up as a guitarist, massively. That was a huge part of my kind of spiel – that I was just a player. So then there’s all this stuff about me being a player and then Dream Catch Me came out and essentially just ‘jang-jang-jang-jang’… And I was like, ‘I think people are gonna feel a bit disappointed, in some ways. What are you doing? Why are you doing what everyone else does? You can do better than that!’ But then, obviously, the song got loads of radio. In Australia it was ridiculous.

“[With the verse lyric] I was just trying to get laid! I was just writing pretty songs for girlfriends! I must’ve been about 15 or 17 years old, so it was very much written for my girlfriend at the time. And there was other stuff about… There was a whole second verse bit that was quite embarrassing, but I can’t remember… We kept the good bits! So yeah, just kind of one of those early love songs.

“To be honest, I love playing it. It paid for my house! Obviously, to begin with, my concern was that it was kind of too normal. And I felt like everything else had a kind of musical element to it, that I could be like, ‘I’m proud of that because it’s technically challenging’. I didn’t really have the respect for song structure, especially like pop and radio structure – I didn’t really understand it, at that point. I have slightly more of a handle on it now, but I just wasn’t sure if it felt right. I didn’t know if it felt like me enough. Because if you listen to the live version, it’s got a completely different feel. I fee like I’ve made it my own. But when I go back to the record, I’m like, ‘Wow, that is utterly bizarre!’. It’s not a song I come back to very often. I mean, I feel that about most of the stuff on the first album. The live versions have had so much time to evolve and find the perfect groove for. So there’s all that stuff, but yet playing Dream Catch Me and hearing crowds all over the world shout it back to me, it’s amazing.”

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