Singer John Newman has a very simple reason for wanting to perform in the picturesque setting of Dalby Forest.
“It’s Yorkshire, isn’t it?” says the straight-talking Love Me Again hit maker in tones that still bear a strong trace of his upbringing in Settle. “I think that’s always the first thing when I get a call from my agent saying ‘I’ve got a gig here’ and I say ‘Where is it?’ and he says ‘Yorkshire’ the first thing I say is ‘Yeah, yeah, let’s do it, it’ll be mental.’”
An added incentive for doing this particular show in June is the cause – proceeds from this concert, and others over the same weekend by Guy Garvey and Kaiser Chiefs, will go towards the Forestry Commission’s conservation work in the forest, which is situated near Pickering, on the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to bring recognition to what the Forestry Commission does and say, ‘Look, these places are becoming rare and we need to support them’,” says the 25-year-old former Leeds College of Music student. “I’m really excited looking at the line-up. Jake Bugg, Guy Garvey, Rudimental, James Bay, Kaiser Chiefs – they’re all incredibly talented and to have a slot next to them is great.”
June is set to be a busy month for Newman, with the release of his new single and an appearance at Fold Festival, curated by Nile Rodgers of Chic, at Fulham Palace in London. Disco legend Rodgers plays guitar on the new track Give Me Your Love, an infectious dance collaboration with the young British DJ Bruce Fielder, aka Sigala, who last year topped the UK chart with the Jackson 5-sampling Easy Love.
“Bruce/Sigala has actually got a studio in the same block as where I’ve got my studio,” Newman says. “It was a label suggestion to hook up. I normally like it to be a natural meeting and me asking them as a friend but as soon as I agreed to do it it became natural. The vibe we were getting together was incredible and hopefully that’s come across on the record and to work with such a legend like Nile... I’ve been working with him in bits on some other stuff as well, but this track is really up there. I’ve got to do some work on the other ones to get them up to that level.”
When you meet somebody like Nile Rodgers it’s so inspiring. I did the same with Charlie Wilson from the Gap Band. When you meet these people it just blows your mind how incredible they are and how current they still are.
Newman has managed to strike up a friendship with 63-year-old Rodgers, the man responsible for such classic dancefloor fare as Le Freak, He’s The Greatest Dancer and Upside Down.
“We’ve got loads of stuff that we’re doing together – I’m performing in London with him and Chic which is going to be great. When you meet somebody like that it’s so inspiring. I did the same with Charlie Wilson [from the Gap Band] with a single I did called Tiring Game. When you meet these people it just blows your mind how incredible they are and how current they still are.”
After the comparative commercial misfire of his last album Revolve, Newman seems determined to refocus his career. “I’ve got five singles coming this year – [Give Me Your Love] is the first one, my next one Calvin Harris has produced and then,” he says coyly, “the story’s hidden after that.”
Given the success of his 2014 collaboration with Harris, on the song Blame which topped the charts in the UK, US and across Europe, the omens are promising. Though disappointed with the reception for Revolve – it has made him philosophical.
“With Revolve it took me a while of frustration and blame – I was blaming people for things and at the end of the day you’ve got to realise what state the music industry is in the moment and what people want.”
The blow was hard, given how “proud” he says he was to have worked with Michael Jackson’s musicians and US producer Greg Kurstin. “I would always cover this up in interviews throughout the time,” he says, “but it feels amazing to be able to stand here now with confidence about the new music.”
Supporting Ellie Goulding on her UK arena tour certainly seems to have raised his sights to play in similar-sized venues as a headline act. “It was a great introduction to that level of venue and I feel like I generally made some new fans that are very loyal and great fans from looking at Ellie’s career.”
But after admitting he “got greedy” by focusing too much on an international market after his early success he says his ambitions have changed.
“I want to just make music and work very hard at that and do well at that. My ambition is just to make some good singles and have fun with it and go back to enjoying my job again and stop banging my head against a wall and get stressed about it.”
Give Me Your Love is out on June 17. John Newman plays at Dalby Forest on Saturday June 25. For details visit www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/BEEH-A57DVM