Mark Newman says he couldn’t help but make his new album “Empirical Truth” (Danal) a mix of timely, topical songs and more universal timeless ones.
“I constantly have the news on,” says the Melville singer-songwriter. “Sometimes, I start with an issue. Sometimes, it could just be one line about something that sticks with you and you just build out from there.”
His style works well on songs like “Pipeline,” which is a complaint about having an oil pipeline in your backyard that feels more effective because it’s an upbeat, blues-tinged rock number.
“I had been following the progress of that and didn't realize how many leaks there were in pipelines all across the country, how much oil was leaking into the ground,” he says. “The song just took it from there. It just seemed to fit.”
Newman says the idea to keep the song upbeat came naturally to him. “I’m definitely complaining,” he says. “But sarcasm is definitely a second language to me.”
On “Empirical Truth,” Newman also makes musical statements on issues ranging from gun control (“When I Aim My Gun”) and innocent men being accused of serious crimes (“Scapegoat”) to love and loss.
He says his poignant version of Freddie Scott’s “Are You Lonely for Me” came about unexpectedly. “The way I came to it was he used to record at the same studio that I recorded this album, Tiki Recording Studio in Glen Cove, and I've always loved his voice,” Newman says. “A friend of mine who actually sang on the record, a girl named Maag Stanley who sang backup for him, she kept saying, ‘You should definitely cover this song’… I went back and listened to the original and loved it. But it’s hard for me to listen to the original and listen to my version. Freddie Scott is just such a tremendous singer.”
Newman plans to spend the summer touring to promote “Empirical Truth,” though he is still trying to work out how to play some of the songs without a backing band. He will try about five of them out when he closes out the new Busker Stage at the Great South Bay Music Festival on July 21.
“My goal is to just get out and play as much as possible,” he says. “Playing to people I don’t know is always great.”
Mark Newman plays with a full band at Still Partners, 225 Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff on Aug. 17.