Newman began his musical career in the 1990s as a member of the Vancouver grunge/pop group Superconductor. After a brief stay, he joined the Vancouver-based pop group Zumpano. The band released two albums with Newman in the mid-1990s, Look What the Rookie Did and Goin' Through Changes, both of which received favorable reviews. Though Zumpano never officially announced their breakup, they have not recorded any new material since the 90s.
Newman is a founding member of the successful Vancouver-based pop supergroup The New Pornographers. The band has released five full length albums since 2000, all of which received favorable reviews. In 2007, Blender ranked the group's debut album, Mass Romantic, the 24th best indie album of all time. Newman is the band's main songwriter and vocalist, and is generally regarded as the band's leader.
His debut solo album, The Slow Wonder, was released in Summer 2004, and his sophomore album, Get Guilty, was released in early 2009. He released his third album, Shut Down the Streets, in 2012.