Somojo Magazine

Natalie McCool

Hi Natalie, how are you?
I’m fine thank you! Very busy but feeling good!

Which instruments do you play?
Various types of guitar, I sing, I also dabble on the piano. 

What made you decide to be a solo artist and not want to be in a band?
I’ve always wrote songs on my own – I just like the idea of a song portraying my own vision, for others then to interpret. I am quite self sufficient and enjoy the control I have over the writing process!

Do you work with the same musicians when recording as you do when performing live?
I try to, as it is much easier that way – the musicians have a better feel of the song and also when you rehearse a song with a band you can work on the arrangement collectively; although I do have a clear idea of what I want, it means there is more time to make that idea work. Having said that you really begin to understand what arrangement a song actually needs when you record it – making a song work live is completely different to making a song work on record!

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
‘Panorama pop’ – it’s my little gimmick for myself! All the songs have universal themes and I do cover quite a lot of common issues; love, loss, relationships, indifference. On my forthcoming EP the music is quite big and ‘film-esque’, and teamed with the lyric content sort of creates this panoramic view of the world. Through my eyes!

What have you been up to recently?
I’m a very busy bee! Mainly getting ready for a series of upcoming shows, rehearsing, technical stuff etc. Lots of PR. Sorting out my songs and which guitars I should play them on. I’m a massive fan of guitars, I had about 6 when I was 10. More than enough I know!

What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
The release of my first couple of records, the first being ‘Shoot Shoot EP’, lots of shows including London Fashion Week on the 11th September. Exciting times!

Did you always want to be in a musician/singer when younger?
I always was anyway…from as long as I can remember I have been playing guitar and singing and writing bits and bobs. My dad played blues guitar & slide guitar, so music was always around when I was young.

What music did you listen to while growing up?
Mainly whatever my sisters were listening to! Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Placebo, Mansun, Nirvana, The Sundays, a lot of 90s stuff, that’s would be my era of choice. My dad would sit in the living room most evenings playing Eric Clapton, Sting and The Beatles, I didn’t really know what he was playing then but I remember all the songs, I would sit and listen every night and watch his slide guitar technique!

How long have you been involved with writing & performing music?
Writing music – a long long time, performing it (not counting the school choir) probably since I was about 14 – when I first performed my own material. So quite a long time!

Natalie McCool

What was your first music making experience?
I would sometimes write poems with my mum which I then would turn into songs. My friend and I once wrote a song called ‘Helping Hand’ when we were very young – about helping a friend out.

What is your current equipment?
I play a Yamaha Compass acoustic-electric guitar, a Vintage Advance JHS electric guitar,  a Vox AC15 amp, and a Boss pedal board with Boss & MXR pedals. Quite a bit to carry.

Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
Mainly self taught but I did have a couple of singing lessons and guitar lessons in primary & secondary school. At LIPA guitar was my first instrument, so I had lessons as part of the course, I was also a guinea pig for my singing friends to practice their SLS on!

If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list
Everything! All kinds of stuff, I really like effects, any weird effect stations, vocal effects, guitar effects pedals, I’d buy a resonator guitar, and any vocal effects pedals I could find! I would probably buy a really good keyboard Yamaha or Nord, I am currently in need of one!

Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
No not really, we use whatever we think will sound good on the record. Which can be an array of strange things believe me! The beauty or working in the studio is that you have the time to manipulate instrument sounds with various effects, which is fascinating! In a live setting you can do that, but you have a lot less time and the pressure is really on to make it work. Having a ‘set’ sound using the same equipment is less stressful and you can rehearse with it beforehand to make sure your set is slick!

Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
Hmm hard one, it doesn’t really matter. I do have days where I make sure I have all day to be creative, but you can’t really put a ‘stopper’ on inspiration just like that, it can happen anywhere. I generally write a guitar part before I write lyrics and melody though.

Which software/recording process do you use?
I have Logic Express & Garageband which I do little demos on. Mainly I like to get a song to a performance standard before I record it as a demo. That make the arrangement much easier to sculpt.

Would you sign with a major record company?
I think the question for me would be ‘Would you sign with a major record company if it was the right time, place and deal for you?’ – then yes! I don’t think I could really comment on something like that until it was happening.

Do you have any new recordings planned?
Yes, I have a lot of material to record! I think we have a couple more EPs in the pipeline for the moment.

How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
Well we overdub quite a lot of things in the studio…basically everything apart from drums & bass is overdubbed and I’m there for 95% of it, because I’m playing most of the instruments! I have a lot of involvement with the arrangement because I rehearse with my band beforehand and we get a lot of it down then. I write all the guitars, lyrics, melody, and backing vocals and I have a clear idea of what arrangement I want. Production isn’t really my department - Steve works the magic there. I’m the creative force!

Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
I think I have a lot to learn! I just need to brush up on my technical knowledge really. I think I’d be way too fascinated getting to grips with recording my own little demos before I could touch someone else’s!

Natalie McCool

Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
Yes I’m beginning to understand how it works and how to get the best out of a song, recording wise. My time in the studio in very valuable to me because I have learnt a lot. Songs are just amazing – when you’ve cracked how to capture them on a recording!

Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
I agree to a certain extent - a good song should be really versatile, so it doesn’t need a lot of instruments or backing tracks on it to get it’s message across. But then again you can’t play jazz live and be a punk on record! It has to sound similar, otherwise you’ll leave fans a bit confused and might muddle up what is unique about the way your music sounds.

Do you have any favourite tracks on your album?
Yes, all of them!

Do you write songs/tracks only about personal experiences?
No not at all, mostly I write about things I have never experienced. Which can be very interesting when you finally experience it!

Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Both – sometimes the words come pouring out and sometimes you have to pull them a little.

Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
Definitely! Paul McCartney, Sting, Chris Martin, PJ Harvey, and Jeff Buckley if he was still around. There are lots of people whose music and songwriting I really admire. I would love to play a gig with Rage Against the Machine. I’m not sure what I would do – either mime to Tom Morello or just stand on the stage and scream…

Who are your favourite songwriters?
See above!

Which countries have you gigged in?
Just the UK. For now!

Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
Definitely the US. Europe. Japan would be insane!

How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
By playing lots of gigs. The internet is very useful, social networking sites are brilliant. I think national radio play is the holy grail for getting your music to a wide audience

Which music promotion websites do you use and do you have a favourite?
Facebook is the new MySpace – especially since it has now teamed up with iLike. Which I think is going to create quite a formidable media platform!

Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
Definitely, you don’t even need to justify that!

With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
Maybe a direct path to Radio 1? I think that there is a lot out there now, people are always going to come up with new ideas, but right now it’s very easy to get your music out there. The music industry is very hard to get into but you just have to persevere in every way you can to get noticed, there isn’t really and ‘easy’ way in!

How do you relax?
Watching films, listening to my favourite music, dancing also gives me so much peace of mind. I’m a big fan of all types of movement – I used to dance a lot when I was in school.

What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
Best experience is when everything runs smoothly and I have a great sound, a great audience and a great feeling of ‘performing’ between the band. Worst experience is just when something goes wrong technically – I lose my capo, my guitar strap comes loose mid song, the mic feeds back, the list is endless. And there isn’t much you can do about it – the sound guy has to sort it out because the show must go on and you have to keep on playing! Nightmare! But generally my gigs are delightful events.

Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
No I don’t really get nervous, not anymore, unless I was playing in front of one of my musical heros. It is much easier for me to play in front of complete strangers! In front of family, friends and people I know is way more intimidating. There’s nothing that would calm me down anyway, it’s all part of that adrenalin, it’s a good thing.

What else do you do apart from being a singer/songwriter?
I really like art – I used to be into it quite a bit. I even considered going to art college. Before I got into LIPA! I still go to many galleries and I have lots of little postcards with famous artwork displayed. Creating it is just so therapeutic. I like conceptual art, modern art, anything that is challenging, confrontational.

Would you like to be a full time working musician or are you happy with things as they are?
I am a full time working musician!

Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
No but that would be my dream – I think my music would suit the whole experience of a film perfectly.

Is composing for film & tv something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Yes definitely – my music is all about vision, the way things look, the way things appear, when I hear music there is always a corresponding image in my head. I’m a very visual person. I have done a course in writing for film and TV, so I would grab the opportunity with both hands!

Is there anything you'd like to add?
I think you covered it all!

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