Somojo Magazine

Natalie West

Would you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Natalie West and I am a vocalist from Kidderminster, Worcestershire. I describe my music as pop as I like to take my musical influence from everywhere.

I have recently released my first digital release of ‘Feel So Alive’ EP on itunes.

How long have you been a solo artist?
I started singing since I was 16. I originally auditioned for an independent production label in Lancashire which led to recording and writing original material for my demo in 2001. Unfortunately that fell through. Then I began performing in and around the West Midlands and Northern England performing covers.

Do you work with other musicians or are you purely a solo artist?
I started out writing material by myself and then I met Raju Mali in 2006, whilst doing a HND in Music Technology. We both clicked and have written together ever since. We both perform together in a group called ‘The Urban Jungli Project’ in a collective of 10 people.

Who are the musicians in your (live and/or recording) band?
When I perform at pubs and clubs as ‘Natalie West’ it is usually me and my PA system. I perform covers and original material. If I’m performing with ‘The Urban Jungli Project’ its Raju Mali (composer/lead vocals and guitar), The General (rap), Kaz (rap), Shan Bansil (keys/rap), Vince Gould (spoken word/poet), LT (rap), Pritpal Rai (percussion), Dominic Adana (drums), Simon Harris (guitar), and Joel Murphy (bass).

What made you decide to be a solo artist and not want to be in a band?
I started singing lessons at 16 purely for confidence building and I just happened to fall in love with the performing side of it. It basically went on from there. I’d never say never to being in a band, I just never met like-minded musicians who wanted to make similar music at the time or was able to afford to pay musicians. However over the past couple of years either performing with the group or with other musicians I met through college, I do love performing live with a band, I love the energy. I’d like to have my own band one day.

Did you always want to be in a musician/singer when younger?
No. Originally my dream was to be an animator and work for Disney!
I have been obsessed with music since I was young. I bought my first record at the age of 4! I had dance lessons and music lessons growing up for keyboard, piano and violin but I did it because I loved it, it was never about being famous or wanting to be a performer. When I was about 7 I had this crazy thought that your average person couldn’t be famous and that you had to have some magic quality to be a singer. Of course now if your 7 years old you know that’s not true, you just need Simon Cowell!

What music did you listen to while growing up?
Michael Jackson was my idol, and still is. He was the first person I saw in concert when I was 11. It just made me think ‘I want to work in music when I’m older’. The radio was always on growing up, I watched Top of The Pops and as I didn’t have many records of my own  so I also listened to my parents vinyl’s. There was a bit of Queen, Beatles, The Who, The Byrd’s, Stevie Wonder, to name a few. As it was the 80’s I also had my Stock, Aitken and Waterman phase! My music taste is still pretty random, if you were to take a look at my ipod, it would be a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly!

What was your first music making experience?
Singing into a tape cassette to Kylie Minogue’s ‘I should be so lucky’.

What is your current equipment?
At home I have a really basic setup, it’s ideal for creating demos. I use Reason and Ableton software and use a Shure SM58 mic.
My PA system is Peavey speakers, Audio Technica Series 1400 vocal mic, minidisk player and a Peavey XR800F Mixer.

Are you self taught or did you have lessons?
I started out as self taught. I was bought a keyboard for my birthday when I was very small and I played by ear. I had music lessons growing up. I dabbled with keyboard, piano and violin. I’ve always sung around the house to the radio and I began singing in the school choir in Middle School originally to get out of double maths!
When it came to doing my Music GCSE, part of the exam was to sing. My music teacher at the time told me I couldn’t sing. I was so angry. At the time I was totally oblivious to vocal scales, breathing technique, etc, I had no idea. She also told me I would probably fail my GCSE for writing my own song. To cut a long story short, I somehow passed my GCSE and proved her wrong, but I turned the experience around, I took up singing lessons and carried on writing!

Do you record at a purpose built studio or do you record at home with portable digital equipment or pc/mac with audio software?
Raju has a small studio setup at his house so that’s where I mainly do my recordings at the moment. When I and Raju were at college we used to use the studio there when we could. We would record on to a MAC with Pro Tools or Logic. For a quick recording to get a demo down we just used a laptop and a microphone. This was how the original vocal demo was recorded for ‘Feel So Alive’.

Which software do you use?
Computer software myself and Raju have used is a mixture of Reason, Ableton, Sonar and Sony SoundForge. Raju also likes to play instruments on my tracks and I think it’s great because not many current pop songs do that.

Any new recordings planned?
Yes. The past two weeks we have written two tracks and hopefully that will be released in the near future. Originally I was planning to release a mini album early on in the year but decided to concentrate on the single release instead. We wrote a song during the same time called ‘Tonight’ which received local radio airplay and reached number 1 in the ‘Ourstage’ chart and it generated positive feedback so I still intend to release a
collection of material.

When is the new single released?
‘Feel So Alive’ is out now. The original release date was to be July but there were problems with the digital distribution so I couldn’t promote the track properly as much as I wanted to. Everything from writing to recording to the design of the cover has been put together by myself and Raju. I love the idea that it has been made from start to finish with no fancy label, little money, a smidge of determination and the support of friends, family and people I have only ever met via network sites.

Where was it recorded?
In a bedroom, Handsworth, Birmingham! The 12 Man remix and 2009 version of ‘Feel So Alive’ was recorded at Raju’s house, but the vocal on the original mix was recorded at college in a room where we used to broadcast radio from! The main track has live guitar, bass, violin and percussion which the original mix didn’t have. I think having the live instruments really adds to the sound. Savo, who also did a remix, is a mutual friend of ours we met through college. We just gave him the vocal and said ‘do what you like!’.
As an artist, Savo produces a lot of electronic material and I liked the fact he did his own thing with the track.

Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Probably both. I always carry a notepad and pen that I keep nearby but you can guarantee when I have time to write I have had moments when nothing comes to me and I’m staring at a blank piece of paper. Other times when I least expect it, usually when I’m at work, I get a full melody and lyric and I end up running around trying to find pen and paper!
Writing ‘Feel So Alive’ was quite an easy process. Raju emailed me a sample of the track and left me to come up with the vocal melody and lyrics. I felt the track had quite a summery vibe to it initially so I decided I wanted to keep the feel good factor to it.

Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
I’m pretty open minded. I listen to so many different genres of music I wouldn’t pick a certain style or songwriter.

Who are your favourite song writers?
That’s a really hard question, there are so many great songwriters and for different reasons. Commercially, over the past ten years I’ve always liked Dianne Warren. I’ve always thought she has been very good at crafting a great pop song. When you read some of her lyrics sometimes you may think ‘wow that’s really simple’ but it’s probably harder than it is. She knows her audience and her craft and it works. Burt Bacharach songs always stick in my head. There’s always a catchy hook and you instantly recognise it’s one his tracks by the style. Songwriters I like Timbaland, Babyface, Elton John, Amy Lee, Dallas Austin, Max Martin, Queen, Xavier Rudd, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Bob Marley, Coldplay, Michael Jackson. I could go on!
I think a great song is one that stands the test of time.

How do you promote your music and get your music to new fans?
I always think playing live is the best way and a lot more personal. On the internet I began with ‘Myspace’ and I still use it as my main site. I have used ‘Ourstage’ and it’s has been my main tool for testing out music with different genres. However, I was lucky enough to have ‘Feel So Alive’ picked up to be played on BBC Hereford and Worcester ‘Friday Session’. It is a Unsigned Music Show via the BBC Introducing website. I initially put the track on there without thinking. Locally the music that has been played on the station tend to be all guitar band based or acoustic, I thought I didn’t have a chance. Next thing I get an email and its going to be on Radio 6!

Do you think such sites are good for independent and unsigned artists?
Yes. As an artist I think it can be a great promotional tool and you can keep everyone updated in an instant. I do wonder though sometimes if there are too many sites. There’s a lot of great music out there and it can easily be lost. As a music consumer it can be overwhelming.

Do you think the internet overall is a good or bad thing for new artists?
I think its bit of both. There is pro’s and cons with everything. It is a good thing for new artists that they can reach new fans in a matter of seconds, be it on a networking site or a music download site. For example, I saw a band play when I was in Canada and had no idea what the name of a certain track they was playing that I really liked. When I got home all I needed to do was to ‘google’ the name of the band and there it was. Artists don’t have to have a record company behind them to get their music out there, they can do it themselves. However, the downside is probably that anyone can put up music and the quality isn’t always there. Music is starting to lose its value and it’s a worry for establishing acts.Personally my shopping habits for buying music have changed. I used to go to a record store and have a good rummage for a bargain, which I still do from time to time. Now all I have to do is buy a single for 29p online, sat at home, at any time of the day.

What’s your best/worst experience at a gig?
I have had the odd disappointment which every performer goes through (dressing room that is a dodgy toilet!) but I have been very lucky that I haven’t had any bad experiences performing at a gig. My first ever public performance was for an audition for a group. The audition was supposed to be at ‘Nightingales’ nightclub in Birmingham but we ended up at the Cabaret Bar called ‘Missing’. I was so nervous but it was such a confidence boost when the audience gave me such support.My best gig recently was with The Urban Jungli Project at Shambala Festival. It had been raining heavy all afternoon and the tent we was in was starting to flood, we were all thinking that no-one was going to show up as we thought everyone was going to go home. As soon as the rain stopped and we hit the stage everything just turned around, the crowd was amazing and gave us such great support. It just made it all worth while.

Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
I do get nervous before a gig, I think it’s normal, but it does give me the drive to make sure I do my best. I make sure I’ve prepared as much as I could in advance so I’m as relaxed as possible. Before I do a gig, I do my vocal exercises, put on music while applying my makeup. A bit of Blondie or T-Rex is my pre gig music!

What is your day job if you have one?
Besides gigging, I currently work as a sales assistant. It’s not a job I like or I planned to stay in long, but unfortunately you have to have money to get by! Ideally I’d like to work full time in music, be that singing or creating music. If I couldn’t have that, I’d like to go into radio. I have presented and produced my own show on a local community station and I loved surprising people by playing out music from the ‘50s to present day.

Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
Not yet, but it is something I would like to get involved in if the opportunity arises.
I have put music to film as an exercise for a college assignment and I really enjoyed the challenge. I love film soundtracks especially scored soundtracks such as Pans Labyrinth and Gladiator.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would firstly like to say a big thankyou to Somojo for their continued support. I’d also like thank everyones support so far with my music.
And if you haven’t already ... add me to your Myspace! xx

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