Our first introduction to Natalie McCool was watching her stripped back session for the award winning ‘Songs From The Shed’ (they won shed of the year which is surprising prestigious!). We were blown away by her performances and immediately set the wheels in motion to secure an interview. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with Natalie via email and found out more about her EP ‘Black Sun’, her time at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and her plans for the future…
Cat On The Wall: You’re currently on tour supporting your EP release ‘Black Sun’ and you’ve still to play several dates throughout September. Are you enjoying the tour? What has been your most memorable live performance in your career so far?
Natalie McCool: The tour has been fantastic so far – we kicked off the tour at The Cavern in Liverpool (the musical home of The Beatles) which was an amazing night, it was so great to meet all my fans too. We are playing in Sheffield next, at West Street Live, which is a great venue, then we’re off to play at the fabulous O2 Academy Islington, London on 20th September! All my fans have been really supportive, which is fantastic. My most memorable live performance was playing to an audience of four people in a tiny room; however one of those four people was Sir Paul McCartney! That was at LIPA, I had a one to one songwriting masterclass with Sir Paul – I played my song to him and he picked up his guitar and started jamming along! So that was quite surreal but very, very memorable.
COTW: ‘Black Sun’ is your second EP release. Are you consciously moving into darker territory or do you see it more as natural progression?
NM: I have always had a bit of a dark side! Music is so incredibly expressive and that’s what I love about it – a person can’t be infinitely ‘happy’ or ‘sad’; everybody has shades of light and dark in their personality, and when you express yourself creatively it’s interesting to see what comes out. So I suppose I could consciously change and manipulate my songs into whatever I want them to sound like – but the initial ‘idea’ always comes from the subconscious.
COTW: What is your creative process when writing songs?
NM: It changes, sometimes I write a whole guitar part before even thinking about lyrics or melody, and sometimes all I write on guitar is the base notes of the chords I want to use, and from that I’ll write all the lyrics and melody. When I have some lyric ideas I tend to get a theme in my head – i.e. what I’m trying to say with the song, which is something I think every songwriter should think about when they are song writing.
COTW: There are videos for ‘Black Sun’ and ‘Your Hero’ … any plans for a ‘Size Zero’ video? How important is the visual aspect of music performance to you?
NM: I’m now concentrating on my next release, but making a video for ‘Size Zero’ wouldn’t be out of the question – I think the message in the song is very important and it’s a universal issue that needs to be addressed. People respond well to things they see, and I think if I made a video for that particular song it would be very effective. Anyone reading this should check out the song & lyrics, you can find them on my website (www.nataliemccool.co.uk). ‘Size Zero’ is about a very controversial subject, models starving themselves to stay thin & stay in the spotlight – so the video would have to be just as controversial. We’ll see!
COTW: Your education at LIPA is very prominent in your biography. I have to say that when I was a teenager I always wanted to attend LIPA but sadly for one reason or another I never ended up going. How did you develop musically during your time there? Did you enter knowing what you wanted to achieve?
NM: Well I always knew that I wanted to play guitar and write songs, so yes I knew what I wanted out of the experience. I think that’s the key – you can get so much out of a place like LIPA – if you know what you want to do and if you really want it. I met so many great people there and played with some great musicians, which is the best experience you can get, and of course the opportunity to network is ever-present. I got signed to Hubris Records when I was spotted by Steve Levine at Make It Break It, which is a national songwriting competition that I won in my second year of LIPA – Steve was on the judges panel. I think success really is a combination of who you know and what you know.
COTW: Is there an album in the works and if so can you tell us anything about it?
NM: Well it’s certainly something to think about – I will say that much! One thing I really love creating through my songwriting is a theme – when I write an EP, I like creating a thread that runs through all of the songs – it can be abstract, but it’s still there. It just makes the music coherent, the record in itself is a piece of work, not just the songs therein. When I release my album, listen out for it.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
NM: Well I’m off touring the UK right now, and that will continue to the end of September, then I am in the studio recording my next release – so I’m going to be quite busy over the next couple of months! To catch me at one of my tour dates before I go into the studio, click here:
– you’ll find everything you need to know!