Natalie, you have been working with music since the very early age four. During this time you have composed and produced for yourself and many other big names, as well as performed as an instrumentalist, vocalist. What avenue of the music field currently calls to you? Do you have any specific career goals at the moment?
First of all, it’s nice to meet you! It’s an honor and a pleasure to be featured in this article.
I find myself engaged in more than one playground these days. I’m producing an album for a Grammy-nominated band and that alone is employing my skills as a songwriter, arranger, vocal coach, and composer. It’s allowing me on-the-job training to improve my understanding of engineering as well. I’m also involved in writing underscores for scripts, and I’m collaborating with some really exciting songwriters on other people’s projects.
I’m loving the doors opening to me as a solo performer after having grown up performing in groups. I’ve come into my own, and feel empowered to be more dynamic and inspiring, now that I’m no longer held back from the struggles of my past. The possibilities are endless, and I’m tickled and excited about what that will mean in the future.
My music goals include being an artist and entrepreneur. I see myself making a mark with a substantial production catalog of album and film music and through my own chain of studios educating young and hungry artists who are open to a new kind of music culture, not stuck in the past. Together we create a community that helps to inspire and rally around those coming up, and our creations make us all better people creating a better world. I can see it. I can feel it coming. And I’m well on my way.
Moja, a Music Saga is a historical and monumental project. Tell us about your personal involvement and how the experience impacted you and your understanding of music.
Oh, wow. This project was years in the making: quite unique, eight volumes long, full of original music and story. I had the challenge and pleasure of co-writing over fifty songs and additional cues. There are 500 internationally renowned artists on it and I got to work with many of them, including, Hall of Fame Blues Legend, and two-time Grammy winner, Bobby Rush, and musicians from all over Africa, Cuba, England, Haiti, and the United States. I got to write for Tàta Vega, Basekou Kouyate, Pedrito Martinez, Take 6, Darius McCrary, and Magatte Sow from the Black Panther Movie. I wish I could list them all.
It’s an exciting story, full of twists and turns, and the music I write reflects its many emotions through over fifty different music genres: Jazz, Blues, Funk, R&B, gospel, Country, and Bluegrass to name a few. It challenged me to think beyond my experience and open myself to new ways of channeling a story. Carl Gustafson, author, and lyricist in this project did exhaustive research on the music, and I did the same in order to do justice to the story.Wow! I learned so much about myself in the process, especially the concept of letting go of expectations and limitations, allowing the music and story to change me into a better person. I feel like I’ve improved my musical vocabulary as a result, and feel more confident for any future adventures that songwriting will bring.
How did you find your way into composing for TV and film? Is it a different writing process for you compared to arranging or producing your own music?
I have been a student of film music for a few years now. My interest peaked after working on a composition in grad school at New England Conservatory for a Film Noir project. I’ve since been blessed with mentors who would pass along film scores or videos for me to review, give me a peek into their world, and allow me the space to grow; composers like Raul Ferrando, to whom I’m forever grateful for staying true to himself without compromise while writing.
Two years ago, I took up learning the art of painting/drawing, and it changed my perspective on how I see my music skills, especially the process of composing cues and songwriting/production. I now view myself as a mixed media artist, using several mediums to create the music I hear and now see in my head. The painting has allowed me to imagine feelings and energy visually, and I translate that into motion pictures. It allows me to let go of expectations and give myself to instincts that help find the music that fits the visual. I am often surprised and delighted by the end result and it makes me feel like an artist of dimension, and even a better human being, and all of this is relevant to my goals.
How would you describe your current “sound”. Do you feel like it has changed drastically throughout recent years? If so, what influenced this shift?
Oh my god, yes! My sound has been influenced heavily by Jazz and R&B, even though I was not allowed to listen to them as a child and was still in the process of absorbing them during my last chapter. What I’ve recently realized is that my state of mind also influenced how that sound was delivered. Since my rebirth as an artist, I’ve embraced more elements in those styles that reflect how happy I’ve become, along with dialects that continue to evolve, such as funk and hip hop. Oh, my god, I’m in love with funk and hip-hop, not just because of their origin and journey, but because of where I see it going, and me going with it. I believe that my rebirth has contributed to my sound evolution, and I couldn’t be happier. But wait, I could be! It just gets better, and like I’ve mentioned before, I’m just getting started.
Since you have been involved in music for the majority of your life, do you have any advice you would give your younger self?
Hell yeah! Most of my time in life has been spent trying to make my music better, instead of improving myself as a person—by that, I mean: self-exploration, understanding who I am, and loving that person. The end result was always the same — I was always scared, felt limited, and stuck in a loop. I thought I was letting the music change me, but now I realized I had no idea how. My advice to my younger self: Unchain the new you, now! Love yourself; learn to breathe and let go. Get a life, and allow the resulting better and deeper person, create deeper and better music—for those around you, and for YOU!
Check out Natalie’s AWFC profile
Interview by Michael Van Bodegom Smith
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