With the recent release of her Black Sun EP, Natalie McCool has earned a lot of success. From a small town in Cheshire, England, McCool studied at a performing arts school in Liverpool and played with Sir Paul McCartney. Her music is alternative pop with an edgy side.
Influences include: Paul McCartney, PJ Harvey, Sting, Jeff Buckley, Bat For Lashes and Warpaint.
EP on itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/natalie-mccool-black-sun-ep/id435364024
Click "Read More" for the interview.
Where are you from?
I’m from a small town in Cheshire, which is a county in England, UK.
How and when did you get your start?
Well I began playing guitar when I was really young, about 8 years old, and then I started singing along and writing songs when I was about 14. Where I’m from is quite close to Liverpool, and we had quite an old and well known venue called ‘The Queens Hall’ there, where The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had played during the 60s. There is a youth music project call ‘LOOSE’ in my area which puts on music workshops every week for young bands and musicians at The Queens Hall, culminating in a monthly gig night called ‘Feedback’, which was the BIG night that all the kids in my town attended, everyone looked forward to it. I got into the workshops when I started songwriting and it was a big help - every week we’d play our songs in front of the other bands and the people who worked for the youth project, and we’d get lots of Feedback and practice - to work on before we’d showcase our music at the ‘Feedback’ gig. It was really brilliant, everyone had such a good time and there was so much talent in that room, because kids would come from all over the North West to be a part of it and watch the bands! The people at LOOSE did a great job with the workshops, I have a lot to thank them for. And they still run it now!
Which artists have been your biggest influences? Have you been able to contact or play with them?
Well I studied music at LIPA, which is a performing arts school in Liverpool, Paul McCartney was a co-founder, and the friends that I made there really influenced me! It was such a great vibe to study there, surrounded by lots of really talented people and able to jam with them all the time! So yes you could say that I have been able to play with my biggest influences. Other influences I’d love to write or jam with would be: PJ Harvey, Sting, Jeff Buckley, Bat For Lashes…I also really love Warpaint right now, I’d love to join the band. Ha!
Have you come across any obstacles while trying to get your music out?
Not really, I think it’s so easy to get music out there nowadays…it’s become very DIY, so many bands are successful now even at grass roots level - all it takes is some nifty merch, a great live set, some promo CDs and someone willing to do the business talking for you, or learning to do it yourself. Of course there is no ‘easy’ way to build your fan base - that takes a lot of time and effort playing gigs, sending mailing lists around, sending out newsletters, it never ends. It’s so important that you reach out to your fans, and that they feel like they ‘know’ you. That side is a lot of hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding when fans you have never met message you via Facebook or your website, or come up to you after a gig saying how much they loved it - things like that will always inspire me!
What was the most interesting experience you’ve had in your career?
Jamming with Sir Paul McCartney…yes you heard me correctly! At LIPA we get to have a one to one songwriting session with the man himself, in our final year. It was surreal, there were 4 of us in the room with him! I didn’t have a middle 8 section for one of my songs so I took it into the session and played it to Paul, he jammed along and we came up with some chords for the middle 8, which was great! He was so down to earth and made me feel really relaxed, it really was a great experience. And he signed my guitar!
What is your favourite song and why?
I don’t know! I have a lot of favourite songs for different occasions. My favourite song right now is ‘Set Your Arms Down’ by Warpaint, I think they have a really interesting feel about their music, really dark and brooding but simple - I love that. Their melodies and harmonies are really great, very dark, and also quite modal, which is another sound I love.
I listen to a lot of new bands, because really that’s my job to see what’s going on in the market now, but deep down I am really a BIG 90s fan - songs that I will always love are: ‘You Get What You Give’ by The New Radicals, ‘Mojo Pin’ by Jeff Buckley. The former reminds me being on holiday at my aunties in Connecticut - it brings back such good memories! I’m also a big fan of Deftones, a lot of their songs are on the list of my favourites, like ‘Minerva’ and ‘Sex Tape’.
How much education and formal music training have you had?
I took Music GSCE (at 15-16 yrs old) and Music A-Level (at 17-18yrs old) and then I got a first for my degree at LIPA, which was BA (Hons) Music. So I have studied music formally for 7 years and now it’s my career!
Has music been what you have always wanted to do?
Yes pretty much, I always used to watch live TV shows like Top Of The Pops, Jools Holland, CD:UK, Jonathon Ross, where they always had bands and artists playing live, and I would watch in awe, it looked like such a fun thing to do, to play in a band. Music has always fascinated me from a very young age, the first albums I remember playing were by Radiohead, Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Kula Shaker, Placebo - I was always listening to alternative and rock bands while most of my friends were into teenybop pop. I remember when I was about 10, in my class at school our teacher asked us to bring in a CD of our favourite song - everyone else brought in pop music by girl bands and boy bands - and I brought in ‘Out Of Space’ by The Prodigy! Which is a HUGE drum & bass track. The teacher played about 4 seconds of it and then turned it off! I was that talk of the class that day!
How did you know what type of music you wanted to play?
I’ve played lots of different genres as a guitarist, I was part of a rock band when I was 18 and we were featured on Channel 4 in the UK, which is one of the top national TV channels! I have always loved rock music and playing rock on guitar. When I started songwriting, I used to listen to a lot of Nirvana, Radiohead, Placebo - all that kind of really dark songwriting, so I suppose that really influenced me. I sometimes get lumped into the ‘folk’ genre because I sing and play acoustic guitar - but folk is not really what I’m about, my music is alternative pop with a very dark edge.
If you could play in any arena or stadium in the world, what would it be?
I want to play at a major festival more than an arena or stadium. So it would be Glastonbury or Coachella. Both!
What has been your biggest success?
Probably whatever I’m doing right now. I don’t really concentrate on the past, I feel most successful when I’m doing whatever I’m doing in the present. So I think releasing ‘Black Sun’ is my biggest success! And when Chris Hawkins from BBC 6Music, and XFM London played it on both their radio shows!
What has been your biggest disappointment?
I don’t really know, I don’t think I’ve had many big disappointments regarding my music career. I just get over it!
How do you get the inspiration for the music you write?
From people and the psyche - when you download my ‘Black Sun EP’ from iTunes, you get a free digital booklet with lyrics, artwork, photos and a brief description of what inspired me to write the EP. I love writing about people - ‘Black Sun EP’ is about the themes of addiction and control - everyone is addicted to something and everyone wants to control a specific area of their life - or someone else’s for that matter. So when we lost the control or cannot satisfy our addictions, we react in different ways - and that is what the EP is all about. I love exploring the personality, reactions, emotions - I find it fascinating. I love creating a ‘persona’ in the song when I write.
How do you come about your recording process?
I write the songs and then we pick the best ones to record! It’s as simple as that really. It’s about capturing the moment on record. My producer Steve is very experienced and knowledgeable, so I write my songs and think about the arrangement I want, then we get in the studio. I play most of the instruments, so Steve records everything, then we tweak the arrangement and add anything we think would benefit it, then Steve mixes and masters it, to perfection!
How many records have you released?
I have 2 EPs out on Hubris Records - my debut release ‘Shoot Shoot EP’ and my brand new release ‘Black Sun EP’. My DJ buddies, Hawker, remixed ‘Shoot Shoot’ and ‘Black Sun’, which I released separately, and you can buy those on iTunes too. I also have a ‘Merry Christmas EP’ that I released last Christmas, again on Hubris Records, with my own original single ‘At Christmastime (With Friends Around) and 2 covers, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ and Sir Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmastime’. That was so much fun to record and release!!
What was the response to your first release?
I had a really great response to ‘Shoot Shoot EP’, the fans loved it and I was so happy with it! I did a lot of live sessions on BBC Radio and other regional radio stations, and again I had a great response from those. ‘Black Sun EP’ sounds a lot more electronic, and is a lot darker, and I’m so happy with it. We have had a huge response - lots of major radio plays (BBC 6 Music, XFM London) we did an official video for the single ‘Black Sun’, which in just 2 weeks has had 1000 views. So it’s all going swimmingly!
What are your future plans?
To be HUGE! I want to be really successful, I’d love to get a film or TV sync - that would be amazing. I’m just going to keep the ball rolling, keep writing, and keep gigging!
What do you do in your free time outside of music?
Listen to it! I also read a lot - I read a book nearly everyday, because I travel so much. I am glued to my Kindle! I’m quite creative and I used to do a lot of artwork - drawing, painting, experimenting. I am so busy now though, I’d like to start it up again soon. I like a good film, I love watching DVDs - Lord of the Rings is my favourite, it’s so epic!