Interview: Natalie Prass

There’s big things in the works for talented singer-songwriter, Natalie Prass. Having released her self-titled record in January last year, her songs bring a soulful approach to Indie Pop music. Listening to tracks such as “Bird of Prey” and “Why Don’t You Believe Me”, Prass is a passionate singer who writes honest lyrics in her musically collaborative songs. Ahead of her Australian tour, we had a chat about her musical progression, the inner workings of her debut record and touring Europe with Ryan Adams.

It’s incredible to see how far you’ve progressed as a musician. How do you feel about your recent achievements so far?

I feel great. It’s been a weird journey and it’s definitely something I would’ve pictured. Everybody has their own past and if you want it badly enough, you just keep doing it and it’ll work out some way or another. When I started writing music and daydreaming about being a musician, I was like, “Oh yeah, by the time I’m like 22 or 23, I’m gonna be so famous on TV, you know” [laughs] but that’s not how it works, you know? I’m still working and I’m still growing and I still have lots to say and lots I wanna do. It’s just kind of like an endless journey [laughs].

You started writing songs when you were just in Grade One. You’ve done some studying as well here and there. You also managed to collaborate with your childhood friend Matthew [E. White] and he was actually one of the producers for your self-titled debut. How do you feel about these stepping stones as a musician?

The whole getting reconnected with Matt is really meaningful and special to me. It’s kind of crazy because we weren’t in a band together. I left my first band and he took my place so we weren’t ever friends because we never really hung out. I thought he was so cool and like this weird hippie dude. We didn’t get back into contact until when I was 24. I was looking to have somebody produce my full-length record and I couldn’t find anybody in Nashville that I wanted to work with.

It’s pretty crazy because now I can’t even imagine Matt not being in my world because we’re also really good friends. I’m really close friends with his wife and I see her whenever I can when I’m home. Not only is he this person I collaborate with musically but he feels like a family member. It’s kind of freaky how our worlds have come back together cause Matt and I are really the only kids in our generation still making music. We definitely went on our separate ways for a long time and it’s cool that we are closely working together again. We’re from the same town and it’s just really meaningful to me cause I love being back home and working with people who are from where I’m from. It’s just comforting to me.

“I love Portuguese singers because they’re just so passionate and they have beautiful melodies and beautiful voices…”

I know he’s a musician as well so obviously recording with him was an enjoyable process because he understands what you want as a songwriter. What did he bring to the table as a producer when it came making your self-titled record?

The reason why I picked Matt is because we really hit it off easily and quickly. One of the first things that I said to him was, “I wanna make a Dionne Warwick record.” I was saying this to other people and they were like, “What record are you talking about?” Matt was just completely on board and understood what I meant. We talked a lot about what we both wanted and what our strengths and weaknesses were and Matt really just took what I said and ran with it way further than I could have ever imagined.

He did all the horn arrangements and I would drive to Richmond from Nashville which is a 10 hour drive. I was making that drive pretty often to do pre-production and Matt, Cameron (bass player), Pinson (drummer) and I would hang out in the Spacebomb attic and just play the songs and just feel them out and try to get the basic grooves.

It sounds like a very collaborative effort as well considering how Matt and your friends did all the instrumentation. Besides sticking to a certain budget for the album, what other challenges did you find when it came to making this record?

I guess the biggest one was how long it took for it to be released [laughs]. We finished it in 2012 and it didn’t come out until January 2015. The thing that was really difficult was because it was so collaborative and so many people were involved, everybody deserved recognition for their part and I’m all about that. I had to make sure everyone was happy because they all worked for free for this record. None of us had any money; we all just wanted to make a really good record and Matt was starting up Spacebomb [Records] and this was one of the first records they recorded before it officially became a label.

We were all just getting our feet on the ground and just making sure everybody was taken care of and recognised. There were so many people involved which made it amazing and a very rare thing nowadays. You can tell that there’s so many people involved because the record is just so alive and it has so many different colours and feelings to it. You could focus in on something with every listen; you could focus on the tambourine or the bass or what the piano is doing and everybody bringing in their background and skillset. I just really geek out about that stuff, you know.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXJJSPUpAQE]

 

The record has a very diverse sound. It’s something that I don’t normally listen but I really liked it. What tends to shape your creativity as a musician?

I’m a sucker for melody and groove and I have always been that way, even if the song is in a different language. I love Portuguese singers because they’re just so passionate and they have beautiful melodies and beautiful voices and they make weird, crazy noises – stuff that you don’t hear that often in Pop music. I have no idea what they’re saying but I just feel so many emotions because the chords are beautiful, the melodies are beautiful and they use the most perfect tempos. What really inspires me to create is whenever I hear an amazing song. This is why I listen to old music a lot because they have elements I really love and it makes me wanna write something too.

You also had the incredible opportunity to tour with Ryan Adams as well. What was it like being on the road with him?

Ryan was so sweet and generous to us and it was so fun. The record hadn’t even been out for a month yet and he asked me to open for him in Europe and that was incredible. I’m really close friends with his keyboard player. He played on my record actually and he’s from Richmond and so, that’s how I got an ‘in’ with those guys. I was definitely aware of that and very grateful. I mean Ryan is such a pro and he’s been doing it since he was a kid. He’s like a hyper-creative guy and his energy is just non-stop. He’s really spontaneous and sometimes we would go antique shopping a lot or just go into a dumb store somewhere and he would be like, “Let’s have a sword fight on stage tonight” and I’m like, “Fuck yeah!”. He doesn’t take himself seriously at all and neither do I. Most people would be too embarrassed or feel like that’s not cool so they wouldn’t do it but you know, Ryan doesn’t give a shit so it was just so much fun and I learnt a lot [laughs].

Yeah, especially in such a diverse continent like Europe. What was it like playing shows over there?

I loved playing Europe and it’s so diverse, especially with its climate too [laughs]. You get sick a lot – at least I did because you’re freezing one day and then it’s pouring rain and then it’s hot but the people over there are just so accepting and welcoming. I actually go all the time because my sister lives in Germany. I feel like I just have this connection over there and I love it.

You’ll also be kicking off your first Australian tour which is really exciting for you. What are you looking forward to the most when it comes to these shows?

I’m really looking forward to having my best girlfriend, who I met in Berklee [College of Music] open a show for me in Sydney. I have five days off in Sydney and we’re gonna hang out and I just adore her. We Skype every now and then and we’ve done our best to keep in touch and remain friends. She’s the one that got me into guitar in the first place and she’s like this amazing classical guitar picker. I’m also excited to see a whole different world and Australia is a place have never been before.

—–

Catch Natalie Prass in her first ever Australian tour. Check out the dates below!

29 Feb – Melbourne – Melbourne Recital Centre
1 Mar – Perth – Perth International Arts Festival
4 Mar – Brisbane – Black Bear Lodge
6 Mar – Sydney – Newtown Social Club
12 Mar – Meredith – Golden Plains
13 Mar – Hobart – a festival called PANAMA

Tickets can be purchased here: http://handsometours.com/tours/natalie-prass/