Widely acclaimed Natalie Duncan has been described as sitting somewhere between Radiohead and Nina Simone, with a classic and appealing sound that almost seems too big and wise for her 23 years. Her music is a mix of timeless soul and jazz, having the quality to demand respect for it’s sheer brilliance alone. Natalie pours her heart, soul and life in to her lyrics and in her own words conjures up songs of ‘melody and misery’.
She’s been singing, writing and playing piano since the age of 5 and in 2011 was part of BBC2’s Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment. She’s the voice of the new AutoTrader ad campaign with her version of the Etta James classic At Last and she made her TV debut last week when she performed on the new series of Later… With Jools Holland. If that isn’t impressive enough, British rock band Muse were so impressed with her on Jools that they invited her to support them at the iTunes festival.
Natalie told us about her experience on Goldie’s Band, the importance of tackling unconventional themes in music and the inspiration behind her single Find Me Home.
Q. You strive to tackle unconventional themes within your music – why do you feel it’s so important to be open about your life and use your difficult life experiences to generate meaningful material?
Natalie: I see it as important because it’s interesting! I’m as much a lover of language as I am music and for me, part of writing a song is using lyrics to compliment melody. I suppose sitting at a piano writing was never an instigated task for me when I wrote the songs on my album. The songs were born out of emotions because the way I channel my emotions has always happened to be through music. It’s a happy coincidence that I’m fortunate enough to have an album as the back catalogue of experiences I’ve had, for people to listen and hopefully relate to.
Q. You were part of the BBC2 show Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment, tell us a little about that experience…
Natalie: I met some of the most talented people on the programme who remain my very close friends. I believe I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not been on the show not to mention the world of music that I felt opened up to me. I.e learning about eastern scales on the sitar, listening to boundless singer/ songwriters and getting the opportunity to perform at Buckingham palace. It was extraordinary and overwhelming to say the least.
Q. For anyone who hasn’t yet listened to your debut album, could you describe the overall sound of the album?
Natalie: I would describe it as a moody album because a lot of the songs are relatively slow and dark. There are lighter notes to it and there is an inconsistency in the style of each song, however my voice and the studio band are what tie it together. I’d like to think it’s one that will grow on you after a few listens.
Q. What music artists, past or present, have inspired you? Is there any artist around at the moment that you would say your music is most similar to?
Natalie: I’ve always been profoundly inspired by radiohead, lauryn hill, cocorosie and bob dylan. Not all of those artists are immediately reflected in my music, but a combination of their melodies, lyrics and vocals are somewhat ingrained in me! I wouldn’t like to compare myself to anyone, I think it’s important as an artist to push boundaries and create new sounds instead of emmulating what has already been done because it is all too easy to do that.
Q. You’ve just performed on the new series of Jools Holland, how did that come about?
Natalie: As far as I know, the producer of the show has been to a couple of my gigs and decided to put me on. It is the most exciting news I’ve ever had. Jools Holland’s affinity for real music lovers has always encouraged and inspired me.
Q. You’re also the voice of the new Auto Trader campaign…how does that feel? Is it surreal hearing your voice within an ad campaign?
Natalie: You have no idea! Hearing my own voice on the TV during advert breaks is nothing but surreal each and every time!
Q. Find Me Home is your debut single – what’s the inspiration behind the song?
Natalie: This was just as I’d moved to London, away from my family and friends. Feeling quite isolated and despondant, I wrote this out of a consuming disenchantment I felt towards the city and it’s people. As negative and melodramatic as that sounds, it wasn’t all that bad. I think I wanted to create imagery and mood with lyrics more than anything else, so it was the best use for those hidden dark feelings beneath all of the fantastic things that were happening.
Q. What would you say you have to offer the music world that others don’t? What sets you apart from the rest?
Natalie: I’d like to think I have something interesting to say with the words I write and that I’m a believer in writing and singing real music, as opposed to the autotuned, commercial rubbish.
And commercial rubbish she definitely isn’t. If you want real and honest music Natalie’s critically acclaimed debut album is out now.