My introduction to Natalie Prass was the brilliantly odd video ‘Why Don't You Believe In Me’, produced by visual artist and best friend of 14 years Erica Prince. While the video is very memorable, the music is even more so. Natalie grew up in Virginia Beach (two hours away from Richmond in the USA), and after a short stint in Nashville to study Songwriting at Middle Tennessee State, she went to Richmond to meet up with old mate from school Matthew E White at his Spacebomb Studios. Together with Trey Pollard and more than thirty other musicians, they have created the wondrous self-titled debut which transports the listener into an unravelling love story like a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Natalie brings her band to The Haunt on 3rd September and I spoke with her in the middle of her European tour to find out more.
What music were you brought up on?
I grew up on Motown, Stax and The Beach Boys as that was what my Dad always played in the car and at home. My Mum played a lot of music like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. The first album I brought or rather owned (as my Mum brought it for me) was Dianna Ross & The Supremes.
Is there much of a music scene where you grew up?
Matthew White has really made something special of Richmond. He has always been the kind of person who creates and brings people together for a project, a natural leader. He started this arts group dedicated to cultivating local music called the Pathchwork Collective and then when on to start Spacebomb Records. Nashville has its own music heritage, mostly a lot of really bad Country Music. I had never heard Country before I moved to Nashville, and I didn’t like it when I did.
What are your main influences?
I listen to a lot of Dionne Warwick and Ella Fitzgerald. I’m am really into books like The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Raymond Carver. I try and read as much as possible, usually the really depressing stuff.
Your debut album has a very assured feel to it, did you have a clear image of how you wanted the album to sound before recording it?
Songs have definitely evolved, especially with that amount of musicians playing. When talking to Matthew about music, I wanted to make something that I would want to listen to. I am into all kinds of music, but it always comes back to the older records. With the musical skills that Matthew and Trey Pollard have for arrangements, they were able to bring my songs to life and they came out better than I could ever have hoped.
Have you been thinking about the next album?
It’s hard, when you are on the road you obviously cannot record. I have been writing – when I get into the writing zone I find I can’t stop. I have a lot of new ideas and even a few that are almost done. We have been incorporating some of the new songs in the set which has been fun, trying them out with the guys in the band.
What has been a musical eye-opener?
I bought All Summer Long by The Beach Boys when I was in High School, and it had ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ on it. I can remember it kind of shocking me with how beautiful it was with its melody and how effortless it was. I thought it was the perfect song. Definitely hearing Gal Costa for the first time also freaked me out as I had never heard anything like it before. Kind of a Brazilian psychedelic with lots of crazy noises and an amazing voice.
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts for a concert and where would you put it on?
Gal Costa, Nina Simone, and then Ella Fitzgerald singing with Duke Ellington – playing either at the Beacon Theatre in New York City or the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. That would be pretty legendary.
If you could work with any artist who would it be?
I would love to work with someone like Joni Mitchell – that would be really cool. One of my favourite artists at the moment is Benjamin Clementine – he is so talented and musical.
What are your future plans?
First things first, I’m going to collect my dog from my parents’ house as I won’t have seen her in over a year. She’s gotten really fat, so I’ll be going on lots of walks. I don’t finish touring till December, and then we are off till next February. I’m thinking of going to Australia, as I would love to do that. In October I am really looking forward to doing a show at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City with War On Drugs, one of my favourite bands at the moment. I’m doing some really exciting stuff with HBO, which I can’t really go into more just yet, but that will be coming out next year. Also I hope to release a brand new single in January, but I haven’t decided which song yet. It’s really busy, but my priorities are writing, creating music and getting back in the studio.