Singer/songwriter come “Perfect-Pop” princess Natalie McCool is about to embark on the biggest journey of her career so far. Tomorrow marks the release of her hotly-tipped sophomore album ‘The Great Unknown’, a follow up to her self-titled debut back in 2013. In our exclusive interview, we hear of how her music has developed over the last 3 years, how social media plays an important role in her creative identity and what we can expect from her upcoming month-long tour.
You have 3 hashtags to sum up Natalie McCool and her music, which would they be?
Oh my god, this is hard. Ok, #popwithabrain. The next one would be #liltpop, and then the last would be #newmusic.
Speaking of hashtags, I’ve noticed you’re a fan of social media. How important is social media to you in terms of getting your name out there and also interacting with fans?
It’s great for interacting with people, I like replying to people; once someone tweets you, I think it’s nice to reply instead of just liking the tweet, and actually engage in a conversation. It makes your world a bit more conversational, instead of just putting music out there, you’re creating relationships with people and I think that’s really nice.
I’ve got really into Instagram over the past couple months, I’ve never really used it that well before but now I’m really enjoying it!
Also, I’ve been posting loads of videos to Facebook; I’ve been doing a countdown to my album by doing a strip-backed video of each track each day, that’s been great.
If you could only keep one form of social media, which would it be?
I love all 3 that I use equally, but I think … I’m really into Instagram at the moment so I’m going to go for Instagram. I think it’s because it’s not so much about being an artist, it’s more about what you can show the world; what bits of your world can you show to other people. It’s quite artistic; I’m really into that.
Moving onto Merseyside, how much of an influence has your upbringing had on both you being a musician and your musical tastes?
Yeah, quite big! I grew up in Widnes, which is going to be part of Merseyside, I think it’s part of Cheshire currently but they’re making it part of Merseyside which will be weird. I used to play a lot of youth nights where you could go along every Saturday morning, rehearse in bands and do whatever music you wanted, then at the end of the month they’d have a big gig and it’d be quite cool.
Aside from those, there used to be a lot of 14+ pub nights where you could go along and play in your band – that would be cool. That really influenced me when I was around 14 and getting into writing music and songs. I used to play a lot of folk nights and ‘Open Mic’ nights too, which was really nice. All of my friends used to do music as well – it was quite a big thing where I was from. Also, going to uni and moving to Liverpool, I used to put on my own gigs. When I was 17 I put on my own gig and I played and all my friends’ bands played as well.
So your new album ‘The Great Unknown’ is released this Friday. I’ve had a cheeky listen but I’d like to know what we could expect from the album? How does it differ from your self-titled debut?
It’s really quite an honest album; it’s about my own growth over the past 2 years. It’s about issues that I have – not necessarily bad ones. It’s about my mind really, my conscious and subconscious, whatever’s in there as I’ve been writing it. That’s like the biggest overarching theme. It’s basically about relationships that I have with other people and myself really. From that perspective, it’s quite raw and edgy and very honest. It’s quite different from my first album, which sounds quite mature in comparison. You can expect quite quirky, pop-production – there are a lot of cool guitar sounds and hard textures. There’s a range of different songs; there’s one that sounds quite indie-rock ballad whereas it goes straight into bubbly pop. It’s a really varied album, I always worry that it could be too varied but everyone who’s heard it has said, “no, you can tell that it’s all from you”.
Where did inspiration for the name emerge?
It’s a lyric from one of the songs ‘Oh Danger’, which on the surface is about my fear of flying (which obviously now I’ve overcome). On a bigger scale, the album is about the risks you take in life and how everything in life could be a risk but it doesn’t matter because that’s what life is about. It’s about this ‘great unknown’ that you have to go through to really live your life and make the most of it.
Huw Stephens, Clash Magazine and others have been quoted as saying you’re “pop perfection”. Would you agree and how does today’s music industry affect your vision of how a song will sound when you’re writing?
Yeah, that sounds great; I mean I love “perfect pop” songs. There’s something magical about having a perfect pop song. One of my all-time favourite pop songs is New Radicals’ ‘You Get What You Give’; that is just an amazing song because everyone knows it and everyone loves it. Another song for me that’s perfect is ‘Black Magic’ by Little Mix – amazing! It’s such a well-written song but it’s fun and always new when you listen to it. It’s just a never-ending experiment.
What can we expect from your show in Nottingham?
I think one thing is you’ll just remember the songs. You’ll probably go away singing one of the songs definitely. I think people don’t really know what to expect when they see me live because on the record there’s so many ways that you could perform each song live; you could do it with backing tracks or you could do it with a live band. I think when you come see it live it’ll make a lot more sense.
Natalie McCool plays The Bodega on September 15th – tickets are still available here.
So yeah live we play in a trio with James the synth player, I sing and play the guitar and then Laura the drummer plays a mixture of acoustic and electric drum kit. It’s a real mix of beefy electronic sounds, big synths and also the acoustic element; although I’ve got my guitar, I’ve got a lot of pedals which for anyone who plays guitar will be interested in watching it as well.
If you were forced to pick just one to play for the rest of your life, would you choose festivals or your own tour and why?
Ooh, that is so hard. I’d probably pick my own tour, just because no matter what, everyone in that room is there for you and your music; which is really cool.
My last question’s one I ask everyone. If you could headline a gig anywhere in the world with 3 support acts (past or present), where would it be and which 3 supports would you choose?
Oh wow, PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley and The Weeknd. That’d be cool, that feels so weird that they’d be supporting me. You know what, I’d choose that big canyon in America; I think it’s in Colorado. It’s a natural rock formation but they use it for gigs as well, it looks so cool. I think it’s called Red Rocks.