Ahead of her stunning performance on The Mountain Stage at the Green Man Festival in Wales later that day, AMBY had the absolute pleasure of relaxing on one of the press tent’s colourful bean bags with the one and only Natalie Prass to natter about baseball, Nashville, touring and the amazing reception which her eponymously titled album has been receiving since its release earlier this year.
AMBY: Welcome to Wales Natalie. It’s an absolute pleasure to see you prior to your performance on the Mountain Stage.
Natalie: Thank you! You’re wearing a Nashville Sounds T-shirt!?!
AMBY: Ha, yea, I just got back from there… I love baseball so I dragged the family to watch the Sounds play a few days ago. Do you still live there?
Natalie: No, I did live there, I lived there for eight and a half years and I moved in January to Richmond, Virginia, which is where I did the record so I was living in Nashville when I made the record and I would drive to Richmond.
AMBY: Did you go to Nashville for inspiration?
Natalie: For school and yea, I was like, ‘this is a songwriting town and I wanted to be a songwriter so yea…
AMBY: When I was there I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and I left in awe. All these great people, all this history. In what way did Nashville inspire you during your time there?
Natalie: I think it made me more of a responsible, serious songwriter. You learn in Nashville extremely quickly whether you’re cut out to do it or not, you can kinda get eaten alive, everybody does, unless you’re like some kind of freak, but when you’re just starting out and you don’t really know exactly what you’re doing, you have to be able to fight that.
AMBY: The number of writers who reside there is apparently getting smaller.
Natalie: There’s a lot of competition there so you really have to stand out and be exceptional. The musicianship in Nashville is unbelievable. The country-rock players, they’re the best and there’s a lot of good swing players. old time country swing, jazz kinda stuff.
AMBY: Your own music doesn’t subscribe to that kind of material though.
Natalie: No, you know, when we recorded this record it was finished in January 2012 so it’s been a long time so I’ve just been in so many different stages from twenty years old to now, just trying to make music in any way I could and when I was done recording the record my manager at the time was like, ‘maybe we should just get you a publishing deal’. Right out of college I was offered a publishing deal with Garth Brooks’ country publishing company and I refused it because I just didn’t think that was what I wanted to do. I was like, I’m young, I’m stubborn and write the music I want to write. I didn’t want to write country music and then I was like, OK, maybe I should, so me and my manager at the time went around all these different publishers, showed them this record that just came out, and they were all like, ‘what are you doing here? Why aren’t you in New York! You don’t belong in Nashville. This is great but we wouldn’t know what to do with you.’ That was when I started to go into my own little scene in Nashville. I got really involved in the underground scene. I kind of fought against the system there a little bit!!
AMBY: But it’s resulted in a record that’s kind of timeless in its design and style…
Natalie: Thank you!
AMBY: So I was wondering if your record could only be listened to in one place, if you could choose, where would that be?
Natalie: Maybe in record stores! I love vinyl record stores. I love the vibe there, the people… music lovers everywhere… so if there’s only one spot it could be played in, that would be it.
AMBY: Describe the last eight months. You’ve been sitting on this record for two and a half years and then your record is released. What has the last wight months been like.
Natalie: Insane! Crazy… in a VERY good way. I feel so lucky because I had no idea what to expect honestly, and playing right before the record came out I got cold feet, like, what am I doing… we had three shows booked in Europe and five in the US and that was it and then the record came out and it started to blow up and it was like, ‘Oh wait, my whole year has just been filled up’. It was crazy how fast the transition was.
AMBY: It must feel really good though.
Natalie: It was really good, unbelievable, and I have just been learning so much about how to be a good leader and there’s a lot more than just playing shows.
AMBY: You appear to have been on the road for months now and the tour shows no sign of winding down. How do you feel?
Natalie: I’m tired, especially because right before the record came out I’d just gotten off tour with Jenny Lewis. I was playing keys in her band on a world tour so I’ve been non-stop touring for literally two years! It’s been intense!
AMBY: Considering the personal nature of the songs, is it quite hard to perform them to an audience?
Natalie: Sometimes, sometimes it is like when we play festivals and its noon and we’re opening the festival and the sun is shining [looks outside], yea, this is going to be perfect! But sometimes it’s a little hard to get my brain into that mode but you know, it’s a part of it.
AMBY: There’s the cliché then that the tortured artist is able to create better art. Do you subscribe to this view?
Natalie: I think so, I kinda do feel that way. All of my favourite artists are ones that have struggled. That’s where it comes from.
AMBY: Like we said, you’ve been on the road for a while. Are there any dates or countries you’re particularly looking forward to visiting?
Natalie: Ooh, I was really looking forward to coming to Wales. I’ve never been to Wales before. I’m very much looking forward to going back to Spain and we might go to Australia in February so that would be very cool.
AMBY: You’ve demonstrated a bit of a penchant for certain covers in the past. What dictates your choices?
Natalie: I like to go a little obscure, a little unexpected… I like all kinds of music but I’m just a sucker for groove and melody and if it has a good groove and melody I’m probably going to like it. I’ve always been a big Janet Jackson fan but I’ve always been a little embarrassed by it but now that I’m in my late twenties, I don’t care, I’m gonna play what I want to play!
AMBY: So, do you have a favourite cover by another artist where you’ve thought, that person nailed that song?
Natalie: Yea, I saw Matthew E. White do ‘White Light, White Heat’ and it’s pretty epic.
AMBY: Finally, I noticed that you interviewed Matthew in the festival programme.
Natalie: That was my favourite interview ever!
AMBY: In the interview you asked him what his favourite breakfast cereal was, so I want to know what’s your favourite breakfast cereal?
Natalie: Ha, I like muesli and yoghurt. I’m going for the healthy option!
AMBY: Many thanks for talking to AMBY. Enjoy the festival. I’m really looking forward to the show. Are you sticking around afterwards?
Natalie: Yes, we’re here until 4am. We’re going to see Sun Ra Arkestra!
AMBY: Thank you Natalie. Have a great day!
Thank you Natalie Prass, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Iain Fox | @iainafoxphoto