Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

NATALIA: Songbird

Natalia
Natalia Natalia Natalia

Born and raised by the sea in the South Wales coastal town of Barry, soulful singer-songwriter Natalia is currently causing a stir across the UKâs urban airwaves with the punchy, uplifting bounce of her new single âPerfect Dayâ. Which also features a male guest-rap from Florida-based rhymesmith Kaliba.

The product of a Greek-Welsh mother and Lebanese/Jordanian father, at 15 Natalia won a place to become a professional ballerina at the esteemed Elmhurst Ballet School in Surrey. Soon switching to modern jazz and singing, towards the end of her studies there she began to attract attention from the music industry. After a spell in short-lived girl-band Pussy Katz, Natalia teamed up with UK garage don K Warren. A creative union which in turn spawned a handful of experimental tracks that, by December 2006, were dominating the top of the myspace unsigned artists chart.

Meanwhile, in the same month, London and New-York-based independent Upper 11 Records - impressed by Nataliaâs talent and burgeoning fan-base - snapped her up. In turn leading to her spending the next 12 months recording with some noted producers and writers in both the UK and US. The results of which are currently being heard through the aforementioned new single âPerfect Dayâ (co-written by sometime Rihanna collaborator Frankie Storm) and forthcoming debut album âAll Of Meâ. Which sees her collaborating with such world-class studio bods as Jimmy Bralower (Madonna); Mike Mangini (Joss Stone); and J-Remy (Kelly Rowland).

Taking time out from soundchecking for a support date with UK R&B don Taio Cruz (and fresh from opening for chart-topping UK pop icons Girls Aloud), an upbeat Natalia enjoys a breezy introductory chat with âB&Sâ.

Her new single âPerfect Dayâ

âI was in New York at the time I first heard the track. I was actually working with the producer J-Remy, whoâs previously done stuff with Kelly Rowland and âRide Itâ for Jay Sean. I fell in love with the trackâs really positive vibe, and so I just wanted to create something out of all that positivity. So we ended up with the song âPerfect Dayâ, which is all about having a positive perspective. Then, with Kaliba signed to the same label as me, we got him to jump on the track as well. And we were just really pleased with the outcome.â

What we can expect from Nataliaâs forthcoming debut LP âAll Of Meâ

âBasically the album is very eclectic. It covers SO many different genres of music. And, in that way, it really does represent âAll Of Meâ! Because I like pop; I like rock; I like R&B; I like hip hop... And I wanted to SHOW that on this album, by bringing a lot of diversity. You know, Iâm really willing to experiment, and I donât actually like to be pigeonholed. Because I feel itâs important to get as much knowledge as you can from every genre of music. So thereâs some slow ballads; some uptempo tracks; some R&B/rap collaborations with Kaliba.... Because, as far as Iâm concerned, the more diversity the better.â

The albumâs lyrical content
âLyrically the record tackles strongly a lot of issues concerning the problems faced in growing from a child into a woman. Like thereâs a track âPretty Like Meâ, which basically talks about how weâre so obsessed with image these days. Itâs basically just saying âDo you know what? I wanna be MYSELF! I donât WANNA follow your view. Iâm gonna be who I am, and be HAPPY with it!â⦠You know, with me having been bullied when I was younger, that was one message I definitely wanted to get out there.â

Working with a vast array of producers

âThe reason I wanted to work with so many different producers was so that I could have a lot of different sounds on my album. I chose Peter Zizzo, for example, because I wanted a bit of rock on there. He actually broke Avril Lavigne, and he produced this song for me called âCrawlâ, which is really sexy and very mature. Then working with someone as high-calibre as Jimmy Bralower - who actually did âGirls Just Wanna Have Funâ with Cyndi Lauper - was absolutely crazy! I felt very nervous, but he was really laid-back and gave me a beautiful ballad called âStandingâ. Mike Mangini, meanwhile, gave me a sound that was kind of in-between the rock, pop & R&B. While J-Remy - who we did five tracks with - is very much more on the R&B side of things and, as with most New York producers, works very fast. So, you know, every producer is different and they each teach you different skills. And you end up learning things from each one, and taking that with you on your journey.â

Her diverse, multi-cultural upbringing

âWell, coming from such a mixed background meant I was influenced by all KINDS of different music. I mean, being born in Wales and growing up there was amazing. Because, as you know, in Wales we all love to sing! Then, at home, I was very exposed to the soul and R&B my mum would play - Toni Braxton, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder - in addition to Mediterranean music like The Spanish Kings. Plus the fact I then went to live in Jordan with my father for a little while, before coming back to Wales, opened me up to even MORE different styles! While studying at Elmhurst in my teens - with my ballet classes turning into hip hop classes - made me even MORE diverse! And I guess some of that diversity must come through in my music today.â

Nataliaâs ongoing involvement with the charity Beat Bullying

âWhen I was younger I remember being scared of leaving school, as thereâd be this group of girls waiting for me. But then, what I realised was that bullies are basically just jealous, and that itâs important not to let them make you feel insecure. So, when I heard of the charity Beat Bullying, I immediately wanted to join. And what we do is, we actually go round the whole of the UK putting on music workshops in schools, where kids can write a song and express how they feel about bullying. Then we help them record the song, and they put it up on I-Tunes and YouTube. So it really is a very positive thing that weâre doing. And itâs also something thatâs perfect for ME to be involved with! Because Iâve been through bullying, and Iâm also doing MUSIC - which is something I genuinely love!â

The single 'Perfect Day' is released September 15. The album 'All Of Me' follows January 26, both through Upper 11 Records
Words PETE LEWIS

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