Author: Jordan Madden
I was lucky enough to catch Natalie Prass after her show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon and ask her a few questions.
So what’s it like being in Madison, Wisconsin? And what last brought you to the city?
I was here in Madison playing guitar with this artist Rayland Baxter—we played at the Majestic in 2011 to open for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. [Being back in Madison], it’s beautiful. I love all the old buildings, and the vintage shopping is unreal. The lakes are gorgeous, and although I have yet to have a cheese curd, but I have one waiting for me back stage. It’s been a great day.
What would you say to your college-aged and young adult listeners who resonate with your music?
Well, I remember being in college. I graduated a little bit later in 2010, I was a little bit older for my age I was 24 when I graduated. And I just remember feeling like it’s the end of the world, and that “oh no, I’m too old to play music.” I just remember I felt really scared, and l also thought I have nothing to lose, so I always was experimenting with music and trying to grow and learn more about myself. It took me a long time, but I am just now starting to feel comfortable in my skin. So yes, [growing up] is a process.
As of right now, what would you say is your favorite song of yours?
It’s always changing, but I think right now my favorite one is “Never Too Late” because sometimes you can’t really forgive everybody but come to a place where you can forgive everybody in some way in order to move on. But I also think it’s never too late to have love in your heart and to be able to just find the good in people, and the good in yourself, and I think that song really translates that for me right now, and I think I need more of that in my life, and maybe everybody needs a little more of that in their lives.
There’s been a lot of discussion about your state of mind in the process of putting out The Future and The Past, how you scrapped your previous work and began anew once Donald Trump was elected to President of the U.S. to take a strong, vocal stance on feminism and combatting fascism. I am wondering a little bit about your state of mind you were in when coming out with your first record, Natalie Prass, and how each differed. What were you going through when you made Natalie Prass, and how does that state of mind differ from where you were coming out with The Future and The Past?
Back about six years ago, and like I said, it had taken me a long time to get to a place where I felt comfortable in my own skin in [the way I do now with The Future…]. But back then, I was living in Nashville, and all the competition, the fact that I was fresh out of college, and I just kept wondering if I am worthy, you know, if I was ever going to make it as a musician or as a songwriter. And I had just gotten out of a relationship that I, for the time, truly thought was like, the one, you know? I know I was feeling very vulnerable at the time. Then I had the opportunity to work with an old friend of mine who believed in me, sympathized with me, and understood me, producer Matthew E. White. We grew up in the same city in Virginia Beach so he knew where I was coming from and he just was able to pull out the best qualities of all my songs.
There were times in the vocal booth or around the studio where I would just start crying like it was all too much for me…But I knew I had to sing the shit out of these songs and [make something I am proud of]. When I listen to that record now, I hear somebody that is, a little scared, but somebody that is trying their best to make the most out of an opportunity that they have, yet also trying hard to be bigger and then how they feel. And yet, I still went on experimenting with a bunch of different songwriting styles and arrangements. “It is You” really stands out on the record and even just as a song itself – you can make any song any kind of arrangement that you want, but that is a song that just has to be that way, you know? I was playing around with a lot of different styles and sounds I never really explored before because I didn’t have the opportunity to. [Overall] it was a great experience for me, and it definitely changed my life even if the record didn’t do “well” it changed my perspective on the kind of music I am capable of putting together.
That’s incredible, thank you so much for opening up about that!
Absolutely! Thank you so much for being upfront and dancing.
(both chuckle heartily)
The last thing I wanted to ask you was about your place as an artist during a bit of a tumultuous time in our country and world. Your music and song-writing distinguish you as such a voice unique to our generation. To me, at least, you’re a gay icon.
I want to know a little bit about what you think your role is as an artist in establishing a voice for our era, the 2010s. How do you see yourself and your role as an artist that is helping to cultivate a soundtrack for a tumultuous generation?
Thank you, it’s important to me to be an inclusive artist, and to be somebody that stands for everybody. I really just want to put positivity into the world and more than ever before I feel like it’s my duty to talk about things that I think are important and to make them accessible so people can easily absorb them, but also having my spin on it. But I think now more than ever, I want to stand up for everybody, and yeah I think things are someday, are going to get better, but for now, I want to champion all of the artists out there that stand up and say things that are very important and sometimes “controversial,” but whatever. I am just really, really proud of being among some really great artists that are doing some really incredible work, and having the opportunity to work with some of these voices and be lumped in with them is something I am really proud of.
Natalie has toured with multiple new artists whose lyrical subject matter range from new-wave Americana, personal development and intimate growth, the political contextualization of love, and more. Some of her associated acts include Hiss Golden Messenger, Jenny Lewis, The War on Drugs, CHERUB, Rayland Baxter, and of course, Stella Donnelly.
Finally, who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
Honestly, I have a few, but some that really come to mind right now are some classics. Dionne Warwick, that record Presenting Dionne Warwick is such a work of art. Her and Burt Backarack are two of my favoriate songwriters. Janet Jackson, and Joni Mitchell also made big impacts on me as an artist.
Well thank you so much again Natalie it was an honor to talk to you!
No thank you, it’s been so much fun.