Interview with Natalie Shay: UK Indie-Pop Rising Star

– by Wendy Morley –

Natalie Shay is a 20-year-old multi award-winning, indie pop/rock artist from North London, UK. A lifetime filled with music – studying, listening, performing and writing – has led her to an enviable position playing sold-out solo shows, winning a long list of awards such as the “Best Undiscovered Talent” London Music Award and The Guardian’s Music Award, and sharing the stage with some of music’s luminaries.

Her new release “Yesterday” combines solid songwriting with catchy pop, ethereal dreamlike soundscapes, infectious lyrics and textured vocal arrangements. When combined with the song “Whole of Me,” co-written and recorded with Jonathan Vears (Imagine Dragons) and mixed by Pete Dowsett (The Vaccines), we hear two perspectives on the same story, falling for someone who doesn’t want something real and ending up with a relationship that is not what you wish it would be. Or, as Billboard put it, “An ode to realizing you can do better.”

Wendy Morley: Please just give me a brief history about your musical life. Has music been important to you since you were a small child? Was anyone particularly influential in nurturing and/or guiding you in music? Any special schooling?

Natalie Shay: I have been playing classical guitar since I was five and began doing musical theatre around the same time. When I was 11 I was super obsessed with Taylor Swift, especially the Fearless album, so I taught myself chords using a Taylor Swift easy guitar book and began writing songs.

My dad is a huge music fan and I suppose he’s the reason I began in the first place, he’s always supported music being my career.

At 14 I got accepted into the BRIT school [The BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology, with alumni including Adele, Katy B and FKA Twigs] and did four years studying music there.

WM: When did you begin writing? Have you studied the craft of songwriting? Do you have any songwriting mentors?

NS: I began writing around age 11. I’ve never studied songwriting – I just kinda picked it up through listening to a lot of music.

WM: Is writing songs something you do all the time? Does it come in fits and starts? Do you find certain circumstances in your life stimulate more songwriting?

NS: I don’t often write songs, to be honest. I go through phases of feeling inspired and writing lots to completely dry patches. I love to write about my own emotions and stories. Every song I’ve written is inspired by someone or something.

WM: Do you find your environment influences your art?

NS: I suppose I do. My life growing up in London definitely influences my writing and persona.

WM: Do you feel more like a guitarist or more like a singer, or are they inseparable?

NS: I feel like a singer because I think I’m better at it. Although I’ve been playing guitar longer. Although yes, I wouldn’t do one without the other. I see myself as an artist who sings and plays guitar! I also play bass & keys but not as well (laughs)

WM: And other arts – are you interested or do you take part in them?

NS: I do a lot of amateur musical theatre because it’s the best fun ever.

WM: Somehow you manage to sound both pop/catchy and original. Is there a particular sound you’re going for?

NS: Honestly there isn’t. I write the songs just me and acoustic guitar, that’s my “Natalie Shay stamp.” Then I use the production to make the tracks current and interesting.

WM: What do you want your audience to get out of listening to your music? How about your live shows? How do you want them to feel when they’re listening, and when they leave?

NS: I hope they can relate to my lyrics and feel connected in some way. I also hope they enjoy the intricacy of some of the production, especially on “Perfume.”

When I play live I hope I can translate my energy to the audience. I love playing live so I hope they enjoy watching and understand how much I love it!

WM: Which is your favourite song of your own?

NS: Probably at the moment “Yesterday,” although the next one I’m putting out I really like.

WM: So you going to be releasing more songs. Touring?

NS: I plan to! I’m hoping to build my non-London fan base a bit more over this year so I can do a proper tour next year. More songs though for sure.

WM: What are your plans for the year ahead?

NS: More music. More writing. More shows.

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