by Kaylie Felsberg
photography courtesy of Natalie Shay Facebook
The general trend over the past couple of years for singers, songwriters, producers and rappers has been to independently release their own music when no one else would. With the rapid influx of artists on YouTube, Sound Cloud, Apple Music and Spotify, playlists can become a bit clogged.
However, the 20-year-old North London-born singer-songwriter, Natalie Shay, manages to rise above all the noise. The songs Shay has released are a direct representation of what a songbird is. The British artist has an uncompromising vision backed with brilliantly vulnerable songs that are a joyous mix of vintage and modern. We had a chance to chat with Shay over email about her creative process, influences and touring.
How did you get into making music?
I’ve been playing classical guitar since I was five and around the same time began doing musical theatre. So, when I was around 11 years old, I taught myself to play chords and started writing songs because I was obsessed and inspired by Taylor Swift.
Do you remember your first big memory of music and then thinking ‘this is what I want to do with my life’?
I loved it when starting out. However, it wasn’t until I got accepted into the Brit school that I realised there might be a career in music for me.
At 20, do you ever feel as if your age is a deterrence?
If anything, I think I’m too old. This might be because I started so young—I feel like I’ve been doing music forever.
Who are influenced by?
I love Little Comets. They are my favourite band. I also love listening to the vaccines & Kate Nash. But my first real inspiration will always be Taylor Swift.
Which of the songs do you connect with the most?
I connect with “Whole of me”. It’s probably the rawest of all the songs I’ve ever written. Every line is from the heart and based on the real experience.
Regarding “Whole of Me”, when listening to it, the track sounded musically different. Was that something you knew going in or was the decided along the way?
This song I wrote lyrics first. Which is something I don’t often do. The song is very self-explanatory and tells the story of a relationship I had at the time. I wanted to keep the track raw and the way I’d written it. In fact, the vocal on the track is the original one take vocal demo I recorded as I was writing the song.
Can you tell us a bit about “Yesterday” and the creative process behind it?
“Yesterday” I mainly wrote myself in my bedroom within an hour. I wrote it at a point where I’d just freed myself from a relationship where it was obviously not going anywhere, and I was more involved emotionally than he was. The song was written to show that I’d moved on and knew I could do better. However, after taking the raw song to Pete, my producer, it became so much more than I ever imagined it could be.
Why make the music you do and how do you then translate that to on-stage performances?
I suppose I mainly write for stage anyway. If a song can’t be recreated live, then it’s not worth me writing. I love playing live more than anything else I do. I make the music I do because I love writing from the heart and it’s also the kind of music, I’d enjoy listening to myself.
Last thing: dead or alive, who would you love to collaborate with and why?
Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol. He’s a legend, a great writer and has a stunning voice.