Having risen through the ranks of the UK indie world, championed by pop stars and indie icons and collaborated with Suede legend Bernard Butler on her stunning 2013 self-titled album, Natalie McCool returned earlier this month with brand new album, The Great Unknown, available now through Pledge Music ahead of a full UK Tour.
AAA caught up with Natalie for a chat ahead of her visit to Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on Wednesday night.
- Does it annoy you that the first question you’re asked in interviews is ‘why did it take three years between your first album and your new one?’
Haha. You’re the only one who’s asked it so far… so at the moment, no.
- Why did it take three years, Natalie?
Haha!!! It felt like much longer actually. I guess I started working with another producer, I got an agent and publisher, and I was really refining what I wanted to write about next and also sonically experimenting.
- Tell us about the writing process for your new album, and how it differed from the writing process for your first album…
The first album is my initial foragings into the universe; it’s about experiencing the world as I see it and a lot of the songs are a comment on that world. Size Zero is about image dysmorphia and fashion culture, and America is about capital punishment in the US. Prophecy is a song about one of my favourite writers, William Blake. This new album is way way more introverted. It’s actually split into songs about a break-up and songs about a new lover. But deeper than that, it’s really about myself. It’s a Me Myself & I record. That’s why it’s so honest.
- How, and where, was the new album recorded?
The recording was split into two as well. The initial five tracks were recorded in a 70s apartment block in Liverpool. It was a living room that my producer’s band, Outfit, had turned into their own studio. There was virtually no-one living in the whole block, so going to the loo two floors up was really spooky. The final five tracks were recorded in a warehouse in the Liverpool docks. It was freezing but very, very satisfying to hear the album coming together!
- You worked with Dave Berger on the record. How did you hook up and what was it like working with him?
Dave was sound engineering for a festival I played, and afterwards said he really liked what I was doing and would I like to come and see the studio. This just naturally led to us doing two tracks together, and then the whole album. We are very similar in what we think sounds cool. Most of the time anyway.
- How much of an influence did he have on the way the album sounds?
Loads. He is such a great musician and a great pair of ears. He plays drums and is a real synths person, whereas I am guitar and vocals obsessed, so we worked together really well.
- What are you biggest influences today, and have they changed lots over the years?
Hmm. My big influences have always been Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, Gomez, Stone Roses, Cocteau Twins. More recent influences include Jesca Hoop, Wolf Alice and Sia. I guess my tastes have become way more delicate and sincere and less trashy. I do still like a trashy pop song though.
- There’s a really good music scene in Liverpool these days – are there any up-coming bands our readers should know about?
Yes loads! My highlights are Silent Cities, Hooton Tennis Club and She Drew The Gun.
- What is your all-time favourite Liverpool band who are not The Beatles?
Depends if you are going to include Wirral when you say Liverpool. In that case, it’s The Coral. If not, it’s Echo & The Bunnymen.
- You met Paul McCartney once though, right?
Yes, he is the lead patron of my university. Each year he comes to do a songwriting session with the 3rd year songwriting students. So I did a songwriting session with him. Funnily enough, he came up with some of the melody and chords for the song America, which is on my first album.
- Do you find your music gets different reactions in different cities? Or is it always the same?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I’d say because I am mostly in Liverpool, anyone who is outside of Liverpool who’s never heard my music before gets really excited when they discover it. Which makes me ludicrously happy!
- Tell us about your live highlights to date?
It was a lot of fun playing Hyde Park after releasing my debut album. I was terrified but so so determined at the same time. It was amazing.
- You’ve played in Scotland a few times – do you enjoy coming here?
Yes it’s braw! I have to say- I LOVE SCOTLAND. Genuinely one of my favourite countries. And accents. Ever. You guys are the best!
- What can the audience expect from your gig at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus?
A really fierce set with songs you’ll be singing all the way home. I’m gonna have you singing. We’re gonna have a jam out on stage. At normal gigs we never really get to do any of this stuff because of set time restrictions so on this tour it’s all gonna be coming at ya. Be prepared!
- Tell us what you’ve got planned for the rest of 2016 music-wise?
My album is gonna be available for general release – so you can Spotify and iTunes it folks! Very excited about having the album up on Spotify. So many people all over the world will be able to discover it. How amazing! We’re also performing in Japan in November at Hamamatsu Music Festival. I can’t wait for that!
13 Sep – Gallimaufry, Bristol
14 Sep – The Moon Club, Cardiff
15 Sep – Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
17 Sep – The Rocking Chair, Sheffield
18 Sep – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
19 Sep – Think Tank, Newcastle
21 Sep – Electric Circus, Edinburgh
22 Sep – The Hug and Pint, Glasgow
23 Sep – Fallow Cafe, Manchester
24 Sep – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
26 Sep – Portland Arms, Cambridge
27 Sep – The Cookie, Leicester
29 Sep – Green Store Door, Brighton
1 Oct – Buyers Club, Liverpool