Natalie Pearson has been making a name for herself in the country music scene. Her album Long Time Running, released early last year, debuted at #2 on the Australian Country iTunes Chart and received the award for Best Country in the 2016 MusicOz Australian Independent Music Awards.
Congratulations on the success you’ve had with your album, Long Time Running. I was listening to it this morning and I couldn’t help but notice it has strong themes of love and romanticism. Was that an intentional decision you made before you began recording or merely a lucky coincidence?
I didn’t write all [the songs] at the same time; they were [written] over a really long space of time. So that’s what I was going through over a space of a few years. It was up and down. That turmoil and then the exciting love thing, and finding the wrong guy. It wasn’t a decision that I made to make them all about love, that’s what I was going through.
The album features seven tracks. Did you write all the songs?
Not all of them. One of them, ‘Breaking Me’ was kind of a co-write. I sat with a producer friend and I told my story and then he rewrote it. ‘Chance At Love’, a good friend of mine wrote the song. He played it for me and he’s like, “I want you to record this”. Everything else was written by me.
How does it compare to your previous release, Under The Covers?
[That is] an acoustic covers album. I’ve got 10 tracks of a mixture of country songs and some of my favourite classic picks that I acoustically did a version of. Some of them I love singing or listening to the songs. When I listen back to the original version of the song [now] I think, “Wow! I actually do it really different to how they do it!”
I didn’t actually intend to do an album in the first place. I was like, “I’ll just record some stuff for YouTube and upload them”, then when I play acoustic stuff at gigs, some people were like, “Do you have any CDs?” And I didn’t. So I thought I may as well compile them all on an album and then people can take something home with them at my gigs. I’m planning on doing more of them actually because they’ve been quite well received and people are enjoying my version of songs.
Was the recording process similar for both releases?
No, pretty different. [Under The Covers], because it was for YouTube, it was really basic. The guitar part was done, a couple of the tracks I have a drummer on, and then it was a vocal take. I actually requested no auto-tune, no bells and whistles. I wanted it really raw.
Then, [Long Time Running] is obviously full production. Some of the songs are really emotionally charged, so the production represents that. ‘Mr. Wrong’ is pretty edgy, so I wanted that to have a real girl-power, sass about it.
It’s gone from the acoustic version of covers being stripped back. You can hear my voice isn’t perfect but I think that’s what makes it cool. Then the full album is my heart and soul. I think when I do more; I’m thinking about doing pop-country version of songs that aren’t traditional country songs.
Let’s talk about the current powerhouse single, “Mr. Wrong”. It’s doing well on the charts and hit 10,000 views on YouTube within the first day. The track is quite different to the previous singles off the EP: “Chance at Love”, “Don’t Ask Me This” and “Strangers”. What can you tell me about the single?
“Mr. Wrong” came about from an accumulation of stories from friends. A couple of them were on Tinder, started seeing a guy and then finding out later on, when they had a look on Facebook, that he was in a relationship with someone else, was married with kids or something like that. Another one of my friends kept on dating the wrong guy. She kept on finding the guys that treat like not how she deserved to be treated. It was this story that I kept hearing over and over again. “Mr. Wrong”, I wrote around my friend’s experiences and from my perspective I guess, if I was that person they kept on dating Mr. Wrong, and then coming to that realisation that you’re worth more than some guy that just doesn’t care.
It’s a little bit edgier and sassy then the other stuff and that’s probably more of the direction I’ll go for the next few songs. The more vulnerable songs on the album, I was going through some life crisis in my head where I was like, “What am I doing with my life?” I wasn’t really fully investing in things. So “Mr. Wrong” is that stronger side of myself coming out and moving on.
You feel like girl power coming through not only in the recording but also in the music video. Did you feel that power of it being a killer song when you were writing it?
Yeah. At the time I really liked the song and then I played acoustically to my Mum and she was like, “I’m not sure about that one”. My mum loves her ballads, so it was going to be hard to win her over. Then I was a bit unsure about the song until I played in Tamworth and then I got lots of people going, “I really like that Tinder song that you played.” I was like, “Okay, people seem to like it so I think this one could go well,” So far so good. It has been really well received and a lot of people are loving the film clip as well for it.
I wanted to talk about the video because country artist Brook Chivell, who you have toured with in the past, makes a special cameo as Mr. Right. The story then continues onto his music video for “Hot Country Girl”. Whose idea was it to have connecting music videos?
I had already obviously recorded “Mr. Wrong” and Brook had already released “Hot Country Girl”, but he hadn’t done a video for his yet. I was planning on releasing “Mr. Wrong” and doing a video at the same time. Brook and I we met in March at the CMC [Country Music Channel] Awards and then decided to go out on tour. We were touring together a few months ago driving around Australia and I thought about this concept.
We hadn’t even met when the songs were recorded and ready to go out. So the linking of the story-lines we were trying to figure out a way a way to connect them but they would also be on brand with me and on brand with Brook, like what we didn’t want them to be two of the same kind of locations because then that would just be boring. But I think I think the way we’ve linked them works really well because they actually work on their own. If you didn’t watch them back, they would still make total sense but if you watch them together with “Mr. Wrong” and “Hot Country Girl” second and it’s just like a nice little link and I think it works really well.
It came up initially because I thought, “Wow can we kind of keep our costs low? Maybe we could shoot with the same company and at the same time and hopefully that’ll reduce our costs.” Then I thought about it as a, what if we link the story-lines, because I don’t think anyone else has done it and it would be a point of interest, a point of difference between our videos and anyone elses.
Because Brook had already released his song of a few months before that it was a way of encouraging people to check out that clip as well. So it was a bit of a cross-pollination, cross-promote thing where people are following me online or coming to my shows but then have never heard of Brook and vice versa. It was a way of us introducing listeners to each other’s music and we thought it would be really cool idea and so far people are really thinking it’s cool.
We hadn’t even met when the songs were recorded and ready to go out, so we were trying to figure out a way to connect them, but also be on brand with me and on brand we Brook, like we didn’t want them to be two of the same locations, because then that would just be boring. But I think the way we’ve linked them works well because they work on their own. [If] you didn’t watch them back they would still make total sense but if you watch them together it’s a nice little link.
Are you planning on continuing the storyline in future videos?
We are looking at doing a bit of a follow on. We are still in planning mode and we want to surprise people but we are talking about doing a continuation of the storyline. You’ll have to wait and see. We’re doing some shows in Tamworth together at the Country Music Festival in January and we’re going to probably debut something there, maybe. Keep it interesting.
We did some cover gigs together as well in the Gold Coast. We’ve got very different voices. He’s got the really low, gritty voice and then I have a little bit of a cleaner tone and I’ve got a quite a high range, so we cover quite a lot of the spectrum vocally; and then our voices being so different, blend together quite well. We’ve had a few compliments on harmonies with each other and we thought we’d probably capitalize on that and do a duet next.
Both you and Brook, although very different, are both classified as country artists and are quite a good representation of how different country can be and helping change the ideas of what country music traditionally is as well. Have you seen people’s perspective of country music changing?
Oh yeah, the amount of times when people say, “What kind of music do you do?” Well, “I do country” and they like, “What? Boot scooting and Slim Dusty?” That’s their perception of what country music is and, to be honest, it was a mine a little bit a few years ago too. I did listen to contemporary country in my teens a lot, like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, really into all of that.
Then I joined the cover band scene and I moved away from doing that because the repertoire that I was doing was pop rock. So many people were saying, “You’ve got a great country voice” and I was like, “I’ve had this perception of what country music was in general” Then it wasn’t until I really started listening to contemporary country music that I had this whole new appreciation and realised that there are so many sub-genres of country that there’s something for everyone.
If you like the contemporary stuff or the bush ballad-y, Australian country, then you can totally get into that, but then there’s also the Nashville, more contemporary, almost pop country, and then there’s rock country. I think if people get exposed to people who are doing that contemporary country music and thinking, “This isn’t what I thought” Then they might be more inclined to delve more into the genre, find their appreciation and that brings people across to support it. I mean Taylor Swift is huge! Keith Urban [is] huge, even across the commercial pop stations. It is dipping its toe in every now and again. It’s showing people that country is not what you think it is.
There’s a lot of support for artists in the country scene. There’s a really dedicated fan base. Once they seem to really like someone’s music or an artist as a person, they love wholeheartedly and follow wholeheartedly and support, share and appreciate. It’s like no other genre.
Are those differences very apparent at somewhere like the Tamworth Country Music Festival?
Yeah, totally. Just walking down Peel Street, there’s so much cross-sound going on; every five metres, there’s a new person set up and playing. You never get to a spot where you can’t hear live music playing. You go to Target people are playing. You go to a café, there’s people playing. You go at any time of the day, could be nine in the morning, you go to the pub and there’s a band playing. It’s crazy at Tamworth Country Music Festival time; there are so many different genres – even alt-countries massive as well at Tamworth.
There’s a lot of people who are really into the traditional country that are not into the contemporary stuff. A lot of artists that are like, “Well that’s not country.” But then it’s like, a few years ago what we thought was country wasn’t country back then to a few people too. Everything’s always evolving is what I’m trying to say. (Laughs) It’s literally everywhere.
What do you have planned coming up?
I’ve got shows coming up in Tamworth and it would be great for people to come down if they’re around and see some cool shows. I’ve got a mixture of acoustic shows and full band shows. I’m planning to tour next year at some point. [Brook will] probably tour with me as well. He’s keen to tour again and I’m keen to tour again, and it worked well; so we’ll probably stick to what works and try and collaborate with a few people along the way.
I’m going to do a bunch of singles next. My album, now coming in February, it’ll be a year since it was released. I’ve done four singles off that album, so the next one will be single after single after single. Then at the end of the year, I’ll package it as an EP or an album and have a few bonus tracks on it.
How can people find out more about you?
They can go to my socials, they’re all @natpearsonmusic. My website is www.natpearsonmusic.com
“Mr. Wrong”, off the album Long Time Running, is out now.