Interview: Natalie McCool

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 returns with her brand new album. We caught up with the Liverpool-based singer songwriter ahead of her show at The Sunflower Lounge Birmingham Saturday 24th September.

You release your new album The Great Unknown in September. What can we expect from the release?
Great pop songs, great beats teamed with off-kilter guitar sounds.

In what ways does the new album differ from your self-titled debut, released in 2013?
It’s a slightly more minimal and electronic sound, especially in regards to drums, there are more synths, more guitar riffs and more signature playing, the songwriting is way more raw and fierce – but none the less pop. I think I’ve really landed on how to use my voice to create an atmosphere.

Can you tell us more about your journey into music and what inspired you to pursue music as a career?
My dad played blues guitar when I was little and I started playing guitar when I was about 8 or so. For me it was just guitar guitar guitar – I was obsessed! I didn’t start singing until I came to uni and I started to write songs. But before that even from a really early age I was really good at writing little poems and stories. I am a real words person. So songwriting for me is my way of expressing myself.

Can you tell us more about the creative process behind your music? Where do you take inspiration from when writing your lyrics?
It is mainly on people, my relationships with people and their relationships with one another. This album definitely has that theme – it also touches on my own relationship with the self – the conscious and the subconscious. That is what inspired the title too – ‘The Great Unknown’. There are still so many things to discover about ourselves and I am pretty fascinated with the conscious / subconscious and how that affects what we do, our decisions and thoughts and fears.

Musically, are there any specific influences that helped shape The Great Unknown? Were you listening to any artists throughout the creation of the record?
Not specifically, although certainly some of the guitar playing is inspired by Prince and Jonny Greenwood – jagged, atonal riffs, lots of weird effects. It’s interesting because despite that the record is still pop. Or maybe alternative pop!

How much would you say growing up around Liverpool, with its history of producing a wide range of music, has influenced your work?
Liverpool has a really good electronic scene – or rather there are lots of bands and artists that use electronics in their music but maybe don’t describe themselves as ‘electronic’ as a genre. That goes the same for me – and it’s really interesting, the reluctance to put a specific genre on your music – pop is quite all encompassing and can be a mix of certain styles, maybe that’s why pop as a label is used by a lot of musicians because really it’s cross genre. I just do my own thing really – everyone’s got to do their own thing!

If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would it be?
Jeff Buckley had a heavenly voice, PJ Harvey is a genius so either of those would make me ludicrously happy. A collaboration with Deftones would be interesting too.

Can you recommend anyone we should be listening to in 2016?
Silent Cities, Bat and Ball and Chairlift.

And finally, what should people expect when they attend your show at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 24th September?
Great songs! A real interesting set up – we’re a 3 piece and we use a mixture of acoustic / electronic drums, synths, samplers, backing tracks. And there’s always me and my guitar. I can’t wait to play the album in full as it’s been in my head since the start of recording. It will feel amazing to broadcast them out to everyone.