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Natalie London: Empowering Vulnerabilities Through Song
By Susan Frances
(more articles from this author)
2006-12-06
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Canadian born, California raised, and current New York City resident Natalie London discovered the empowerment that a song can give an individual. Songs can fortify the human spirit, work out unresolved emotions, and free one’s mind from societal shackles. It’s the objective of singer-songwriter Natalie London to explore every prospect that music can offer her to empower her core.

With the folk-toned vocals of Joan Osborne and the lyrical poetry of Tori Amos, Natalie London finds music to not only possess healing emollients, but also strengthening ingredients that build character and unity among diverse people.

She reflects about her own songs, “The themes in my songs range from the usual unrequited love, to grief, to time, to agoraphobia (fear of wide open public spaces). I guess the ability to navigate between vulnerabilities and self-empowerment, especially internally, is a major message I hope to communicate.”

This message can be traced back to the first song she ever wrote when she was just a little girl growing up in San Diego, California. “I still have the first song I ever wrote,” she beams. “It’s scribbled in blue marker in this white sketchbook I had when I was four and I still remember the tune. It didn’t have a name ‘cause I probably hated naming songs even back then, but this is the first verse,” she recites. “If I were a king, I would open the skies/ Clear the waters and open your eyes/ But we are kings/ Kings of ourselves/ Kings of ourselves and kings of the world.”

At 4 years old, London wrote songs that made her feel taller than her 3 foot body allowed her. Part of her songwriting came from self-nurturing and another part was nurtured by her family. “I grew up in San Diego, California with my mom and my brother, both of whom are incredibly creative,” she imparts. “My mom never backed away from doing something she thought would be fun, like pulling me out of kindergarten to throw our horse a birthday party, or when she’d go to Costco and my brother and I would tag along in full army gear with walkie-talkies and run around the store building forts out of their shopping carts. It sounds silly,” London shrugs, “but she taught us to really play, which is a huge element in being creative. My mom is extremely creative not only within one particular art but in life, and she encouraged us to do the same.”

London’s environment gave her the freedom to probe her own talents. She recalls, “I was making up songs when I was four or five and began playing with other musicians by the time I was nine. I also started performing in musical theater when I was four and have probably done almost every cheesy musical you can think of.”

Natalie London began by putting her lyrics to acoustic guitar chords. “I began playing guitar in the 1st grade and messing around on piano around that age as well.” She reminisces, “My grandmother, who actually couldn’t read a note of music, was an unbelievable singer and pianist and would sing with me all the time. My mom though, who didn’t really play any instruments, would blast bands like The Animals through the house while I was growing up.”

Like her family, London was attracted to playing music without much formal training in it. “I haven’t taken any music in college,” she says about her time at Columbia University, “and I only took one music class in high school on MIDI (files) in the 9th grade. I took some guitar lessons when I was a kid, but I still can’t read a note of music and I refuse to ever take a singing lesson,” holding onto the family tradition of being self-taught and not allowing a natural ability to become corrupted.

Besides her family, London’s other mentors have been role models who have influenced her to reach a higher level of conscientious. She cites, “My mentors are people I know working in other fields whose hearts are in the same place as mine, and whose drive and extreme commitment set the standard for how I try to lead my life.”

Though her musical influences are songwriters like herself. “Some of my earliest musical influences,” she notes, “were bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, but in the 6th grade I was introduced to Nine Inch Nails, and in 7th grade I bought my first Tori Amos album and my first Tool album, and I became obsessed with the three of them.”

The contrasting music of NIN, Tori Amos, and Tool was appealing to London because these songwriters dealt with personal growth and global realizations. Her courses at Columbia University in Political Science and African-American studies have awakened her senses and build her songwriting material. “I have always been involved in social and political work because I have this incessant need to see not a revelation, but an actualization of promises made but never lived up to. The rights of African-Americans and other people in the United States have been and are still currently systematically dismantled, especially within the realm of criminal justice.”

Her recent move to New York City came about when she was accepted to Columbia University, and from her prospective it brought her closer to studying the criminal justice system and providing her opportunities for her music. She says about the transfer from San Diego to New York, “It actually wasn’t too hard to adopt to New York City because many of my closest friends are from other places where I’ve lived, including my best friend since 6th grade. All now live here.” She addresses, “Two of my former band mates (from San Diego) who are unbelievable musicians, Eric Kitnick - bassist and Jennifer Thomas - violist, recently decided to quit their jobs, pack their bags, and move all the way from San Diego to New York City to play with me. We are reforming the band, promoting the EP and will be playing shows.”

Her self-titled EP, she discusses, “It is the three demo songs (Queen Of Dreamers, Cried Wolf, Morning) plus five new ones. A demo is just necessary in this business,” she states frankly. “Although I tried to ignore that fact for many years, it’s like a business card but more expensive.”

Her self-titled EP has orchestral elements shuttled alongside folk tones and rock rhythms. The music is a cross section of Savage Garden and The Dave Matthews Band. Her co-producer, Will McClaren for her EP, is a long-time friend from her life back in San Diego.

“Will is an great musician,” she assures, “and friend who I met in the 9th grade. We used to play in a band together but now both do our own thing. He helped record me on certain tracks of the demo and added some guitar parts and bass to ‘Queen Of Dreamers.’ I love Will’s taste in music and respect his opinion, so as co-producer, he messed with the mixes and brought out sounds he and I were both happy with. As for the songwriting, I write all the songs myself, usually years before they get recorded.”

When it comes to live shows, she chimes. “I love playing live and right now my band mates and I are getting ready to get back out there. I never got into the music scene in San Diego so I actually can’t make a valid assessment of it, but I’m hoping to get back there to play sometime soon.”

The impression she hopes to make on her audiences, she projects, “I think the best reaction would be one of ‘Where the Hell did they come from?’”

She is equally excited about shooting music videos. She shouts, “I can’t wait to do music videos! I am obsessed with the visual element of music and I want to use it as a tool to explore other elements of the songs or assist in telling its originally intended story. Of course, my real goal of making videos is the chance to make out with really hot actors and actresses,” she teases, but being cheeky and fastidious is London’s way of taking the edge off of high-pressured situations and making them fun.

Like all performers, the pressure to build a fan base is as imperative as having a physical demo of songs. Her mode of reaching a potential fan base has been concentrated at the website Myspace. She notes, “MySpace, especially, is a huge help in reaching a larger audience and also in finding out about venues, radio stations, and magazines all over the place. On the downside, by the time my band and I actually get signed, I am probably going to be blind from staring at a computer screen so many house a day,” she giggles.

With a healthy attitude, she declares, “Anything is possible,” and she is set to show herself, her band, and the world that indeed “We are kings, kings of ourselves, and kings of the world.” At four years old, she had her mind focused on what she wanted to be when she grew up, and her music is her means of getting her there.

Fan Questions:
1) What music would people be surprised to know that you listen to? London: Britney Spears

2) Favorite play?
London: “Be Aggressive”

3) Favorite concert you have ever been to?
London: Tool, Santa Barbara, 1999

4) Do you prefer New York City or San Diego?
London: New York opportunities, San Diego beaches

5) Venue you would love to play some day?
London: The Hollywood Palladium

Natalie London is presently looking for a manager and publicity agent. She can be contacted through her websites at www.natalielondon.com and www.myspace.com/natalielondon

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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