When she was a child, music was like her Sunday football, and now she puts all her energy into consolidating her musical project and continuing to express herself through a universal language that she is passionate about and where she feels comfortable. Natanya is now releasing Angel, which is the first single she's dropped this year and it comes along with a music video. This song is a real-life story frozen in time, as she tells us in the conversation we had which you can read below. From how music is the only way she can process just about anything that takes her on an emotional journey to the gears of the music industry or her upcoming shows. Keep reading!
How are you and where do you answer us from?
I’m speaking to you from my flat in North London!
You gained an early musical education listening to your father's records while taking up your classical piano training, didn't you? How did these experiences influence your current creative vision?
Actually, I’ve been playing piano since I was about 4, it was classical first for about 10 years, then at 14 I picked up jazz and that stuck. The music I was exposed to from watching my dad enjoy his stuff, mainly Stevie Wonders, Michael Jackson and the Motown guys, plus Frédéric Chopin, Serguéi Rachmaninoff, Bill Evans and Art Blakey stuff I was learning on the side from piano definitely meshed together to make the foundation for how I approach creating my own music. I love the grandeur of all of those sounds so deeply and how they expand on singular motifs, I’ve always carried that through, lots of layering. I think of all my music as different keyboard concertos, with lots of layering around a centre.
And what artists or musical genres did you listen to at home when being a child? Who was your first musical idol?
My first musical idols were definitely Stevie Wonder and the Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones duo. As kids, we came from a strict home, we weren’t allowed to listen to much else, but that didn’t matter anyway. It tickled my ears so nicely. I was heavily into Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean, Hiatus Kaiyote and Tyler, the Creator as a young teenager, and probably Courtney Love and Donny Hathaway too. I’ve always been a hip-hop fanatic too. I listened to just about everything the moment I could get myself to a record shop or have Spotify on my first phone. I’ve forgotten people on purpose in that list just for the sake of brevity.
Were you always clear that you could end up dedicating yourself to music, or did you ever think that it was an unattainable goal?
It wasn’t clear in the way I think people might expect it to be. Music was like my Sunday football. I was born with perfect pitch, so my ear always understood what the keys of songs were before I knew the notes on the piano, when I learnt them, I would know the note the toilet flushed in. I never had singing lessons, I just copied my favourite singers obsessively after school because I didn’t want to do my homework until I could sing like them. I begged my dad to go to jazz school and he said fine, so after I got in, I would learn solos on the piano every day. I would make beats in the computer room at lunchtime instead of playing netball.
A younger me definitely didn’t know what the music industry was though, I never placed myself in one. I just couldn’t stop making things and I still can’t. A goal is a strong word I think.
Your single Foolish has reached over 1.3 million streams on Spotify, did you expect this success? Why do you think people liked it so much?
I know, right? It blows me away, yet I just accept the reality of it. I don’t know how to feel about it. I made it at my desk during revision for A levels with a sock over my microphone. I was about to go up north for uni. I didn’t expect a thing from it, but I remembered dancing to it all day so I just thought I’d share it because. I’m still not sure why people liked it so much, maybe it’s just got a weird crack in it, maybe they feel heard in the midst of their heartbreak? (Laughs). Questions I don’t know even a shred of the answer to.
You are now releasing Angel, the first single you've dropped this year. How do you feel and what does this song mean to you?
It feels amazing. I made Angel with my bare hands. I met someone in the summer, on the tail end of 19. On the plane home, I couldn’t stop singing the melody of the chorus. I have a terrible memory, so I had to record a voice note, singing it with tiny markers of the chords I was imagining, like guidelines. The next day, I woke up straight away, sat at the piano and it just came out, in maybe 20 minutes. My friends Jkarri, Kwaku and I produced it as a trio, we all do different versions of the same job, so it was just a lot of fun making it that day. I left Crofton Park with the biggest smile on my face. To make music I produced, that sounds like the thoughts swirling in my brain is crazy beautiful. I’m even happier it translates to other people.
You reflect candidly on the duality of deep infatuation versus the fear of abandonment in Angel, have you been inspired by a real personal experience?
Yes, all my songs are real-life stories frozen in time. I really fell for someone and I was touched, but I don’t have a lot of the tools to love just yet, I mean, I’m a kid, still. But what I did have was fear of the end. For a person who doesn’t know how to use their words, a song is the best I can do. So that’s what I did. But that intimidation that the threat of abandonment would bring at the time was real.
And what would you like people to feel when they listen to this single for the first time?
For people to get lit, once, maybe twice, then sit on their bed and listen to the lyrics. Hear the fear in them, maybe let it unsettle them. Then get lit again. There’s so much euphoria in the uncanny.
Is music a repairing balm with which you heal your wounds and clear your head in moments of confusion?
Music is the only way I can process just about anything that takes me on an emotional journey. I document every emotional experience with a string of songs. Everyone in my life that’s touched me, that I’ve cried for, for good or bad, is held within a song in my diary. So yes it is probably. I’m actually kind of crap at dealing with feelings in the other way, I’m emotional, so yes, I'm lucky maybe that I can do it this way or else I’d probably explode.
As we grow we live experiences that make us stronger, helping us understand the world in a broader way. What do you think about when you look back? Has your idea of what the music industry was like changed a lot?
Yes, the music industry is an organism, it’s been interesting to see the ins and outs of what I would watch on TV as a kid. Just trying to be as much of myself as I can for as long as the world will let me.
What artists are you listening to lately? Who should we interview next?
I’ve been listening to Fabiana Palladino like crazy. Mystery makes my head burst. I can’t stop listening to music though so it’s pretty random. Different decades. I’ve been devouring Linda Lewis’ discography, rest in peace. She reminds me of myself, we’re from neighbouring countries in the Caribbean, she was a boss. Led Zeppelin, Todd Rundgren, Wings and The Lemon Twigs make me feel proper cool right now too. I’m an Amy stan, so I’ve been going back through the albums as I’ve gotten a little bit older, letting the lyrics mean more to me than they could’ve at 14. Same with Frank Ocean.
You have many concerts scheduled in May, right? Where can we see you live in the coming weeks?
You can catch me at the Lower Third on the 18th! I’m playing this show called Future Culture. Aside from that, the day after Angel’s out, I’m on the way to Brighton to play The Great Escape. Then you can catch me at XTheTracks on The Blues Project’s stage.
And what can you tell us about your next projects concerning music for 2023?
Well, Angel was only the start of a long story. So I’ve got a lot more music I’m getting ready to share with everyone through the next few months. I’m trying to expand on what it began, but show people every corner in me. There are a lot of sounds in Natanya. I think that’s what it’s gonna show!
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