Natalie Magee: The Soulful Sounds of Innovative Singer-Songwriter
Canberra born artist, Natalie Magee, boasts an intriguing mix of jazz, RnB and pop in her multi-genre music with a strong dedication and passion for composition and performing. Natalie’s most recent EP ‘Dreaming in Ten Thousand Colours’ is a sentimental collection of personal stories with profound meaning. We caught up with the innovative singer-songwriter to chat about her recent EP, musical career and future plans.
Can you tell us a bit the story behind your EP ‘Dreaming in Ten Thousand Colours’?
The title actually came from when I was traveling to India and I looked out the window for the first time to see that we were flying over these mountains behind a sunset with all these clouds. It was just amazing! I said, which sounds really stupid, it’s just like dreaming in ten thousand colours, it was just the first thing that came to my head. One of the songs off my EP ‘Suganada’, which means a beautiful place in Hindi, is about India and how being in India is like dreaming in ten thousand colours because it’s the most colourful and incredible country you’ll ever see. So that’s sort of a love song and that’s where that first one came from. The three other songs are just collections, each a big part of my life. The first one, ‘I See The World In You’ is a dedication to my friend who was conscripted to the army in Israel, ‘Retrospect’ was the aftermath of one of my friends taking their own life and ‘Worthless’ is an ode to my favourite artist, Esperanza Spalding. In that song I used a chord progression of one of her songs, altered it and wrote my own melody, arrangement and bass line and made a new one out of her song ‘precious’.
When did you start making music?
I seriously started making music in the tenth grade where I had my first concert. I grew up in Canberra and didn’t have many opportunities, there’s no performing art schools or programs or anything. Not like now in Sydney where I teach composition at McDonald College once a week where the opportunity is amazing, but we didn’t have that in Canberra. I rented out a big theatre at the end of tenth grade and had my first concert then, and I did it again in eleventh and twelfth grade. That’s where it all sort of started. From there, I released my first CD in my first year of university at ANU School of Music.
Who are your biggest influences in music?
Esperanza Spalding is a big one, she’s really amazing and I studied her for a whole year at ANU so she’s had a big influence on my music and me. My first influence though was Missy Higgins; she’s the whole reason that I got into song writing so I really love her. But Amy Winehouse is vocally my biggest influence as well. The moment I heard her album, Frank, I specifically remember where I was sitting and what I was wearing. That changed my whole musical life the moment I heard that.
You’ve got a very jazzy, soulful voice; does your music fall under any particular genre or is it more of a mix between a few?
That’s an interesting question. I’m actually a multi-genre artist so I’m specifically doing a bunch of different genres. So all the songs I write have a really coherent thread that comes through them, which is my vocals, the lyrical style and the types of chords I use. But each song is pretty much its own genre and I spent a long time struggling with that concept because a lot of people I talk to and a lot of musicians say you have to find your one sound and the box that you fit into. But it’s always how I’ve done my concerts. I’ve always performed them in four sections. The first section will be jazz, the second section will be RnB, the third section will be rock and the fourth will be acoustic or something like that. And I think as we go on, people are expecting that out of a concert or are more open to it because of the way that playlists are changing music. So I feel really lucky that my career is emerging in this time because it’s in an exciting time for music where you can do multi-genre stuff.
You’ve performed at numerous gigs and events around the world, which has been the biggest highlight?
I think one of them was when I got up at a jam session in Paris and I was with some dear friends of mine that live there and this amazing band was playing and I wanted to get up and sing. They couldn’t speak any English and I couldn’t speak any French so there was absolutely no communication but we ended up doing three songs together and it was just the most unreal musical experience ever. And to think that we could perform together in front of an audience without communicating at all was really exciting. The intense energy and the buzz was unlike anything I’d done before. That was a really lucky opportunity. Another big highlight was when I sang with Norwegian artist, Terje Isungset. He came to Australia and did a concert just using ice and his voice. So he’d play ice marimba, ice guitar, ice horn, ice drum while I sang over. The ice was slowly melting because we had to do it outside in Canberra and the key of the songs was slowly changing as the ice was melting. It was really electrifying because I was so nervous singing with ice and never rehearsing. That was a really magical experience and unique opportunity.
You’ve played at many festivals too, which ones been your favourite?
Definitely the National Folk Festival in 2009. It was my first festival appearance and I had my new band and this random guitarist came up to me and said he really enjoyed my gig and it really made him feel like jamming so I invited him to come play with us at our next gig. I didn’t know who he was and we didn’t have a guitar in our band so he turns up and the MC says “please welcome, special guest Grammy award winning musician, who has just performed for Barack Obama in the Whitehouse – Jeff Peterson!” He came on stage and I just died! He was such a great musician and to be so humble to just join a little band that was just starting out was so amazing. That was really special to us.
You performed at the Enmore earlier this year with dancer/choreographer, Stephanie Tulloch; can you tell us a bit about that?
I teach song writing and music industry at the Australian Performing Arts Grammar School and they were having a big showcase at the Enmore Theatre to show what the school is all about and they asked Stephanie and I to come and do a feature performance to demonstrate the industry experts that they have teaching there. It was exciting for the kids as there were lots of talent scouts and agents looking to see which students had big potential. For Stephanie and I, it was nice to just make art. We were allowed to do whatever we wanted so we could make one piece of beautiful art with dance and music and not just think about whether it would fly commercially. That was a unique opportunity.
What’s next on your agenda for 2013?
I’m performing my headline show on Thursday 29th August at the Vanguard for the Sydney launch of my EP, with supports from the Gold Project and Marie Louise. Apart from that, recording is definitely on the agenda. I’ve got a whole albums worth of songs ready to go which I just need to lay down so I’m just looking for the right producer to get that final polish on it. I’ve had these songs for years and I’ve been talking about the album for years too but I think now is the perfect time because I really feel comfortable with this multi-genre artist I am.
Check out the original songwriting and gorgeous vocals of Natalie Magee at the Vanguard in Newtown on Thursday 29th August. Purchase your tickets here.