New Music Friday: Natalie Gray
We're finally back in action with another #NewMusicFriday! This time we had the chance to get to know Natalie Gray, who came down to our Studio.
Natalie Gray is an independent artist, with her main focus being a take on 80s music.
Nadia: All right, so hi everybody. We're back again at the Stooki Studio here in Greenwich and today I have the lovely Natalie Gray with me. Welcome to the studio. How are you? I'm very welcome. Great. So just give us a little breakdown about who Natalie Gray is.
Natalie: I'm an artist originally from Reading and I live in London. My music is kind of synth Poppy. I was once described in an interview as if The 1975 had a baby with Madonna. I didn't know if they meant it as an insult or a compliment, but I took it and that's kind of like the best way to describe me, is that usually [I'm] covered in some sort of pick & mix sweets and glitter. Isn't that great?
Nadia: Wow! I love that.
Natalie: Bit crazy, but a bit fun. Wicked.
Nadia: So, tell us a bit more about your writing and your creative process.
Natalie: So, I write with one of my childhood friends called Jack and he is my producer as well as my co-writer. We've been friends since we were kids. We grew up together. We both share a love for kind of like 80s pop. So, yeah, we'll just get in a kind of a room or voice notes over WhatsApp of ideas or situations we feel will be really cool to write about.
For instance, my new single that has come out Falling Into Dreaming we wrote during Lockdown, actually, which is really strange because it's a really happy song. But we wrote this song of like kind of that feeling when you first meet someone and it's that love that is all consuming and that you can't imagine not thinking about them and just that sickly sweet feeling. We just kind of started rolling with that after hearing a few songs that we liked and a few TV shows that kind of showed that feeling.
Especially in 2020, we wanted people to remember that love. And then cut to two years later, we were in a session, we were like, “Oh do you remember that song we were doing over voice notes?” And we’ve got the voice notes backed up on WhatsApp. And we were like “ah this is fun” and we just kind of write a few ideas down, see if they work, record a few things, see if they work. If they don't, re-record them. So that's kind of how most of our songs come about.
The song I’ve got coming about next, I voice noted Jack one day and was like, I said this to someone and it stuck with me and it was just a sentence and I told him that and then we've written a whole song and now that is the name of the song. So it's kind of just like exploring ideas of how that makes you feel, kind of thing. Yeah, it's just fun. I kind of think like, I'm really lucky that my career is music and music is fun and it is something that we use as an escape. So therefore, I like the writing process to be fun and a way of enjoying life. Even if it's in a sad moment, it's making something good out of it.
Nadia: Exactly. And I love that point, of the fact that you find creative music fun. The worst part about having a career is for it to turn mundane and unenjoyable. Every day you feel like you just have to get up for the sake of it. The fact that music makes you feel that way is really good and inspiring.
Natalie: I can be having, like, the worst day. And I'll just get in my studio and I'll just play piano or I’ll play my guitar and have a little singing song and I'll be like, okay, life's fine. It's fine. On the other side of that, I was having a really bad day, especially in COVID. I found that I couldn't listen to a lot of music because it made me feel too much. And sometimes I didn't want to feel anything. Especially when we were all really sad or didn't know what was happening with the world. So, yeah, I've got a very emotional relationship with music, and I kind of like I said, music is fun and I would hate it to ever feel like a job. Kind of why I think I've never grown up, because I kind of feel like I've never got a real job. I just sing and write music. It's ridiculous. It's great. Sing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. Crazy. It's brilliant. I love it.
Check out Natalie Gray's latest single 'Fallen Into Dreaming' below
Nadia: So you really touched on it a little bit about your latest single, Falling Into Dreaming. But what was your inspiration behind it?
Natalie: A lot of my music is about being yourself and being happy to be who you are and not really caring what anyone thinks with you. Because that's kind of how I’ve always lived my life. I was a weird kid at school. I was bullied quite a lot. So I wrote music to be like, it's cool to be weird. Like, let's just enjoy it and praise it.
I've never written a love song and I never really wanted to write one. And then I found myself in quite a happy relationship for the first time in my whole entire life and was talking to my co-writer and producer about that feeling and how ridiculous it is and how cheesy it is. And how kind of everything makes sense and how you understand those 80s songs and they're so cheesy but they work because that's how they mean. And then Jack wrote this kind of chord pattern that was so 80s and ridiculous. And I was like, oh, what about if it said Falling into Dreaming? And he was like, that really works. And I was like, Because that's how it feels. It feels you're living this life of like pure bliss and on cloud nine. So, yeah, that's kind of how Falling Into Dreaming came about.
Nadia: So my next question is about some of the big acts that you’ve supported in the festivals. So kind of riding off of that. Who would be your dream collaborator? Or is there a person you have on your bucket list?
Natalie: I am obsessed with The 1975, obsessed. Matt Healy. I am just, I am full blown obsessed. My TikTok for you page is just Matt Healy and dogs. I’m like yeah, cool, great. Like, my Christmas this year, I've been like, do you know The 1975 are on tour? Everyone, is everyone aware that they're on tour? And everyone's like, we know. As long as people know. But that's what I feel like. So, yeah, I would absolutely love to work with them or support them on tour or just I love them so much. I saw them at Reading Festival a few months ago. I took a weekend off with gigging and was like, I'm going to go to a festival. I'm going to just enjoy it. Yeah, I’m gonna cover myself up in glitter. I don't really care what I'm wearing. Yeah and just have a good time. I went to Reading festival and they were headlining, which they only announced late. They were headlining, and I was like oh my god, all my friends were raging. And I was like, I said it like this, and it's just incredible. They're such incredible showmen. So, yeah, I'd love to work with them.
Nadia: Ok, we’ll manifest it.
Nadia: How would you describe your fashion style and influence? I'm loving the red hair, by the way.
Natalie: It's a bit, like, a really hard question. I've never really been into fashion, per se. I don't know what trends are. I don't know what's happening. I kind of always have my life. I’m like, I’ll wear that. The brighter, the better. This is quite subtle for me today. I’m quite subtle.
Nadia: It works with the Stooki jewellery though, it makes the jewellery pop.
Natalie: My idea was that you know what we’ll go with something a bit like a plain canvas and they'll do what they need to do with it. I just love anything colourful. Like, I love anything that makes a statement that is also comfortable. Like when I'm on stage, especially, I'm running around like a lunatic and I'm, like, headbanging with my guitarist at some point or whatever. And I like to be able to do that. So I like to be able to wear something that is comfortable and I can dance around and not feel like I'm going to have a fashion accident or anything. Or [have] anything fall out.
So, yeah, I like to just make sure I'm feeling comfortable, as well as bright as possible. I like the idea of, like, my boyfriend always says to me, I can always see you if I lose you an Asda, I know exactly where you are. Yeah. Because this hair and I'm like, yeah, that's what I like. So if I've got a massive pink 80s dungarees set on, you're going to see me. I'm very 80s influenced - kind of. I love high waisted stuff. I love cropped jumpers and, like, Kelly Kapowski from Saved By The Bell. Yeah, she was like, as a kid, I was like, I must wear whatever she was. So, yeah, kind of 90s/80s influenced.
Nadia: I love that. And one question that kind of spurred from what you just said about when you're on stage, how would you describe your stage presence when you're performing?
Natalie: Nuts, Literally, my partner always tells me, Just calm down. Just like, I come offstage and I'm, like, sweating. I always tell photographers, if I'm doing a big festival, get the first song. Just photograph the first song. Because after that, I'm a mess. There'll be an eyelash down, there'll be, like, hair stuck to my face, because I just… I go mad the second my music hits. Because my music is so fun and energetic, I find it really hard to stand still even if I do one ballad. And even when I'm doing it, I'm like, come on, I want to run around. So, yeah, my kind of persona on stage is very energetic, kind of crazy, Durocell bunny. So that's kind of what I am like on stage, I just really enjoy running around.
Nadia: And do you find yourself in the zone when you're performing? Like, you just forget about everything happening in the outside world.
Natalie: It's such a weird one. The big festival I just did when it was summer, I supported Rudimental at Pen Fest, which was incredible, because not only was it a huge artist, it was also quite close to my parents’ home. My whole family came, and it was really lovely, but, like, all day I was really nervous and stressed and was like, oh, God, what? And make sure it all goes right. And that happens. This happens. And the second you go on stage, it's just like, I'm home. Yeah. Like, everyone always talks about nerves. I do get nervous. I get nervous kind of ten minutes before, and the second I'm on stage, it's just, like, calm. When I'm on stage, I'm as calm as I am when I'm doing yoga. It's just the whole of a vibe. And then I'll come off stage and go, oh, my God, did it go well? What happened? Because I was just living for it. And people say things to me, they go, oh, God, yeah, I did do that. Yeah, I totally forgot that. Or, I didn't get nervous about that and I thought I would. And just, it's like a different world being on stage.
You can't beat it, that feeling of adrenaline. It's just great. And it's just that, touch wood, I've never been on stage and felt self conscious. I've always just been there and been like, I'm happy and I love this music, and I hope you do, too. But if you don't, that's okay. And, like, I'll come offstage and then worry about it, or, like, if I release music, I then worry about it, but in the moment, I'm just like, yeah, I love that.
So, tell us about your first ever UK tour? Take Back The Beat.
Yes. And the important cause. It's about this time last year, me and my best friend Farrah, we had a lot of talk about women's safety and how terrified we were to go for a run and how ridiculous that is and stuff. Like, I used to live by this gorgeous park in North London. And I'd be like, Right, well, it's cut off time now. And now I can't go out now because it's past three and it was just getting to the point of, like, I felt like I was just constantly having to stay in a bubble because I'm a woman and I've been attacked several times in London. I was held at gunpoint in 2016, or 2015, I think. In London, just outside my flat. And it was terrifying. And I actually got diagnosed with PTSD a year afterwards because of it, because I still really struggle with it. And the more I speak to women, the more people go, oh, that happened to me, too. Oh, this happened. Oh, yeah, I've been flashed, I've been mugged. And I was like… why?
Nadia: Why is no one talking about it?
Natalie: Yeah. And then, obviously, during lockdown when Sarah Everard died and it just kind of blew up and everyone was like, we're sick of it, we're sick of being terrified. And I saw an amazing quote on TikTok by an artist and it said, “it's not all men, but it is all women who are scared”. And I was like, yeah, that's so true. And to me and my best friend Farah. We had a conversation about this and we decided, why don't we do what we do for a cause and team up with Women's Aid or someone else like that and try and raise some money for survivors and also make a community for survivors of not only domestic abuse, but of violent attacks or anything really.
We contacted Women's Aid and they were on board straight away, which was amazing. And we ended up doing a tour around the UK. We did Brighton, Manchester, London. We were meant to do Scotland but because of COVID It kind of got pencilled to do it, hopefully next year. And basically we just went around the country and we put on music nights and it was very much we said from the get go, these nights they won’t be preachy, they won't be sad, they're going to be fun nights. For anyone who is a survivor, is in a situation or just needs a little bit of support to come down, meet fellow people similar and just have a good time. And something with me and Farah is we’ve very much been each others support system and we were like, how nice would it be if there was more people like that?
So, we also did a podcast alongside it. Like meeting new people who are in the same situations and just kind of making a little bubble and it's been so lovely. Like, we did the tour and I had people message me, being like, I'm a survivor and it was really great to not feel ashamed for a day and I was like, oh, my God, that's great. And then people on our podcast who now will message me and go, oh, have you seen this? You should do this. How about this? And it's like, oh, this is so lovely. And we'd eventually like it to be a safe space completely, where if you're in trouble, you can call someone you've met in a safe space and there's no judgement, there's no, like, anything from anyone. It's just love and just if you need anything, we've got you. So it was amazing. It was really kind of like heart-warming, but also terrifying at the same time to kind of be a voice for people like that. But we have so much support and it was just amazing.
Nadia: So, would you say you built up quite a community now?
Natalie: Yes. Oh my gosh, yeah. We get a lot of people who privately message us on Instagram or TikTok and be like, I don't share, I don't come to your events because I am currently in this situation, but thank you for helping me feel not so alone and that's all that matters. Like, I think we get so wrapped up in numbers nowadays, especially social media. As an artist, you're constantly checking your Spotify numbers, like all the time and it's just knowing that someone has gone… that helped me not feel so alone or so ashamed and you go, that's what the point of this is. So, yeah, we've got a lovely community that all look out for each other and help each other and come to every event and it's just really nice. And Women's Aid are amazing. They're overworked and they are underpaid, but they are so amazing. If anyone ever needs help, they are there in a heartbeat. They have so many people just ready to help. So, it's a great cause.
Nadia: I love that. So you managed to combine that, doing something you love as well as helping other people.
Natalie: Yeah. And it kind of feels like I could say, music, for me, it still doesn't feel like a job. I feel so lucky that I'm doing something that I dreamed of as a kid. So sometimes I go, it will be nice to take that and do something with it, like kind of leave my mark on the world rather than just music. It's music for a purpose, which I really like.
Nadia: We've talked about your tour quite a lot. What is your favourite thing about touring? What would you pinpoint as the highlight?
Natalie: Obviously being on stage, obviously performing. Like, my bands are like my best mates again. I've known most of them since I was a kid. My drummer, in particular, he's like been my best mate since I was, like, 17. He's probably held my hair back at some point. Being sick as a kid. I love him to death and now we're adults, it feels really strange. I'm like, oh, God, do you remember when we used to stay out all night. That's crazy. So being on stage with my best mates and experiencing these things with them and having, like, jokes on stage, and it's just… it feels like a night out, but with your friends. So that's probably, like, my favourite bit.
I mean, even just touring when we drove from Reading to Manchester to do our first gig, and it was like a five hour car journey, and we're all far too old for Snapchat, but we all downloaded it and we were just using the silly filters and just, like, crying, laughing, and just being like, this is a job. This is my job, doing this. How ridiculous is that? We ate so much shortbread. It was just brilliant. That community of being on stage with my band and just being like, oh, I love it all so much, and having that support around you it’s just great.
Nadia: So, we've talked a lot about work, touring and music. Let's flip it. And what would be your perfect ideal day off. What would you do if you had some time to yourself?
Natalie: I’m quite a family person. So probably like a big- that's really hard to say. I love a big breakfast. So go out for, like, a nice brunch, like late brunch, and then like, a pyjama day. It's just always the best. And then maybe like a Sunday roast with my whole family and my partner playing with my dog. Just no makeup, no stress, no Instagram, no TikTok. Just literally being with my family. Maybe watching a Christmas film because obviously that time of year now, so I love Christmas. I do love going outside. Like, probably walking my dog is probably a big part of that. Just being a bit chilled. Having no rules would be a perfect day.
Nadia: Wonderful for those cold days, right?
Natalie: Yes. a big old onesie on. Yes, that's a dream. Especially right now.
Nadia: Wicked. So what would you say in general, are your main sources of inspiration? Doesn’t have to be music focused.
Natalie: That's really hard. Like I said, we get really wrapped up with numbers, and I think in the last few years, I've really kind of readjusted my priorities to kind of go, okay, no, I don't have a number one hit and I'm not making millions. But does that mean I'm not happy? No. My main inspiration in life is to just be happy in that moment and not get too stressed about the little things. We had a bit of a family scare last year and it really shook my whole family to be like, what's important? This. [everything else] Doesn't matter. This, this is what I have, a roof over my head. I can afford to eat dinner and I have an incredible family and a partner that's making that a reality. And forever… the kind of block of my life is my inspiration.
So, when I write music, as long as I'm proud of it and it's making me happy. Great. Even when my new song came out, I showed it to a few people who are big in the industry and they're like, oh, it's too cheesy or too 80s, or it's too this, too that. And I was like, I really like it and I love it and it makes me happy to listen to it. I'm going to release it. Fine. So that's a big inspiration to me is, does this make me happy? Does this serve my soul? Yes. Fine, let's go ahead with it. Obviously, I'd love to be selling out Wembley and stuff like that, but as long as I'm happy, that's fine. I kind of think life is far too short to be stressed. Everyone's going to feel some sort of stress, but as long as you can kind of rein it in and see the perspective of it. So, yeah, my main inspiration in life is just that and making sure people around me are proud of what I'm doing. And I'm not selling out to anyone or being true to, kind of, that vibe.
Nadia: I think you raised, like, a really important point to be grateful for the small things. Especially after the last two, three years, what we've all gone through.
Natalie: Oh, my God, yeah, It's just so hard.
Nadia: You just realise, what is important?
Natalie: Yeah, it's kind of, like I have this weird, everyone always yells at me for this, but I hate vision boards, the secret and the vision board thing. And I hate it because what happens is, you get to the end of every year and you look at your vision board and you go I didn't get that, I didn't get that and I'm a failure because I didn't get this. But you did this, this and this, and you can't plan your life. You don't know what's around the corner. I never thought I would co-fund, co-produce and co-promote my own tour for Women's Aid, and yet I did do that.
If I did a vision board, that wouldn't be on it. So, therefore, does that make me a failure? Because I didn't achieve that? I did this. So, I very much look at what you have done. Be really celebratory about all the little things, even if that means just getting out of bed one day. Like, just be really proud of what you're doing in that moment. And life’s hard. Especially at the moment, life can be really hard. It can be really hard to just be proud that you are getting up every day with a smile. Yeah. As hard as that can be sometimes. And I know I can be a hypocrite and I get really stressed sometimes, but you kind of try to remind yourself of those little things.
Nadia: I feel like that has helped me a lot, especially as I've got older and not caring about… because I used to be a people pleaser and not caring about what other people think I have to do, what makes me happy.
Nadia: I feel like since then I've been just a better person in general because of that.
Natalie: Absolutely. And you also feed out, like, the people who aren't helping you or serving your soul. The amount of friends I had that I look back at now and go, that was a toxic relationship. And if that had been a partner, you'd have got rid of them ages ago, [but] because it's a friendship, you feel like you should. And actually it's not worth it, sometimes.
Nadia: That's all part of growth, I guess.
Natalie: Absolutely, yeah.
Nadia: It's just a compilation of all those videos?
Natalie: Yeah, it’s a compilation of all my friends' happiness, because I've done big music videos before and big sets and kind of gone, yeah, it was great. And I plugged it, and people have watched it, then I watched it, I'm like, oh, yeah, sure. But this song is about happiness and I want to show other people's happiness. So I've got so many dog videos, but there's also videos of people at the gym, there's people on stage, there's all these different kinds of things. I've got my friend sent me a video of him dancing in a club and he was like, I was so happy. And I was like, great. And that makes me happy to watch it. I hope other people will. So, that's the next thing. And then after that, my new single is out in the new year, which is a bit different, [than] the one that [has] just come out.
Nadia: Can you say what it's called?
Natalie: It's called the me I pretend to be. And it's a bit of a sadder one, it's a bit more deep and kind of dark. Very different to this one that’s just come out, but yeah. So that's out next and then we are potentially doing another tour, Take By The Beat. We're currently just talking to a few venues, see what's happening and yeah, just going to see what happens. I'm gigging a lot, doing a lot of, like, live acoustic gigs as well, which is really great. So, yeah, that's kind of next. I just plug along and see what life wants to throw at me.
Nadia: Yes. Because I feel like when you do that and you don't have too much, obviously it is good to have plans, but when you don't plan too much, I feel like other opportunities will gravitate to you when you’re just doing your thing.
Natalie: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's kind of nice to see what happens. And I've literally just finished a tour supporting this kind of synthwave band, Lucy Dreams, which was amazing, that literally came out of nowhere. They were like, we are coming in two weeks. Would you like to support us? And I was like, yes, nice. Why not? So, yeah, just kind of see what happens. Keep plugging along.
Nadia: So what would you like your legacy to be? I think we kind of touched on it, with Women’s Aid.
Natalie: I'd like to make a difference somehow, even if it's just for one person. I'd like people to think of me as someone that makes them happier, someone that brings them a little bit of comfort or whatever. I do a lot of work, I go into schools and I talk to kids about mental health, or said, and touched on the fact [that] I've got PTSD and anxiety. So I go into schools and I talk to kids about how important it is to talk about it, because I know when I was a kid, mental health wasn't a thing you talked about. Like, if I'd said to someone, I see a therapist, they'd have been like, you're nuts. Whereas now it's such a norm, which is amazing. But I think as kids, we kind of need to remember that. So I go into schools, I talk to kids about mental health as well as inclusivity. I'm a very strong ally for the LGBTQ+ community. If anyone follows me on social media, they will see that I scream about it till the cows come home. Especially at the moment, I actually got offered a gig singing for the opening of the World Cup. And my response, it was a solid no, a very polite, but a solid no, you can't offer me any money in the world.
Nadia: So you were going to fly over there?
Nadia: Oh, wow.
Natalie: And I said this, don't even tell me how much it is. Don't tell me any details. It's just a solid no. My morals, I couldn't do it. And I preached so much about love is love and, having like, there should be no filter on love. As long as it's consenting adults, who cares? And I do all the Prides around the country. I love it. So for me to kind of take a gig like that, it just felt so wrong. So I'd like to maybe make a difference in that way. Even if I can just let someone know it's okay to be themselves. That can be what I'd like people to feel about me, but who knows? Yes, I get it. Like, money is very important, especially at the moment with the housing crisis and stuff. But… I just couldn’t, it wouldn't sit right with me, and I couldn't then get on a stage at Pride. I just couldn't do it. As much as the money's lovely, it's not worth it.
Nadia: Last question, where can we find more of your work in music?
Natalie: I'm all over social media. I'm obsessed with social media. I'm all over, like, TikTok and Instagram. TikTok's mainly videos of my dog, but everyone loves dogs so that's fine, but it's at @natgraymusic. And obviously on Spotify Natalie Gray. I'm on YouTube and stuff like that as well. I'm on everything, literally. Google me and I'm on something you use. You can’t escape me. She's everywhere.
Nadia: Is there anything else you would like to mention that we haven't?
Natalie: Thank you guys for having him let me wear your amazing jewellery. I'm obsessed with this. This is lovely.
Nadia: Thank you for coming down to our studio. Thank you so much. So, yeah, that's it for another Stooki New Music Friday interview. I hope you guys enjoyed and catch you in the next one.
Natalie Gray's latest single 'Fallen Into Dreaming' is out now!