EAST Sussex native Natalie Bouloudis is preparing for the…
official release of her single, Burning Pier. It stems from fascinating origins – which she explains in the interview – and sets her up for an exciting end to 2016. Bouloudis will be playing The Finsbury in December (to launch her single) and is preparing to take her new music to the people. The former culture guide copywriter spent her days – whilst at work – scribbling notes and observations – fueling that love for music and a clear passion. I have been asking about her plans for the coming months, her feelings on the London music scene and what inspires the songwriting process.
For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. I'm Natalie Bouloudis. I'm a London-based singer-songwriter and I'm all about making smoky Folk-y-Blues-y music.
Burning Pier is your debut single. What can you tell us about the song’s themes and sound?
Burning Pier stemmed from an apocalyptic short story I once wrote inspired by some of my favourite nautical references and figments from the real coastal places near where I grew up.
The song uses the event of smouldering wood sinking into the ocean as a metaphor for that light-bulb moment when shock and disaster strike so we see everything differently – both the past and the future.
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I believe the song, in part, addresses the fate of seaside piers and those that have succumb to fire. It is quite a rare source of inspiration. Is it a subject/plight you hold dear to your heart? What is about a burning pier that evokes such sadness and loss?
I loved Hans Christian Andersen as a child with the idea of Gothic literature and mythology - and I'd like to somehow incorporate this along with the smoky atmosphere of a film noir in my music. I think you can find inspiration from anything from stormy oceans to dystopian fiction and notions of life; love and death to anything like the event of a burning pier. I like subjects which seem like they would make good stories and I don't see why they can't make good narratives for songs too.
The song came together in a live, one-shot take (albeit a drum overdub). What was the reason for this approach? Do you think the song would have lost something were it polished and subject to studio procedure?
I really wanted to capture the atmosphere which you get with live recording. For me, that's when this sort of music really comes alive at the height of a good performance.
The song was recorded live in one room, one take - with just drummer Hannah adding the beautiful sparkling Rhodes piano part afterward. I think we succeeded in capturing the drama and the song never concludes but rather fades into eternal foggy waters - like it is being lured by sirens calling.
PICTURE CREDIT: Sasha Jor
You used to be a culture guide and copywriter – where you started/composed your debut single. Was it quite a fulfilling job and what compelled the move to music writing and performing?
I have always been scribbling down lyrics and playing little flourishes on my guitar for as long as I can remember really - but I didn't properly start sharing them until recent years. It got to the point that I had collected a long list of songs so one day I just made a home recording and put in online. It all sprung from there.
Being based out of East Sussex: how does the music scene differ to cities like London? Are there are a lot of opportunities for a young musician to find gigs in East Sussex?
When I was growing up, Brighton always had a big music scene and I'm glad that it keeps the torch brightly shining with things like the Great Escape Festival. It's also great that places like Eastbourne now have Printers Playhouse and The Eagle to keep the local music scene rolling. These are the places where we all start. I've had the pleasure of playing in so many London venues in recent years but I would really like to now also book some gigs in Sussex and around the country.
London is your home now. What are the main differences you have found – crowds and venues – and are you excited about your single launch at The Finsbury?
There are plenty of places to play in London. Last week we played in The Slaughtered Lamb and it was a real pleasure to find a full room with warm attention. I really enjoyed playing in the candlelit Servant Jazz Quarters recently too and it was amazing to have some great friends in the audience that night. I've seen some quality bands in The Finsbury and I'm really looking forward to having my moment on the red-curtained stage on 1st December.
I know you have a loyal fanbase and have gigged across London. What do you think of the recent closures of venues like fabric? Is the London music scene in danger at the moment?
I moved to London a decade ago and I still believe the music, arts and cultural scene cannot be matched. But it's a sad reality that we keep hearing the same story of developers pushing aside what makes this city so special.
Fabric is an iconic clubbing location and the end of an era but it’s not the only venue struggling to stay open - with places like Passing Clouds and Elephant and Castle's Coronet to name but a few. Even Wax Studios, where we recorded, had moved location after being pushed out of Hackney. I really hope we can save this city from becoming just rows of soulless new apartments
Your debut E.P. will be arriving soon. Can you give us any insight into the songs and types of stories that one will find on the E.P.?
Burning Pier has a lot of the same ingredients that the rest of the tunes (on the E.P.) have. That being said, Dead Sea Scripts is a collection of tales: each song a distinctive chapter and tone in itself to complete the whole story. There's some old-fashioned heartbreak tunes in there like in Whirlwinds which is a dramatic moonlit track. Then you find a completely different mood like in Firebird - capturing that moment when you decide to be a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Wax Studios was where the E.P. was recorded. What was it like recording there?
We really did have a great time recording with the very chilled (but attuned) Robert Strauss at Wax Studios. We set up; I had a glass of wine at my side and we just enjoyed playing in the room all together. This was the first proper recording of my songs with a band - that hadn’t been recorded in my kitchen with a laptop.
I wanted to keep that intimate performance element so live recording was the only way for me.
I like the sound of old records which were recorded in similar circumstances: just a bunch of musicians in a room smashing it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Luke Novak
I imagine – as with many new studios – it quite technology-heavy. Did you get a lot of chances to perform songs live-sounding and naturally or was it quite hard adapting to that environment?
I'm definitely not the most technically knowledgeable person in the world but Robert took care of all that side of stuff. It was great to be able to try different things until we achieved the right sound. I particularly loved the use of the Echoplex tape delay effect on the outro of Burning Pier. It brings an amazing ‘60s ethereal mistiness.
Who are the artists and musicians that have influenced you most would you say?
It's so difficult to just choose a few people when you love music.
I've always been particularly into strong female singer-songwriters like Fiona Apple, Patti Smith; PJ Harvey, Kate Bush and Etta James to name a few.
I also love the storytelling of people like Nick Cave, Bob Dylan; The Cure, and of course, Bowie.
What plans for the future? What are your goals for the next few months/years?
This is such an exciting time with the E.P. launch just around the corner. I also have my first music video coming out in the next few weeks to go alongside the release of Burning Pier.
There will be those inspired to follow you into music. What advice would you provide them?
Anyone in the music business is fueled by passion and you need that drive. It can be unrewarding and disappointing at times but every time I record or get on the stage I feel like part of my dreams are coming true.
Practice, listen and work with as many other artists as you can - and just keep going.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song (not your single as I’ll include that) and I’ll play it here.
How about Tom Waits’ Invitation to the Blues.
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