THERE are some great Classical crossover artists emerging…
that are breaking new ground and introducing people to a new type of sound. Natasha Hardy tells me about her latest track, Mi Ritiro, and what its inspiration is. She reveals how she got into music and whether Classical is coming into the mainstream more – she recommends a rising artist to look out for.
Hardy shares some favourite musical memories and tells me about her album, Lost in Love; where she sources inspiration for writing; what she is planning going forward – Hardy selects a few albums that are important to her.
Hi Natasha. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. Very good thank you. I’ve been busy - getting ready to release my new single - but have managed to enjoy a bit of the lovely English summer we have been having…so, all good.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi there. My name is Natasha Hardy; I am a Classical crossover singer and I write my own songs. I sound like a cross between Enya, Sarah Brightman and Amy Moody from Evanescence - or so I have been told! I was once reviewed as being “Not quite classical” which is very true; it’s a perfect description and I actually use that at my tagline now!
Mi Ritiro is your new single. What can you reveal about its story and creation?
Mi Ritiro is a bitter-sweet love song that I wrote. It’s essentially the story about falling for someone and then realising that person is not who you thought they were and having to admit that to yourself. I wrote it in Italian as being classically trained some of my favourite arias that I sing are in Italian and the call to write in the original language of love (even though I am not fluent in Italian, I had some help with the correct grammar!) seemed appropriate.
I had written the lyrics and most of the melody when I teamed up with my good friend and wonderful pianist Stefano Marzanni. He helped write the harmony and arrange the piano part in a way that sounded classical yet simple. I wanted the song to sound like something between an aria from a modern opera and a song from a soundtrack of an old Italian movie. Once it was written, I worked closely with my amazing producer Tom E. Morrison, who worked tirelessly to bring my vision to life.
Stefano leads the instrumentation with the beautiful original piano arrangement alongside the string section. On violin, I have award-winning violinist Dermot Crehan (Lord of the Rings, Andrea Bocelli, Annie Lennox; I am so blessed to have him on my track. Then I have Alice Sophie on cello, Alexander Verster on double bass; Graham Pike on brass and Tom E. Morrison playing keyboard. Oh, and myself as the vocalist of course. I am really pleased with the end result. Everyone worked really hard to give an amazing performance for me and Tom’s pristine production is the icing on the cake. Graham actually played the trumpet part that you hear in one take. I was blown away when we were in the studio; I had goosebumps all over and knew instantly that would be the one to stay.
It is from the album, Lost in Love. Are there distinct themes and personal experiences you bring into the music?
Yes. I would say the album as a whole is based on the theme of love: wanting it, finding it or losing it. The album is a collection of self-penned love songs inspired by my passions, heartaches and the fairy-tale fantasies that falling in love can bring. All of the songs were written from personal experience on some level.
As well as being a crossover artist, I am also blending different genres in my music. I tried to really capture my vocals with their vulnerable yet powerful quality to compliment the Celtic, operatic and orchestral elements. I have put my heart and soul into this album so I am hoping, with the cinematic styled arrangements and my heartfelt lyrics, people will connect to the songs.
You are a Classical crossover artist. Do you think Classical music is coming into the mainstream more? Would you like to see Classical music come to the fore a bit more?!
Oh, yes. It’s definitely more mainstream than it ever has been I think with acts like Lindsey Stirling and 2 Cellos doing extremely well - who are also writing original material. With shows like the sold-out Classical Hacienda and the Blue Planet score winning awards, there is a real appetite for this genre.
I think, for it to come to the forefront even more, music should be a compulsory subject in school and there should be many more government-funded musical initiatives. I believe that Classical music is constantly evolving and growing as it blends with different genres and it would be great for upcoming artists to have affordable access to venues that have ready-made audiences to try out their ideas.
How do you get inspiration for songs/ideas? How important are old films and recordings regarding your viewpoint/aesthetic?
I think my inspiration comes from a simple observation: I observe my thoughts and feelings and then zone into whichever emotion is dominant. The trigger can be from a photograph, a movie; from watching someone else that reminds me of something that I have been through or from something that I desire. I then keep a note of that and then the work begins - when I write a song about it.
With regards to my aesthetics, I think art and illustration are more important to me than film. I am definitely influenced by my favourite artists such as Vermeer, Degas; Cézanne, Klimt; illustrators Edmund Dulac, Susan Seddon Boulet and Arthur Rackham to name a few. However, I do love scrolling through YouTube watching old film operas, listening to old recordings of Opera singers and old recordings of traditional songs. A combination of all of the above is important as long as it inspires me to be creative. My viewpoint is always my own.
Can you reveal which artists played a role in your early life? How did you get into the industry?
As a child, my parents used to play Harry Belafonte, Doris Day; Shirley Bassey, Simon & Garfunkel; The Shadows, Rod Stewart and Crystal Gayle. Yes, I know; pretty eclectic! It doesn’t end there though. I used to share a room with my older sister so I had to listen to all of her R&B music and I have two brothers who both play guitar: one plays electric and one plays acoustic. So, I was forced to listen to Joe Satriani and Cat Stevens simultaneously - which I think scarred me for life; that’s probably why you don’t hear any guitar in my music!
I had my first piano lessons at the age of nine and my music teacher introduced me to Chopin and Beethoven. But, when I discovered music for myself that I loved, I used to listen to Enya, Enigma; Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac; George Michael and Prince. It wasn’t really until my early-twenties that I discovered Classical music and Opera through taking classical singing lessons and that opened a whole new world for me. That’s when I fell in love with Puccini, Rachmaninov and Debussy.
I got into the industry because when I was younger I thought I wanted to be an actress, so I decided to take singing lessons to add a feather to my bow so to speak. Through my singing lessons, I discovered my true calling as singing just felt so good. I didn’t realise the amazing journey it would take me on and I am still discovering new things about myself every day.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I hope my album is well received, that my live performance dates get lined up and that I go on holiday as, since I started my album, it has pretty much taken over my life for the last two and a half years.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Hmm. I have so many! Can I have two?! My favourite recent memory is that of signing my first licensing agreement for one of my songs from my album to be on a film soundtrack. It features in the independent film titled Of Gods and Warriors featuring Terence Stamp. That was a dream come true and is a memory to treasure.
A much older memory; this is from when I used to sing a lot in the care community for people with Alzheimers’ disease. I remember singing to a gentleman with a severe case and I held his hand and looked into his eyes as I sang one particular song. As I was singing, he lifted his head and he came to life right in front of me. He had tears streaming down his face and when I had finished the song he just started talking about his wife during the War and how he used to take her to dances and how that was their favourite song. He hadn’t spoken to anyone for years and we (the staff and I) were all in tears. It’s such a beautiful feeling to be able to touch someone like that. That’s why I sing: because I want to touch souls.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
A Day Without Rain by Enya
She is one of my huge influences and it put me in a trance the first time I listened to it. I can still completely lose myself in her music.
Reverence by Faithless
Captivating. Reminds me of long nights of dancing and the power that music has on the body. It was also the first time I had really been touched by operatic music. The track, Drifting Away, opens with an excerpt of Margherita’s aria, L’altra notte in fondo al mare, from the opera Mefistofele; composed by Arrigo Boito. I think it also planted the seed that it is possible to cross different genres in a song if the production is good.
The film soundtrack to Betty Blue by Gabriel Yared – it brings back memories of great times with someone who is no longer with us. The music is just beautiful: fun, intense; delicate, heart-breaking.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
There are a few artists currently that I would love to have the honour to support but, if I had to choose just one, I would love to support Andrea Bocelli. Not only do I love his voice, but he is also such an amazing humanitarian - he does so much through his charitable foundation.
For a rider, hmmm; just a nice clean dressing room with a power point and full-length mirror; bottled water and bananas - lots of bananas! Not too green, not too spotty either!
Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?
Definitely. I am planning a tour in 2019. Dates are to be confirmed and will be announced on my website soon.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Practice, practice, practice!
IN THIS PHOTO: Freya Ridings
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I haven’t had time to listen to loads of new music recently but I do love Freya Ridings. I love her voice and songs check out her song Ultraviolet. It’s gorgeous. Her newest single, Lost Without You, was featured in the Love Island U.K. T.V. series.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Music is part of my everyday life so to give my ears a rest I love to reconnect with nature. As I live in North London, one of my favourite places to go is Kenwood and Hampstead Heath with my beloved toy poodle and I love to go ice-skating when I get time. I also love a good movie and a pizza (Vegetarian Hot, please).
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Maria Callas - La Mamma Morta
Thank you for having me and thank you for asking such brilliant questions!
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