Emerging artist Natalie McCool is back with a dreamy alt-pop offering and we weren’t ready. Lifted from her forthcoming album A Sun Going Down, McCool’s titular track, showcases more of her rich and bold sound, as her vocals slide over a bed of sweeping synths and heart-pumping productions to create an alluring and soothing soundscape. Birthed during a tumultuous time for the singer, the single dives into the McCool’s mindset and feelings as she croons, “I felt a shiver in this dream / pull me out of this waking sleep / easy as breathing how I leave you behind.”
Speaking about her new single, she said “This song is not about the obvious things that happened last year, more about my personal mindset and feelings, it’s about the dawning of intuition, a slow but staggering realisation that you don’t need a person, and the finality of walking forward without them – forever.”
Having cemented herself firmly in the alt-pop genre, with previous hits “Closure” and “Devils”, the singer is set to further evolve her sound on her upcoming album, as she revealed the album will be more abstract and introspective. With no release date set, we got the lowdown on the future project with the singer, talking the production process during lockdown, dealing with the cancellation of festivals and shows and how she thinks this project is her most mature yet.
Check out the interview below…
Hey Natalie, how are you? How’s lockdown been?
I’m good thanks! Lockdown’s been all at once heartbreaking, heartwarming, hopeless and hopeful, depending on my mood and what’s been happening. But I think I’ve definitely found a few great coping mechanisms, and I’ve been really busy with music, I feel lucky to have new music lined up to keep me busy and looking forward. There’s been a lot of adjustment to this bizarre new landscape and finding ways to connect – I really miss the everyday conversations and connections, and also missing adventure big time. As someone who counts travelling as their big hobby and inspiration, I’ve really missed that. Can’t wait to get lost someplace new, for sure.
How would you sum up 2020?
Tumultuous, but also really monotonous. I had a few huge shifts in my life personally which really affected me on a few different levels but, it sounds strange to say, it was refreshing to have some drama, considering lockdown and the cancellation of all things social in real life. Looking back I think I’ve come a good way from how 2020 started. I’ve got more time for the things that count and I’m more aware of what I need and what’s no good. It makes me laugh how, whenever something intense happens, people always say “well it’s good songwriting material” – in the moment it feels a bit insensitive but…there’s definitely truth in that.
What is your earliest memory of music?
I have a few. When I was a kid, my dad playing “Every Breath You Take” on guitar most evenings, I’d be in bed and would be so fascinated by the harmony, falling asleep to it. A really warm feeling. I remember learning a Spanish guitar piece at primary school. I remember hearing “Fairground” by Simply Red and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics on Radio 2 in the car, I think that was the first time I thought about songwriting and structure, song sections, how the melody and music made me feel. Listening to my older sisters playing records by Jeff Buckley, The Cocteau Twins, Placebo. Mesmerised by Jeff Buckley’s voice and songs. Watching Top of The Pops, people jumping around dancing and singing, playing guitar, playing drums, I remember thinking…that looks fun.
What was it like hearing your music on the radio for the first time?
I can’t remember the first time but I can certainly remember the first BBC Radio 1 play, I didn’t even know it was getting played and I got a tweet about it. I literally jumped off my bed and ran downstairs yelling. It was an amazing feeling, I was so proud. You don’t make music to get played on the radio, but when it happens, especially if it’s Radio 1 or 6 Music or KEXP, it is a strong validation that your song is resonating with an audience, that’s my take away.
Congratulations on your new single “A Sun Going Down”, what was the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! Well without going into too much personal detail, it’s about leaving someone or something behind and moving forward alone. At the time of writing, there was definitely a situation happening that influenced the lyrics and concept, definitely. But now upon release, it’s multilayered for me. I hope people find their own interpretation in it. With the actual writing process, I have a habit of writing odd dissonant melodies and harmony, and one of my big inspirations synths/sounds wise are the Cocteau Twins. So these two things were definitely in my subconscious when I was writing the main synth, written first. I wanted it to sound really cold and huge. I wrote the song with Dan Haggis (The Wombats) and he couldn’t get his head around the harmony of the chorus going into the verse, the bass/harmony drops down a semitone. He was like what? I think my ear just automatically goes to the odd, less expected notes. But that’s what I like!
It has quite an emotional back story to it, what was it like tapping into that mindset?
To be honest, when we were in the studio writing it, I felt so shit that day – really loose and rough like all my insides were just rattling around. Definitely emotional. But I’m not one to ever cancel anything creative because of something personal happening – as above, it’s kind of crass but it can be the best time to write and be creative. I was feeling so unresolved that day, yeah something was happening alongside that wasn’t resolving, or I hadn’t resolved it yet, so I think that song came out as a statement and declaration for moving forward. I think we do need to remember that art doesn’t come from a vacuum, we are humans not machines, songs can be really painful, things can be happening alongside the creative process that influence it, but might be distressing or upsetting. It can be weird when you’re in a studio environment and that’s happening to you, I’m quite proud and I can internalise things if I’m not around really good friends, people I feel 100% comfortable with. So even though it’s creative work I didn’t want to talk about it other than through lyrics. It’s a weird feeling but you have to use it.
It’s also taken from your upcoming album, what can we expect from the project?
Songs about childhood and adulthood. Songs that feel introspective. Songs about not having a voice, finding a voice, jealousy, loss and peace. The album isn’t really about the big wide world, it feels very close. I do write about people and my relationships with other people but I think this album’s a bit more abstract, about my own memories and things within yourself, about recognising what’s good for you and what’s not, about learning curves. I produced and mixed a few tracks on there too – so it’s huge for me, proof of my own progress as a producer and collaborator too. The message and the way it sounds, the themes and vision – yeah I’m really proud of it and I feel strengthened by it.
Have you faced any challenges while producing this album in a difficult time?
The main challenge was that it came about over a longer period of time, because I just wanted to keep writing and writing until I found I had a collection of songs that really fit together concept-wise, sound-wise. So I didn’t have a finished version until January, which I suppose is quite late on! Obviously, another challenge was the cancellation of shows and festivals, which makes it hard for the songs to reach more people. Playing an album live is a huge part of the process for me because I consider the live side of the music deeply too and I really am an artist who likes to perform. So that aspect was hard.
How do you think this next album will differ from your previous?
It’s less specific. It is about things that have happened in my life but as I said above, more abstract. I think there’s more resolution in it. I really hate to say it, but also it’s definitely more mature, not just songwriting-wise but sounds-wise. It’s smoother, less jagged edges, rhythms and sounds.
Who would you say has inspired you?
I think PJ Harvey is such a force. St Vincent too. Laura Mvula whose arrangements are glorious. The ones I’ve already mentioned: Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins. For this album, weirdly: Kenny Loggins, The War on Drugs, Kate Bush, Angel Olsen.
Who would you love to work with?
So many people. Including those above, and David Lynch! I’d love Chuck Palahniuk to give me some concepts to use as source material, his ideas are off the wall.
Aside from the album, what is next for you?
Co-writing for different projects, including another project I launched with a friend that’s sounding great. Learning and developing my production and mixing skills. Singing and playing the guitar for Whyte Horses. Taking my podcast McCool & The Gang onto the radio. Travelling!