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Natalie Wilson: The Sensation Blending Musical Genres in NYC

Natalie Wilson, a 24-year-old student, singer, and songwriter, is making waves in New York City's music scene. While completing her master’s program in Music Business at NYU, Natalie released her debut studio EP, "Track Season," on May 26th, 2023. The EP went viral on TikTok just two weeks later when a post named "Something To You" the underrated song of the day. This recognition earned Natalie an immediate fan base, with the track streaming over half a million times in its first three months.

"Track Season" was born from Natalie's senior capstone project in songwriting, which captured the attention of Skidmore College's Career Development Center. They granted her funding for the EP's recording, mixing, and mastering, using Skidmore’s Grossman Recording Studio and instruments from the iconic Zankel Music Center. The EP’s title is a clever nod to both the Saratoga Race Track’s famous eight-week schedule and the recording period.

Critics have praised "Track Season" for its dynamic mix of sound and technique. Miles Campbell from Atwood Magazine highlighted its epic key changes, crunchy guitar solos, and even a trumpet call from Saratoga Springs.

Currently, Natalie is playing shows around NYC and working on her debut LP, set for release in Fall 2024. The album, "Lady and The Champs," showcases a mature artistic direction with diverse musical styles, from classic 70s influences to lo-fi Americana. With tracks like "Great White Shark" and "Siren Song," Natalie continues to surprise and captivate listeners, proving there's no genre she can't bring to life.

1. Your EP, "Track Season," is noted for its dynamic mix of sound and technical creativity. How do you balance creating eccentric yet emotionally raw music, and what was your approach to achieving this balance on the EP?

I am a huge advocate for collaboration. I believe there is no better tool available to a songwriter than another musician’s mind, so having a producer heavily involved in the creative direction aided in my flexibility to try new sounds that I would not have necessarily found on my own. Luckily, because I had spent much time in music technology classes and college bands, I was extremely comfortable sitting in the "front seat" of the production, but not necessarily "driving." I knew how to communicate what I wanted versus what I was willing to be playful about and experiment with. This push and pull dynamic is so important and I think "Track Season" works well in its dynamic mix of both emotionally raw lyrics and technical sound because of a good relationship between songwriter and producer. I owe immense credit to Christian Howat, who produced and mixed these songs. We had such a fun Summer making this record.

2. "Track Season" features a unique blend of soft rock and psychedelic production. Can you talk about the influences behind this sound and how living in New York has impacted your musical style?

There are so many influences for "Track Season" and (as I believe all good records are made) the songs have a blend of many tastes coming together to create something new. In my own listening habits, I find myself drawn to music from The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Carole King, Elton John etc. These are artists that have withstood time for a reason. But I also am loving the flexibility afforded to new artists that are genre bending.  "Something To You" has this attitude, beginning with a very 70s piano sound, but finishing with a contrasting fuzzy guitar solo, reminiscent of a Tame Impala record. "Saratoga" on the other hand is more akin to that classic indie sound right now -- a little Mac Demarco meets Phoebe Bridgers. Listeners may also hear my admiration for Jack Johnson's lyrical prowess and phrasing, which I am constantly striving to match in my own way. 

Living in New York has not so much changed my own musical style as it has opened my network of musicians that are involved in new music. Having access to such talent is impacting me as a person, which I suppose in turn is always impacting the music. This year I formed my dream band, a mix of New York locals and friends I have had for years, as well as my brother, who plays piano on some of "Track Season." Having other people believe in your dreams elevates the level at which you take yourself seriously, I suppose, and I believe listeners will hear that in my new music coming out this year.

3. You mentioned being notoriously protective over your career and selective about who gets to be part of your musical process. How did this approach influence the creation and release of "Track Season," and were there any particular challenges you faced?

While "Track Season" was not the first musical project that I had been involved in as the songwriter and singer, it was the first project with my name attached to it. For this reason, I was very careful about which songs I wanted to debut in my career. We actually had 7 songs prepared to release but as we were mixing and mastering, realized that not all 7 were a good reflection of where I wanted to go in my musical journey. I think the 5 songs that we chose do well to preview what to expect from me as a musical artist moving forward.

I definitely am protective about my collaborators because I need to respect their taste and performance. I also believe that, for my vision to come to life, a producer needs to be multifaceted between many instruments. For that reason, "Track Season" only had a handful of musicians --- aside from my producer, we involved my family friend Bryan West who did a beautiful job with the drumming and my brother, who played piano on a few of the songs. Aside from a handful of session musicians to record small parts of cello, saxophone and mandolin, Chris and I did everything ourselves.

4. The title of your EP and its opening trumpet sound are tributes to the Saratoga Race Course. Can you share more about the significance of Saratoga in your life and how it inspired the theme and title of your EP?

I think the EP was perfectly named for so many reasons. For context, "Track Season" is what the Saratoga Race Course calls the 8 weeks in which their schedule revolves around. Many tourists visit during this time and it is a huge boost to the Saratoga economy. But the name also takes on many meanings in the circumstance for me and this EP, as it is a double entendre to the 'season in which we recorded the tracks' -- the 8 weeks we spent in the studio building the songs from the ground up. 

"Track Season" also felt like the perfect ode to my relationship with Skidmore College, who granted me funding for the EP and allowed me to record all Summer in their recording studio. My friend, Jamie, also a Skidmore student, spent his Summer working at the race course so he knew exactly what time the trumpet would be going off and how best to record it. I tasked him with getting that sound for us and that subtle trumpet you'll hear in the beginning of "Saratoga" was recorded on his iPhone's voice memos. I think it is a very fitting opening soundscape to the rest of the songs and hopefully comes across as very intentional.

5. Your EP contains surprises like key changes and rockstar-esque guitar solos. Can you delve into the creative process behind incorporating these elements and how you decide when to take such risks in your music?

A song will often tell you what it wants when you spend enough quality time with it. The reason that I haven't put out music in over a year since "Track Season" is because I have purposefully been taking my time with the production, and letting the journey of creating take me in any kind of direction. In the process of making this new album I have written probably 3 new songs that we have replaced other songs with because they are better and a better reflection of myself. These intentional re-routes, instead of putting out content for the sake of content, allows me to be surprised by what happens in and out of the studio. Patience is a luxury in the music business but one of my firm priorities because quality always outlives quantity. 

6. As a graduate student and independent artist, how do you juggle your academic pursuits with your music career? What does a typical day look like for you, balancing these two demanding roles?

Luckily I have always enjoyed school, so the past two years I spent as a graduate student were mostly fun and helped me advance my career on the business side. Incorporating my own artistry into school projects also makes the demand for homework seem a little lighter. I just graduated from NYU this past May so now I am focusing my energy wholly on songwriting and recording.


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