By Shelby Robinson
It’s hard to categorize an artist like Natalie York.
The Vienna native’s 2010 album “Threads” is a collection of bluesy, Motown-esque modern jazz ballads and smooth vocals. But York says her new album is full of grit and guitar solos made to express her other musical side.
York’s new album, “Promises” is derived from her rock and folk influences, seemingly contradictory of her first album, which strikes a chord with Norah Jones, but with richness and warmth in Natalie’s vocals where Norah’s are cool.
She compared both works as Venn-diagrams of style and genre, saying the 2014 album, “Promises”, has entirely different labels and thus a different vibe, but still keeps her signature vocals. In both albums her bluesy tonality and instrumental use of her voice is indicative of her experience as a saxophonist and shows her jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues influences.
We caught up with the 24-year old artist to talk about her career and upcoming gig at Jammin’ Java.
NVM: What do you find inspiring as an artist?
NY: A lot of things. I listen to a lot of music; I really like reading, movies and TV. I find a lot of inspiration from my life and my friends lives and personal experiences. It can be pretty much anything.
How did you get started playing music?
My family is pretty musical; we have four guitars, a piano and a saxophone in our living room. My dad played saxophone so I always wanted to play when I was little, I think that makes a big difference, being surrounded by music at a young age.
What is your favorite music right now?
Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot Beyoncé, I love Grace Potter, Brandi Carlile, Ray Lamontagne. I’m also really inspired by Wilson Pickett, Al Green, a lot of old Motown and old stuff shapes a lot of my sound as well, as a singer songwriter.
You grew up and started playing in Vienna, but now live in Brooklyn. What made you want to have your album release show in Vienna?
I think there’s something about a hometown show. I play pretty frequently down here and try to keep showing my face and keeping a base down here. But I am having a New York release as well. I put together this Kickstarter [to fund the album] and more than half of my backers were from back home. It’s really nice to come home.
What is it like to be an independent artist? Are you considering signing onto a record label?
I think right now it’s what makes the most sense, because Kickstarter is such a powerful tool, in today’s fabric of the music industry, we really can do something for ourselves and try to make a little dent in our efforts to put out this record and get it heard. There are plenty of challenges, because you have to be your everything to all people when you’re in charge of everything involved with the release of your own record. It’s going really well and it’s really exciting. I’m in complete control.
What was the first place you played publicly? Do you remember your first paying gig?
I used to sing in church choirs growing up. In terms of a paying gig the first one I had was in college, the parks department of Miami paid me to play at a park opening in downtown Miami, they had me playing right in front of the court house. [Laughs] It was really more like a median … there were like two trees and a bench and roads on either side. There was another park that was right across the street and that park was bigger so they had a full band with a lot of amplification. I remember worrying that people would think I was just some random person who wandered off the street. [Laughs] It was a nice way to ease into paying gigs.
Where are you hoping to go from here with music?
I just want to keep working really hard. Keep playing as much as I can and keep writing. We plan to be going on tour in the spring. That’s something I’ve never done. I am doing part of “Real Women, Real Songs” YouTube series, that’s been something that I’m really excited about. It’s helping me grow as a songwriter — that’s one of my biggest goals not just in terms of my career and my presence, that too, but I really want to see how far this album can go … also personally staying hungry and creating something people can really connect with.
You can catch York at her album release show Friday, Jan. 31 at Jammin’ Java.