- Words Darcy Culverhouse
Following the release of her double single, ‘Hit It’ and ‘Mad’, Natalie Red delves into breaking the rules, swooning over Pharrell Williams and her affinity for dystopian cinema.
If we were to identify a sound for our generation, it would be the sui generis melodies of Natalie Red. Honing her distinctive musical identity since taking the reins to self-produce her debut track, ‘Addictive’, Natalie is transcending conventions and joining the cadre of artists unwilling to be put in a stylistic box. Her sound is invigorating, contemporary and it compels you to groove along. It defies easy categorisation, is it Pop? Drum and bass? Electronic? We can’t put a finger on it, and truth be told, Natalie prefers it that way.
Leveraging her relocation to London to fulfil her musical aspirations, Natalie enrolled at BIMM and quickly delved into the early stages of her blossoming career. Noticing that nobody was fusing pop and electronic music the way she aspired to, the producer wunderkind started carving her own sonic path: playful melodies accompanied by an energetic beat with occasional synthesisers.
Racking up 500,000 streams on her debut single ‘Addicted’, for her bossa nova and genre-blending sound, the Estonian-born artist turned heads whilst supporting Venbee on her tour in early February this year. Fast forward to now, with her latest two singles hitting streaming service late last month, she is undoubtedly establishing herself as an artist to keep an eye on.
Experimenting with differing sounds, Natalie wrote and produced ‘Hit It’ and ‘Mad’ during the same period of her life, although different in style, she perceives them as inseparable. Like bread and butter. Whilst ‘Hit It’ is centred on questioning whether you deserve the success you have, distinguished by a stuttering nervy trap beat that holds melodic vocals, ‘Mad’ is focused on not being able to express feelings to someone. The track’s racing beat intertwined with hazy interludes of synthesisers, demonstrates her multifaceted artistry and polymathic approach; one of which we simply can’t get enough of.
As she continues to dazzle and entrap listeners into her sonic soundscapes, we catch up with Natalie to talk about her future EP, breaking the rules, swooning over Pharrell Williams and her affinity for dystopian cinema.
Let’s talk about your fab new double single release, ‘Hit It’ and ‘Mad’, why do you think both tracks complement each other so well?
I wrote and produced the songs during the same period of my life and I actually finished both demos on the same day. I was really inspired by big chords and synths, so I tried to put them into the project. That’s why the production and cadence are similar in both songs. My favourite ending from any of my songs is the ‘Hit It’ ending. The beat reversing is just so cool to me. This is also around the time when I loved doing adlibs in autotune and both songs have that element, which is cool. The songs are also opposites in some ways. ‘Mad’ is very upbeat while ‘Hit It’ is more chill.
The singles demonstrate two sides to your artistry. How else would you like to broaden your sound in the future?
Honestly, I just want to make weird and cool beats. I definitely need to experiment more with different genres. I’m really into breaking the rules a little bit. My main goal is for people to listen to my music, be surprised and ask themselves, “What the fuck is this?”. I listen to a lot of music but the main genre on my playlist is definitely hip-hop. I’d love to incorporate it into my songs in the future. If you asked me to describe my genre, I wouldn’t know what to say, but I think that’s the cool part. I never want people to know what to expect from me next. I want to drop a hip-hop song and then follow it up with a garage tune.
You released visuals for both singles, which were inspired by some of your fave futuristic and dystopian movies. Why futuristic film would you recommend everyone watch and why?
Yes, I love futuristic movies. When I want to unwind after a long week, they put me into another world where I forget about my stress and worries. I’m really into that dark, dystopian, and almost emo aesthetic as well. Some of my favourite sci-fi movies are definitely The Matrix, Men In Black, Paul, Limitless and Gravity. These movies make you think and have an existential crisis, which I enjoy. I’d recommend watching Black Mirror too, some episodes are crazy. It really makes you think.
You moved to London to study at a music college three years ago. How have you found navigating a music career away from Finland, where you were raised?
I recently graduated from a music university called BIMM, which was an eye-opening experience for me. It was my first time in a new city and London was a culture shock. I’m originally from Estonia but moved to Finland as a teenager and then went to international schools for most of my school years. In Finland, there wasn’t much for me to do in terms of music and I knew I had to move to a city like London to have better opportunities. I’m glad I made the move because I’ve learned so much about myself and the music industry within the three years that I’ve been here. In London, there are lots of cool events happening all the time. There is something going on every single day and networking is easier here. The language barrier was difficult for me. I speak some Finnish but I’m not that comfortable with it yet where I can have a conversation and flow freely. In London, it’s so easy because English is basically my mother tongue at this point.
What’s one thing you’ve learnt about British culture since your move, that you didn’t know before?
I can’t pinpoint one thing but I think Londoners are quite similar to Finnish people. Everyone is doing their own thing and I feel like most people aren’t open to socializing with strangers. One thing that is different is the fast-paced lifestyle. In Helsinki, everyone is going at their own pace and taking it easy. In London, it’s so busy all the time and there isn’t ever a moment to breathe. Another thing is the food. The bread you guys have here is huge! I’ll also never understand Marmite, sorry. Also, pub culture is huge here, which was interesting as well.
Your music incorporates a range of club sounds, from jungle to 4/4 techno and everything in between. Where did your love of electronic music come from?
When I first started producing, I made more R&B and indie rather than hyperpop-ish beats. I think a big part of it is my short attention span, where I feel like the beat and song has to be fast-paced. I grew up at a time when electronic music was huge. At the time, I also listened to a lot of K-pop which exposed me to a lot of creative electronic and hip-hop music. Then, when I moved to London, I was exposed to UK garage and drum and bass music which was very cool. Artists such as PinkPantheress, Nia Archives, Black Balloons, and others introduced me to such versatile electronic music.
Pharrell is a key influence on your music and the music of so many others. What’syour favourite era of his?
Pharrell is the goat. I wanna know his way of thinking because his ideas are always genius. My favourite era is definitely his In My Mind album era. The production is so creative and all the little details within the songs are what makes it so unique. His hip-hop beats are the best but I also love the songs he has produced for other artists, from Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake, all of them are insane. So, his 2006-2010 era was the best in my opinion. I also love watching his interviews. The way he is able to push artists into new and experimental directions is inspiring.
Earlier this year, you supported Venbee on her ‘Messy In Heaven’ tour, which was your first-ever live show. Reflecting all these months on, how did you find the experience?
The experience was insane! I love Venbee and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to open for her. For a first live show, it was really good and I feel like I’ve learned so much this past year from doing more. It gets easier the more I do it. I also realised the pressure of being an opener because you need to warm up the crowd, put in a lot of energy and win the crowd over. It’s also fun to share the stage with so many cool artists. Watching how Venbee performed taught me a lot about how to interact with the crowd and how to get the fans hyped.
Natalie Red rules the world for a day, what’s going down?
Obviously, I’d stop all wars, cure world hunger and bring peace to the world. However, if I’ve only got a day then I’d make sure everyone has a peaceful and fulfilling day with lots of great food and music. Humans are naturally creative and I feel like that creativity is often suppressed in day-to-day life. I’d like to bring creativity and fun into everyone’s day. I’d also make sure all the animals are okay and healthy because I love animals!
What’s next for Natalie Red? How far would you like to take your music journey?
Honestly, I’d love to keep making and releasing music. I’m still figuring out my sound and how I want my music to come across but that side is always developing. I’m currently working on an EP which I want to release at the beginning of next year. The goal is to reach bigger audiences and have my songs impact someone’s day positively. The goal for next year is to do my first live show and release a song with a rapper, which has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while.