When you think about the new disc Goodnight Stranger in general terms, what’s it about?
Hmmmmm, well that’s a pretty loaded question… or more so a loaded answer, lol. This was a really hard and personal record for me to write and even harder for me to listen to now. In a nutshell I would say that when I was writing these songs I was in a very dark and confusing place in my life. I felt I had lost a lot of my spirit, peace and the happiness. I sort of became this person that I didn’t know. When you listen to the record you hear a recurring theme in the lyrics of unfamiliarity and loss of one’s self… and so the title “Goodnight Stranger” is referring to me as the Stranger. I felt the title suited this chapter in my life…
How was it working with producer JP Bowersock?
From the moment I met JP I knew I wanted him to producer my record. Not only was he a pleasure to work with, but he’s energy really helped bring such an emotional record to life. He kept the vibes positive and made sure I was always happy and comfortable. I learned so much from him and Mark Dann (engineer) on the production side of things and in turn I feel like my ear is better because of them. They really kept me apart of the whole process, and let me, the artist, make all the final decisions in the studio. JP had a way of giving my songs the roots and character I wanted but at the same time keeping the sound “up to date” per say. When we talked about how we wanted the record to sound we decided that we wanted it to have an old school 70s vibe, with a modern Americana sound. I think we nailed it! JP and I were both thrilled with how it turned out.
How was your approach to the studio this time different than when you recorded your debut EP In My Shoes a couple years ago?
So this is the first record that I have funded myself. That being said, we were on a TIGHT budget lol! Everything was carefully planned out as to not waste any studio time because every minute costs. Believe it or not we got all the basic tracks recorded for this record in one twelve-hour day! It was crazy and stressful but we did it! JP had set up some rehearsals with the band prior to the recording session so we were prepared and super sharp for the recording. You could technically say this is a live album because all the basic tracks were played together as a band and mixed in a live room instead of each musician recording separately. That being said, we did have overdub sessions and of course I went in to do most of my vocals separately. One of the greatest things about this record is that I have a stellar band now that I have been playing with for the past two years and so we naturally vibe together which I think you can tell from the recordings. On my first EP, I didn’t even really know the musicians that played on the record and every track was recorded on a separate stem. It’s not to say one way is better than the other for the listener but from an artist point of view I definitely dig recording with my band that knows me and my songs.
What do you feel are the high points (or best moments) on new album?
Well lets talk about some songs first…I think everyone’s opinion is and will be different but for me I love the song “My Peace” That songs has some really raw and honest moments…I’m sure that’s not going to be my “hit” per say but I think that song best plays out my life during the writing of “Goodnight Stranger”. On a lighter note, “Blue Moon” is a solid track, and it’s kinda of a break from more of the moodier stuff on the record. Everyone seems to think that that song is going to be well received and as a band we all vibe really well together on that track! And finally, one of my favorite moments on this album is the slide guitar in “Muela West”. It’s the first thing you hear when you start the record and I think it’s interesting, strong and beautiful. It really captures your attention and makes you want to keep listening…
How did you track the vocals?
There were a couple of songs that I actually used the scratch vocals on. “My Peace” being one of them. But for the majority I came in separately from the band and tracked my vocals with just JP and Mark.
Who plays on the record and what do they bring to the personality of your band / music?
Neil Cavanagh, Billy Grant, Tony Oppenheimer and Neil Nunziato. I had been playing with these guys for a while prior to the recording and I have to say that their time and devotion to this project gave me the confidence to put thing this down. These guys were all so positive and talented and if it were not for them, these arrangements would not exist. They all pretty much had creative control over their own parts and I never really needed to worry about it “sounding good” because they are killer musicians. All of us were super honest, supportive and professional and that’s what makes a successful band.
Which tunes of the record are you playing live and which of them seems to go over best?
We have played most of them live at one time or another but the ones that seem to always be on the set lists are, Blue Moon, Never Really Tried, Between the Lines, Bag of Bones, Muela West and Riding the Wind. Blue Moon is always a favorite of the crowd.
Does your background in acting inform your live performance as a singer / musician?
Absolutely! I think my experience with acting gives me the confidence and personality to get on stage night after night and at least look like I know what I’m doing hahah:) Also, something that I learn in acting is how to be vulnerable which is really hard for humans to do in general. As a musician though you have to be because you are always trying to communicate and relate to your audience and if you can’t “let them in”…what’s the point?
Socially, how is New York city different from where you came from in California?
No where is like New York. New York is its own animal and I think about this all the time. My life socially here is an adventure everyday, filled with twist, turns and surprises, giving me more inspiration to write, experience, and love. I like to think that I have a “New YorK” family as well as my real one. The people that I know here have brought such joy and positive energy into my life and I think that’s because this city just has that effect on people. I’m not a world traveler so I can’t say that this is the only place in the world that has this effect on people but I find myself falling in love with my life here in new york more every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home and where I come from in Southern California but for me my environment is so important and this cities people, culture and life brings me experience every day…and that’s what people strive for…”the experience”.
In a strange twist of fate, you are hooked up to a lie detector by angry ASCAP agents …you are surprised when the question they ask you is simply “What are your three favorite albums of all-time?”.
Don’t make me do this!!! Well these are certainly not the best records of all time but it’s 3 of which I can’t live without…I had about 15 and then did eeny meeny miny moe and this is what I got….
Radiohead- The Bends, Joni Mitchell- Blue, Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker
.Are you happy with how your debut Natalie Mishell EP, In My Shoes, has been received so far?
When I was in the studio recording “In My Shoes” I was overwhelmed, being that it was the first time anyone had taken my songs and gave life to my music. I feel like the end result was more than I could have asked for at the time. I have a product I am proud of and I feel, for my first record, it did pretty well with fans on both the east coast and west. The feedback I get from people has been very positive. I do wish, however, we got to put more songs on it:)
Did you have specific goals going in to the studio?
Really my only goal was to learn as much as I could. I was new to it…this was my first time in a major studio in NYC and I had no idea what to expect. Rich Pagano, who produced it, was a pleasure to work with and kind of guided me through the whole process. As I got more comfortable with him and the process I started coming in to my own. One thing that I was really picky about was my vocals sounding too “clean”; I really wanted there to be a lot of feeling behind the lyrics and I think that comes across when the vocals are “true”, without auto tuning, or effects, things like that.
You did a solo east coast tour this summer in support of the disc, how did it go and is it scary playing solo?
I was a bit nervous you could say lol. I didn’t have a band backing me up. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be enough to portray the songs like the record cuz’ there is definitely a lot going on instrumentally. I thought the people that had heard the record but never seen me live might be disappointed but thankfully I was wrong. I had a great response and some fans even preferred me live, alone on an acoustic – that was a great feeling! I had a lot of support from fans on this tour and it made me a better, more confident musician. But, at the end of the day, I love having the energy of a band behind a song.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to performing live or anything you hope to get across to the audience?
Hmmmm, I don’t know if I would call it a philosophy…for me, I guess it’s about sharing myself with the audience. If I am connected to the song, if I am “in the moment” and really feeling what I’m saying, then I feel that comes across to the audience and they connect with me. So to do that I actually have to forget they are there while in a song and focus on what I’m singing. And then when a song is over I immediately try to re-engage the audience, so they know I am present there with them, and not in my own la la land. lol.
What songs (or artists) had the biggest impact on you as a kid?
As I kid I grew up on all the greatest… Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, etc. My parents were pretty hip you could say haha. Well, at least I thought so. Classic rock and folk music was huge in the family. The songs that told a vivid story, with a voice I could actually feel were my favorites. Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin were probably my top favorites growing up.
What came first for you, singing or the guitar?
You probably won’t believe this but I started singing at 8, taking voice lesson regularly. My dad bought me a guitar when I was 13 and didn’t pick it up until I was 20! It’s terrible, I’m actually really pissed at myself for waiting so long to start playing. I could have actually been “good” at it? But all kidding aside, I’m so glad I at least picked it up finally. Changed my world as a songwriter and performer.
What was the first song you ever wrote and what was the inspiration behind it?
The first song that I ever wrote using the guitar was, “Without You” when I was 20. My inspiration came from what every young girls goes through at one point; a broken heart. I had been playing about a month and knew like 4 chords. The song just sort of wrote itself. I actually love this song and I don’t have any professional recordings of it, but lately I have been thinking it might be kinda of cool to put it on my next record as a bonus acoustic track… Maybe
How does the song writing process start for you, with a subject, a guitar line, a melody?
I could write for hours on this but as to not bore you I’ll try and sum it up. The process for me is pretty much always the same…First of all, I can only write when I am in the mood. It has to be totally organic. I used to try and set aside time for writing and that was a huge mistake, I only wrote bad songs and got frustrated with myself. I find music comes to me when I don’t force it. When I’m mentally ready to write something I just feel it. I’ll stop whatever it is I’m doing, lock myself in my room and write. It starts with the mood I’m in and one chord and everything else just falls into to place.
What’s your favorite thing about the scene in New York City?
Oh god, what is there not to love about this city. This city has everything to offer someone and more. I can’t just pick one thing. The culture, the creative artists, the food, the seasons… I really could go on about this. So, the best thing I would say, is the opportunity.
What ‘guilty pleasures’ might one be surprised to find on your deserted island playlist?
HAHAHAH…Well this is funny. Snoop Dogg :)