Having spent the past few years developing and cultivating her individual sound, NATALIE MCCOOL’S latest album marks a major milestone in the artist’s musical career so far, whilst hinting at future directions for her stylistic output.
The LIPA graduate has seen notable success with previous singles, gaining radio plays for album tracks across BBC Radio One, 6Music and Amazing Radio, in addition to support from BBC Introducing Merseyside. Meanwhile, other involvements include Natalie’s monthly podcast series – McCool & The Gang – successful forays into the world of sync thanks to the astonishing reception of a well-known Billy Fury cover track.
With myriad catchy pop tunes, Memory Girl takes inspiration from a wide-ranging catalogue of artists, manifesting as an 11-track melting pot of childhood and adulthood memoirs. As part of our regular series of concise chats, the Liverpool-based artist discusses the sonic influences and creative approach to her latest project.
How was the experience recording the album?
It was amazing but it took a while. There was quite a gap between recording the first batch of songs and the final few – I think I was still figuring out how I wanted to round it off and still writing and arranging the pieces really. But it’s been a big journey and hugely exciting. I think this album is a learning curve, and also about learning curves too.
Which track is the best way into the album?
When I was thinking about the tracklisting, I just thought Heaven was such a great opener, it kind of has all the sonic elements of the album and the mood is just right as an intro. And it is actually the album opener! It kind of slowly bleeds into this amazing groove and grows to a bit of an anthem at the end. One of my favourite tracks.
When did you write these songs?
As I mentioned, there is a gap between some of them and others. Heaven, Closure, Take Me To Your Leader, Giving It Up, and Devils were written first. A Sun Going Down, Listen To The Radio, Old Movies – these were written last. I think Heaven was the first song I wrote for the album! So there’s definitely a couple of years between the two sections, in my head the album’s kind of split in two in this way – but I think it all ties together and I’m really proud of it.
Are there overriding influences on the album?
Yeah, the sound of 70s drums and 80s synths for me was a big influence. Sonically there’s a big range: Cocteau Twins, The Weeknd, HAIM, Fleetwood Mac, Jungle, Sharon Van Etten, Kenny Loggins, War on Drugs, loads of different bits and bobs influenced it. I think it’s different for everyone but there’s little bits of songs or tracks that catch your ear, and they go in and come out with your own stamp on it, I guess. That’s the beauty of music!
How does the album compare with your previous work?
I think it’s really different. But then people always say as long as it’s your voice and songwriting, sonically you can do whatever you like and it will still be you, which I really love. It’s a great way to approach writing music.
Your rendition of Billy Fury’s Wondrous Place is set to head up the advertising campaign for the drama series, The Third Day. Can you tell us a bit about your creative approach to this track?
Yeah it all came about a few years ago when I was asked to cover a song by a Liverpudlian artist or band for a panel event at Threshold Festival, and I chose Wondrous Place. I was aware of the song before because it’s really famous, but what caught me anew was reading the lyrics – they’re quite creepy when you isolate them away from the melody and groove. So I decided to go with that mood and create something quite intimate and menacing. I think it’s definitely got my stamp on it, and a few years later Sky picked it up and chose it for The Third Day trailer. I think it really suits the mood of the series.
You host a monthly podcast series, McCool & The Gang, exploring different parts of the music industry with featured guests. Did any of the discussions which arose in the series inflect or shape the creation/production of the album?
That’s a really good question. Probably – talking about creative process always influences you and hearing about how different people approach writing and recording music is always super interesting, and swapping ideas and tips and views – I guess it’s almost like peer to peer support! So some of those things are definitely going to bubble up at some point when I’m writing and producing the next record, even if it’s unconscious.
Describe Memory Girl in eight words.
Gloriously catchy pop songs about childhood and adulthood.
Memory Girl is out now via Fortress Sounds.