EXCLUSIVE: NATALI IS READY FOR THE RIDE OF HER LIFE 0 231

Twenty-year-old Natali Felicia is keeping busy. Not only is she working towards establishing herself in the music industry, she is, by her own admission: “working in a clothing boutique as well as at a café on Södermalm.” She is also a woman of many passions, including but not limited to “travel, exploring new places and meeting new people.” She adds: “I also love vinyls, yoga and Netflix.”

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When asked about what makes her unique in terms of the music she’s creating, she’s reluctant to say much, but she does admit: “I have my own voice and my own way of expressing myself…my own personality, you know? We’re all unique creatures with unique personalities. I’ve started to create my own world in music, though I think that is a constant journey.”

She lists her influences as Mazzy Star, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and The Cardigans. “They’re bands and artists that have been a big part of my life growing up,” she says. “I have always listened to very different kinds of music in different time periods. In recent years, I have started to listen more and more to a lot of Scandi artists such as Ane Brun, Nikki And The Dove, Fever Ray and Jenny Wilson – lovely, strong women with interesting ways of expression and interesting personalities.”

Natali’s family are artistic and such creativity has had a big impact on her as she carved out her own career, as she explains: “My dad has always been working within drama and theatre. I believe that has opened up a creative world for me. I have always loved to express myself through different creative ways: playing theatre, writing and I practiced figure skating for quite a long time. Music and singing was something I first started to explore more about six years ago when my friends in school told me I had a good voice and that I should sing more. That really motivated me to continue and explore it further.” So did she enjoy music in school? It would seem not. “It wasn’t my favourite subject,” she confesses. “I moved to Stockholm five years ago, got a guitar, joined a creative writing group and a couple of choirs, one among them a gospel choir. Eventually I started to write my own songs and performing them at different musical events, open mic shows etc. Things started to click.”

Reflecting on the first album she bought, it takes her a minute to remember. “The Beatles 1967-1970’ – I had asked for it for my 10th birthday. My dad always listened to The Beatles in the car. I loved that and I know all the songs by heart. As soon as I got home from school or practice I listened to this album in my room as I just lay on the bed, studied or whatever.  I guess this is where the interest of music started growing – as I started to really listen to the lyrics, singing along and picturing the songs in scenes before me.” She also remembers seeing The Sounds live in Stockholm and muses: “I thought Maja, the lead singer, was awesome and that I really liked their sound. I remember that was when my dreams of being in a band started…”

natali long

So when it comes to her song-writing influences, which would she say comes top? “That would ultimately be the different experiences through life,” she says quite seriously. “Sometimes it´s an easy process and sometimes it’s very hard. Often I write down something I think about- different phrases I come up with in the moment. And then I sit down and try to figure out what it is I actually want to say… eventually these phrases start to come together. Then, I might share the idea with a producer and we can continue to develop that further. I like to co-write – when you can have an open dialogue through the process with someone and try to see the lyrics through different perspectives. It’s a varied process for me as I think it is for a lot of people.”

When asked to pick which one of her songs she’s most proud of, she pauses for a moment. “That’s hard,” she admits, “But ‘Used To Be’ is a song very close to my heart. It’s a song that was left to rest and evolve for a few years before it came to be what it is today. And that’s what’s so beautiful I think with the process it went through, the fact that it wasn’t hurried. I had to grow and develop myself before I felt this song and I were ready to be heard by the rest of the world.”

So does she find it easier to pick her favourite song by another artist? Not really. “I have many favourite songs. But if I have to pick one, I would say ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell. It contains such brilliant lyrics about life and love. What I think is so interesting is when listening to her first recording of it from the album ‘Clouds in 69’ and comparing it to the recording from the album ‘Both Sides Now in 2000’, you can really hear how she’s grown and actually got more experience of life in the expression of her voice and singing. She and her music are just brilliant.”

Hailing from Sweden, unsurprisingly she grew up listening to Abba while other artists such as Robyn have also gone on to achieve huge success. Is she proud of that success and how does she feel now she’s on her own music path? “I’m so proud of the fact that this small country is delivering such good music and the artists are doing so well internationally. It is a tough world and competition is tough out there. So it is definitely inspiring to see how we Swedes find our way into it.” She adds, after a pause: “I believe Swedes, in general, are very open and social. We’re a very multi-cultural country. We travel a lot, are curious, open to meet new people, open minded and very dedicated. Still we’re quite down to earth and humble. I think maybe that makes us interesting and lively to work with.”

As a keen user of social media, she admits: “Social media platforms are a vital part of the connection between me and the listeners. I have quite mixed feelings regarding managing the socials though. On one hand I think it can be quite fun, as I like to take photos and write. But on the other hand, it takes a great deal of time and energy. Nowadays you see people staring down at their iPhones and iPads etc all the time and that scares me a bit. I believe it is about finding a good balance in all this sharing and connecting so it doesn’t take over your life.”

Having recently taken a trip to London, did she enjoy it and does she hope to come back? “Absolutely!” she cries. “That was a fun but very short trip! I love London and the English people. I would very much like to be back soon again. I got such a wonderful response to ‘Used To Be’ from the UK, I would love to come and play in London and other cities in the country sometime. I’ve recently played a show supporting Paolo Nutino in Stockholm, and I’m playing a festival there too shortly which will be fun, but aside from that, I don’t quite know what my live show plans are. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted though! Playing live is hugely important to me as it gives me a chance to meet and interact with fans as well as my band. I dream of touring internationally, so hopefully I can work my way towards fulfilling that. Ultimately, I’m excited for what lies ahead, but like to enjoy each and every day. At the moment, my focus is on my new single ‘Easy Ride’ which I am thrilled to be releasing soon. I hope everyone likes it!”

Easy Ride is available on August 5.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natali-Felicia/896756537022705

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CRYSTAL CLAYTON CHATS NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & ARTISTIC INFLUENCES 0 44

Following the release of her latest single “Is It Me?” and EP 3AM earlier this month and with her hit song “Blinding Lights” having already been streamed more than 50,000 times on Spotify, there’s no doubt that Crystal Clayton is certainly well on the way to making quite a name for herself. As she looks to a bright future, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to chat artistic inspirations, the power of social media and what, many years from now, she’d most like to be remembered for.

TITL: Please introduce yourself in a few words.

Crystal Clayton: My name is Crystal Clayton and I am an independent pop music recording artist/ songwriter

TITL: Has music always been the career goal for you or did you have other ambitions before embarking on this journey?

CC: I’ve wanted to be a singer since I was a kid. When I was young, I was constantly dancing and singing around the house. I wanted to have a voice like Celine Dion.  As I grew up, I started taking voice lessons and performing in theaters and shows. I began writing songs when I was a teenager and I was hooked. There has never been a plan B. I’ve always wanted a career in music.

TITL: Which artists and bands are you most inspired and influenced by, and what is it about the music they make that you like so much?

CC: I try to be unique and true to myself, but there are several artists I’m very much influenced by.  Growing up, like I said, I was obsessed with Celine Dion and also Mariah Carey. I just loved powerful voices and I tried to emulate that. Over recent years I have been heavily influenced by Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Right now I’m listening to a lot of SZA and Banks! I think I take bits and pieces of what I listen to and create my own version of the music I love.

TITL: Is there one particular artist you might say you’re in any way similar to?

CC: I had a gentlemen with Music Is My Radar review my new project and he said the most relatable artist he could think of would be Rihanna. But I think this project is definitely more R&B/pop than some of my previous material that has been much more strait forward pop. I really can’t pin-point one specific artist that I’m like.

TITL: If you had to give one reason as to why you stand out among your artistic counterparts, what would you say?

CC: What I love about the music I create is that it is catchy and it is pop music, but I give the lyrics life and authenticity. My lyrics are emotionally driven because I am a very emotional person. I like to infuse my love of R&B with my love of pop music.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written? 

CC: Growing up my parents had me listening to a lot of classic rock. I loved Boston, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Eagles… I believe hands down that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the best song ever written. The range of emotions in intonation, vocally and instrumentally is one of a kind.  There is a lot of current music that I often think to myself “I wish I had written that song”.  Rihanna’s 2016 album, ‘Anti’ is a masterpiece.  I also really love Kehlani’s new album ‘While We Wait’ as well as ‘CTRL’ by SZA. I like to think that my musical taste is well rounded…I just love music. I’m influenced by oldies and also current music. 

I’m also very much influenced by my own life experiences. I can easily look back on situations from my past and draw from those experiences. Even if it’s been a while since the relationship or event took place, my empathy and ability to feed on those emotions helps me write.

TITL: What made you choose “Is It Me?” to be your lead single? Is there a particular story behind the song?

CC: “Is It Me?” was actually a very easy song for me to write. It’s about that excited feeling you get when you believe in what you’re doing and you know that good things are in the future. It’s just a feel good song with feel good vibes. I was able to share that excitement with my producer and team and we just made a happy song. 

I think I chose “Is It Me?” because it resonated well with a lot of friends I shared it with. They liked the energy of the song and it’s also a bit more pop than some of the other songs on this project.

TITL: This is also your first release since moving from Kansas City to LA. Why did you decide that now was the right time to do so and how have you found the transition?

CC: I was actually hoping to put the project out before I left Kansas City, but things were not coming together quickly enough, and I wanted to wait until after the holidays. I just figured, this is a new beginning for me, so why not release a new project that somewhat re-brands what I’ve done so far.

I found myself very stagnant in the Kansas City music scene. I was born in LA and brought to the Midwest when I was very young, and I had always dreamed of moving back out here. I got to the point where it was like, ‘just take that risk! Just follow that dream, what do you have to lose?’ The transition has been an adventure! I still haven’t fully immersed myself into the LA music scene, but it’s coming along. I’m still the new kid trying to get the hang of things around here.

TITL: “Is It Me?” features on your new EP 3AM which came out earlier this month. For those who haven’t heard it yet, how would you sum it up?

CC: 3:AM has many different layers to it. I think it’s an extension of myself, as a young woman, coming into her own. There is a common element in a lot of my music that has this sense of reaching towards aspirations, and big dreams that you can’t seem to let go of. I think that some elements of 3:AM also have that. There’s the confidence of ‘Is It Me?’, the sexiness of “Mine” and “Falter”, the heartbreak of “3:AM”, and then there is “Pieces” that show’s my vulnerability. In that song I’m really just saying, sometimes I’m not okay and really I’m just barely keeping this all together, but I HAVE to keep going. I think that a lot of people can relate to this project and that’s what I strive for. 

TITL: Do you have a favourite track on the collection and if so, which is it and why?

CC: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite because each one is special to me in its own way. Each song captures a different moment and experience. I think, for me, “3:AM” is one that really resonates well. I think that song is my best work lyrically, and that a lot of people can relate to it. We’ve all been in relationships that we know in the back of our minds will not last, but we continue on because we’re in love.

TITL: Will you be/are you touring/performing in support of the EP and if so, where can people come and see you?

CC: I haven’t started planning a tour yet. I have been focusing on promotion of the project and performing around my new city, LA. You can keep updated with performances and music by following me on social media and my website; @criddleclayton and www.crystalclayton.com.

TITL: Given that your hit song “Blinding Lights” has so far been streamed more than 60,000 times and your audience online is growing considerably, how do you feel about social media? Do you think society and the music industry is perhaps too reliant on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, or do you believe such platforms are now vital tools, given the technology-obsessed world we live in?

I’m really proud of how well “Blinding Lights” has done. I think that social media and streaming helped ‘Blinding Lights’ get the attention that it has. I do believe as a society we spend too much time on our phones and on social media. The internet completely lost it when Instagram went down for a day a couple weeks ago. But, it is the way of the future and it’s not going anywhere. I think as a business person – and music is a business – it’s smart to find ways to use these tools to your advantage and engage with people through social media. It’s such a huge market and you can reach people you probably never could have before. It’s vital to a music career in 2019.

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?

CC: The rest of this year I’m hoping to release some music videos, perform at some awesome shows here in LA, release some more new music later this year, and hopefully do a small tour run! 

TITL: Finally then, as you continue to make your mark on the industry, looking many years down the line, what’s the one thing you’d like people to remember or recall when they think about you and your music? What message or legacy do you want to leave for the current and future generations?

CC: I just hope that people will remember authenticity from me. My music is vulnerable and real. I write music for myself, and what I like; and I hope that people can relate and resonate with it. 

SHARON BLYNN CHATS ‘CAPTAIN MARVEL’, ‘BALD IS BEAUTIFUL’ & HER ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ACTORS 0 71

Currently on screen in the latest Marvel blockbuster Captain Marvel alongside Brie Larson, Sharon Blynn has an impressive resume of work to her name having appeared in several hit TV shows and movies. As an individual who has fought and beaten ovarian cancer, she’s also the founder of Bald Is Beautiful, an organisation which supports ovarian cancer programs and raises awareness. With a number of projects “in development”, ThisIsTheLatest spoke to Blynn about her fond memories of her time on the CM set, the one role she’s the most proud of and what the future has in store.

TITL: Prior to becoming an actress, did you ever have any other career plans or ambitions? 

Sharon Blynn: Before I started Bald Is Beautiful and pursuing acting and modeling. I worked at a record company in NYC, specifically in jazz. My dream at the time was to eventually have my own record company or do artist development (Berry Gordy-style) to help bring gifted artists to the world. I spent many years collaborating with incredibly talented artists, forging lasting friendships, and hanging out in the legendary New York City jazz scene into the wee hours every night! Soon after leaving the music biz, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and that journey inspired me to create my Bald Is Beautiful movement, which encompasses ovarian cancer awareness advocacy, motivational speaking and community outreach, as well as acting.

TITL: What is it about acting and performing that you love so much? Now that you’re a well-established actress, could you ever envisage yourself doing anything else? 

SB: Ironically, before my cancer journey and starting Bald Is Beautiful, I could never have imagined that I would first of all remain bald much less become an actor! What I love about performing is what I love about LIFE — digging into emotion, honest self-reflection, connecting to another person, listening to people share their stories and holding space for them to feel safe doing so, telling stories that cultivate empathy and understanding, and expand our perspective about people and the world around us. Before I began acting, it terrified me, frankly, but I very quickly caught the “acting bug” from my first time performing on stage in a very special interactive, immersive theatrical show called Off the Muff (conceived, produced, and directed by my twin sis Elisa), and have found a true passion for it. Bald Is Beautiful is still the fuel behind my acting fire, so what I do in terms of acting always goes beyond performing and delves into passionate (and compassionate) activism and advocacy.

TITL: You have a varied resume of roles that span several genres including drama and comedy, and have appeared in ShamelessBody of Proof, and Lie to Me along with many other shows. How important to you is it that you’re able to take on a wide variety of roles and genre styles in the work you do, and is there one you prefer over the other? 

SB: I thoroughly enjoy exploring characters in a wide variety of roles and styles, because in the end. It comes down to telling story from an authentic and grounded place. Working across genres and styles also gives me the opportunity to explore different parts of myself, and I love digging into all of those rich emotional layers. I can be a complete goofball and also a sensitive and intense woman, and I can draw from all of that for every kind of role.

TITL: Which of your past performances/roles might you say you’re most proud of and why?

SB: One of my favorite roles was a 12-minute one-woman performance piece I wrote and presented called “How Are We Feeling Today?” I originally wrote it as part of an event called “The Big C”, for which all of the featured performers were cancer survivors sharing their stories through this artistic avenue. This was the first time I’d made a scripted-sculpted representation of the full emotional arc of my ovarian cancer experience, and the director I was paired with helped shape my story into a unique expression that I would like to someday develop into a full one-woman show.

TITL: If you could appear in any other TV show past or present, which would it be and what kind of character would you like to play?

SB: This is such a tough question! There are so many shows of all genres that I have loved watching throughout my life — the first thing that actually popped into my head was to be the guest star – aka the killer – on an episode of Columbo, especially one of the longer-form 90-minute or 2-hour episodes! I think that’s because I just recently happened to catch both the Johnny Cash and Leonard Nimoy appearances in the wee hours of my insomniac cable-surfing! If I’m looking to what’s happening now, I am excited about the bold and compelling stories being told through the limited series or anthology series formats, like Big Little Lies and Sinner or True Detective, and also woman-helmed productions from powerhouses like Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Ava Duvernay, Gina Rodriguez, and others with whom I would love to work. I relish the opportunity to explore a variety of character types, from sensitive and soulful to sinister and dark to quirky and offbeat.

TITL: How did you hear about the audition for the role of Soren in Captain Marvel and did you consider/audition for any other parts? What can you recall of your audition itself? 

SB: The audition for the role of Soren came through my rep, and there was actually very little information provided at that time as far as the project and the character, and even the surrounding storyline. There was no dialogue in the audition scene, all I was given was a couple of sentences generically describing a complex scenario, so I had to create an emotional arc just using that information. It was an exciting challenge to bring a scene like that to life; in some ways more challenging than having lots of dialogue to prepare!

TITL: As a huge fan of Marvel, how does it feel to now be a part of such a huge and globally loved, brand/Universe? 

SB: As an MCU and Stan Lee fan and as an actor, it still feels a bit surreal, and I think I will always be over-the-moon giddy about it. Being in such a special role and compelling scenes, and in particular to be part of a Marvel movie that has its own landmark qualities — first female superhero lead in a Marvel movie, first female director in the MCU — is especially rewarding and meaningful as it relates to my Bald Is Beautiful message to empower women to find and define their strength, courage, beauty, and the womanity of it all!

TITL: Do you have any favorite moments or memories from your time on set that you can share? 

SB: Every moment on set for this shoot is a favorite memory for me! Genuinely! Of course, connecting and working with Ben and Brie in particular was a joy. They both have an ease and warmth that helped make the scenes feel present and relatable. Also, I adored working with Auden and Harriet as my daughter. I’d never worked with children that young who therefore had to shoot in alternating shifts, so working with the two of them was fascinating, both personally – I’m an identical twin myself – and as an actor!

TITL: Captain Marvel is smashing it at the box office on both sides of the Atlantic. Aside from the fact it’s a Marvel film, and has huge support behind it for that reason alone, what do you think it is about this film that fans and critics are loving so much? 

SB: I think the wide appeal of Captain Marvel comes from a few different angles for existing fans and newcomers alike. There is the nostalgia of the ’90s setting, the boldness of the futuristic sci-fi elements, the engaging action sequences and cool visual effects, and the combination of humor and heart. The fierceness and power of the feminine underpinning the movie at its core gives the movie an added layer of appeal not only for female viewers, but also speaks to male viewers – younger and older – in showing how balance and respect help us all rise to our highest potential.

TITL: The film has been championed by many for the way in which it – and Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers – empowers women, reminding them that they are just as strong and capable as any man. Given the recent MeToo movement and all the attention around the way women are treated in the business, just how important and timely do you think the film and this message is? 

SB: The messages of this film have always been important. The timeliness of it comes from the renewed groundswell of momentum and awareness for issues that impact women all over the world, and people are more activated and engaged in the social and political significance of it all. I like to think that the worldwide theatrical release of Captain Marvel occurring on International Women’s Day was both purposeful and magical!

TITL: Away from acting, you founded the organization Bald Is Beautiful after successfully beating ovarian cancer, with the platform helping to raise awareness and support charities and programs. Given that 1 in 2 of us will be affected by cancer in our lifetime, would you like to see more people in the spotlight, and those affected by cancer and other such diseases, speak out in support of those people and organizations working tirelessly to help beat it? What can people do if they want to get involved with Bald Is Beautiful? 

SB: Actually, my acting work began specifically as part of my Bald Is Beautiful organization’s message. It is the visual component of engaging the print, TV, and film industries in expanding how beauty and femininity are depicted. There are many ways to be of support of people and organizations in the cancer trenches, and everyone has their own comfort level with sharing about what is a very private, intimate experience, be it their own or that of a loved one going through cancer treatment. My main hope, then, is that those who do have visibility or are in a position of influence use that platform in whatever ways they feel willing or able.

As far as involvement with Bald Is Beautiful, I always invite people to share my site www.baldisbeautiful.org with anyone for whom they think it can be of comfort, inspiration, resource, encouragement, and hope.

TITL: How do you feel about social media and the impact it can and does have on industries/professions such as yours both personally and professionally? Do you think we as a society are too attached to the likes of Twitter and Facebook or is it simply another tool that for the most part is beneficial to people and projects looking to reach an audience?

SB: As with most technological advancements, there are pros and cons to what those developments bring to our personal or professional lives. It seems to always depend on the users and their intent. Social media can be refreshingly connective, and in some ways it can certainly level the field of play in terms of self-generating and disseminated our art. It can save cost and time, while also eat away at that precious time, because so many people are getting lost in their devices and not engaging with humanity and nature that abounds and surrounds us. It’s vital to have a sense of awareness around both the benefits and potential pitfalls, and be mindful about it all.

TITL: Actors often have very demanding schedules what with filming and press tours etc. How do you unwind after a busy period or hectic filming schedule? 

SB: I cherish spending time with people who are dear to me. I equally appreciate times of quiet solitude to decompress. Exercising is a form of release and reinvigoration that I do often – daily if possible – including the gym, hiking, going for a bike ride or just walking around the neighborhood. I also thoroughly enjoy diving into a Law & Order marathon! I’ve probably seen every episode, most of them more than once, but it doesn’t matter . . . that show, original and SVU, is a sort of mental “soul food” for me.

TITL: Are there any upcoming projects in the pipeline you can tell me about? 

SB: I have a couple of exciting things in development and, in the meantime, continue with the Hollywood hustle of auditioning and “working out” in classes, and enjoying Life!

TITL: What advice would you give to any aspiring actors and actresses out there who are looking to make their way in the industry? Is there any advice you were once given that you would pass on?

SB: I would encourage aspiring actors to understand both the creative and the business side of the industry. Take classes, connect with other actors, do the discipline and work to hone their acting skills. And then . . . live life! One of my acting teachers stressed the importance of living a full life in order to be a full, embodied, and authentic actor and human being. That insight still holds true for me, and I strive to do that in some way every day.

TITL: Finally then, looking to the future, what’s the long-term ambition for you, both personally and professionally?

SB: Professionally speaking, I hope to continue building my acting repertoire and I’m excited about all the possibilities of what’s to come. The same goes for Bald Is Beautiful and reaching more people through this medium of TV and film work or in other ways. Personally, I hope to maintain good health, enjoy my relationships, and overall continue learning and evolving — mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and experience unconditional joy and love in all areas of life.

Captain Marvel is in cinemas everywhere now. For more information on and to keep up to date with Sharon Blynn, follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Alexis Dickey.