EXCLUSIVE: NATALI IS READY FOR THE RIDE OF HER LIFE 0 156

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…”

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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.

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CHRIS STILLS TELLS ALL ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM & THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA 0 20

Having just released his first album in 10 years titled ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, it’s safe to say the last few months of 2018 in particular have been pretty big for Chris Stills. With the collection already championed by the likes of Mojo among others, while playing a few shows here in the UK, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Chris to find out more about his artistic influences, the one venue he’d most like to play and how it felt to have his work featured in two Oscar winning films.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you sum yourself and your sound up in a few words?

Chris Stills: I grew up with the fundamentals. A folk, blues and rock foundation. Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, CSN, Neil Young, The Police, U2, AC/DC, Motown… all of it. Depending on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with a song, I reach to the music I love for inspiration. That also includes my contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley etc…What you get is a nice mixed bag of songs… kind of like a mixed tape you’d make a friend.

TITL: With so many other bands and artists around, what makes you stand out? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you tell them? 

CS: I write songs, then I work hard to record, mix and master them. I play them in various venues large and small with different formations. I’ll sell you at the show. And maybe over dinner.

TITL: To what extent have your musical influences changed over the course of your life and how do and have those influences impact the music you’ve made and make now?

CS: Music has a funny way of influencing you at different times for different reasons. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only recently discovered the Harry Nilsson record Pussy Cats which is at this very moment affecting me profoundly.

TITL: Which one band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? 

CS: Only the best ones.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? 

CS: It’s a funny thing that one… you don’t wanna look too high otherwise you get cold feet and wanna give up because your heroes can make you feel like you just pale in comparison. I think my biggest inspiration is making the time, then actually taking it, and not taking myself too seriously. Things tend to get better and better as you go.

TITL: Your new album has been praised by the likes of Mojo and Classic Rock among others, but do you actually care much about what critics think or are you more concerned with the thoughts of your fans? 

CS: It’s always nice to get a nod here and there but if I was here for it I might as well be selling yogurt. My favorite place to know whether people are into what I’m doing is on stage. It’s immediate and clear. No filters.

TITL: The album features co-writes/collaborations with Ryan Adams and Zac Rae of Death Cab For Cutie. How did those collaborations come about and what did each bring to the writing/creative process for the album?

CS: I met Ryan when we were just kids. We were guys in the 3rd room at the time of The Rolling Stones who were working on Bridges to Babylon. We were just a couple of kids back then but really became close when he and Ethan Johns asked me to come play on Gold. At some point later Ryan had built his studio, PaxAm and invited me to come be creative there. With him… without him. He was ever so supportive. He ended up helping me finish Criminal Mind.

Zac Rea is force of nature in his own right. If you want that X-Factor in your music he will deliver every time. He’s one of my favorite people to work with and like Ryan and really everyone else really helped me make this record.

TITL: If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, which would it be and why? 

CS: They all hold a very special place. I guess some of the more fun sessions were the ones that were recorded with the most folks playing at the same time. “Lonely Nights”, “Don’t be Afraid”… those were some exciting times in the studio.

TITL: Your music has been included in several films, including I, Tonya and American Hustle as well as in the US version of the hit show Shameless, in which you also appeared. What impact did having that happen have on your career in terms of audience/fan base interaction and interest? 

CS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of Academy Award winning film. Or working with David O’Russell, Mark Batson, John Wells or Sue Jacobs. I mean, they’re the best in their fields. If anything it’s a good confidence booster, isn’t it?

TITL: As a modern day artist, and given how long you’ve been in and around the industry, how are you finding social media’s impact on your career? Would you agree it’s a vital tool in today’s world or do you think we as a general society have become far too reliant on it?

CS: I think social media has leveled the playing field. Sadly it also seems to have sucked all the life out of any mystery in this world. But you really have to have lived when that still existed to know what I’m talking about. Is social media vital? Yes. It’s running everything and everyone into a big opaque blobby data mine.

TITL: You’ve got a final number of 2018 shows coming up. For anyone who hasn’t seen you before, what can people expect from your performances?

CS: For me, my shows are like a release… all the energy that goes into it… the work, the travel, the road, the life… it all culminates on stage.

TITL: If you could play one venue that you haven’t yet, which would it be and why? 

CS: I have always dreamed of playing the Royal Albert Hall. Do I really need to ex.plain that one?

TITL: Finally then, now that 2018 is almost over, have you started planning for 2019 yet? What can fans expect to see and hear from you in the near future? 

CS: Plan nothing. Be careless. Enjoy yourselves. And somewhere in 2019, another Chris Stills record will come rumbling in.

To keep up to date with Chris Stills, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is available now. Photo credit: Dove Shore.

FOX & BONES CHAT ‘BETTER LAND’ AND LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019 0 26

Described by the duo themselves in their Twitter bio as “The Bonnie and Clyde of folk pop”, Fox and Bones, AKA Sarah and Scott, have had a busy time of things lately, culminating in the release of their album Better Land. But, with still a month to go before we all bid the year goodbye, the pair aren’t resting on their laurels and spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about their favourite tracks on their album, how they’re rounding out the year and what 2019 has in store.

TITL: Exactly who are Fox and Bones?

Fox and Bones: Fox and Bones are fictional characters we created so that we could be more imaginative with our songwriting. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to only writing about our own experiences, instead, we wanted some breathing room and the option to use our imaginations a little bit. That said, the adventures of the characters Fox and Bones closely mirror our own lives, and we use their story as a canvas on which to paint the picture of the life we want to live.

TITL: Given the success of duos such as The Civil Wars over the years, what makes Fox and Bones different? What’s your unique selling point?

F&B: I think we are a lot more lighthearted than many of the indie folk bands like the Civil Wars. Someone once told us at a show, “You guys sound just like The Civil Wars, except that listening to you doesn’t make me depressed.” We don’t write about love and heartbreak in the traditional sense, we write stories about traveling, unconventional modern love and what that really looks like, rather than just the intense puppy love of pop music or the depressing breakup vibes of indie folk. And we write about the world as we see it, and what we want to see come into the world. Our songwriting feels a lot more versatile, and the music is generally heartwarming and uplifting. If The Civil Wars represented the brokenness of a human being, Fox and Bones represents the cure.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you most inspired or influenced by, and how do those influences impact the music you make?

F&B: Lately we’ve been influenced by the new retro and neo-soul movements, like Nathaniel Rateliff, Lake Street Dive, the California Honeydrops, Mingo Fishtrap, and Paolo Nutini as well as artists who are true storytellers and have compelling lyrics like Brett Dennen and John Craigie. We also love older stuff, Scott was very influenced by the Beatles, The Band, and Dylan, and I’ve always loved Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Janis Joplin and CCR.

TITL: Which band or artist might you say you sound most similar, or are you most compared to? Do you mind such comparisons or do you take them as compliments?

F&B: We hear The Civil Wars a lot, I think mainly because they are one of the most famous male/female duos out there. But we also get Johnnyswim, Of Monsters and Men, and Johnny and June, which we definitely consider a compliment. And of course, everyone thinks Scott sounds just like Cat Stevens.

TITL: You released your album Better Land recently. How have you found the reaction to it to be so far?

F&B: I think we both feel it’s the best musical work either of us have ever put out and the sentiment from fans definitely reflects that. We’ve had a solid reaction from press as well. We knew when we were making it that we had something special, and it’s so nice to discover that we aren’t the only ones who feel that way.

TITL: Is there a song on the album you’re most proud of and if so, which is it and why?

F&B: I think we’d have different answers.

Sarah: Mine is “Roots.” I’d been on a songwriting dry spell for a while, and that song came to me just before we went into the studio to record. We put a gospel choir on that one and something about that song still gives me the shivers even though I’ve heard it and played it a million times by now.

Scott: Mine is “Better Land.” It is the song that I’ve been trying to shake out of me for a few years and finally, after staying up all night, it tumbled out in one sitting. We tried to keep the recording as true to the original demo as possible and I just love how it all came together.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing and with that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

Sarah: For me, it’s a hard choice, because I have so many. But I’m going to have to go with “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell. The first time I ever heard that song I had all over goosebumps – the songwriting is so deep and so interesting, I don’t know what some of it even means but the way Joni puts words together is genius, and the melody of that song gets me too. She has these amazing high notes that she hits, and it’s just so real and vulnerable. Brett Dennen’s “Sydney” is also a brilliant song, and it always puts a smile on my face.

TITL: You’ve been championed by and featured in/on the likes of Glide Magazine and Pop Matters. How big of an impact are you finding coverage like that has on your career?

F&B: It seems vital these days to have major outlets backing up your music, it kind of legitimizes you in a way. Someone at that level telling people your music is good goes a lot further than the artist themselves going on about how their music is good. It’s just an extra layer of legitimacy.

TITL: As a modern day duo, to what extent are you finding social media to be a vital tool in getting your name and music out to people? Is it fair to say you might not have the fan base and support you do without it?

F&B: Social media is such an amazing tool if you learn how to use it! We’ve been growing our socials quite a bit over the last year and I don’t know how musicians ever promoted themselves without it. It’s amazing to have direct contact with our fans and I think they enjoy seeing what we are up to, especially when we are on tour. Plus, as a creative, I love coming up with fun content to post.

TITL: With the year coming to a close, do you have any performances coming up people can look forward to?

F&B: We have a bunch! We are spending the few days left in November and half of December on tour all over California – we’ve got 25 dates on that tour. Then we come home to Portland and have a number of shows in the area to close out the year. We like to stay busy.

TITL: Aside from your album release, what’s been your highlight of the year?

F&B: We just finished an incredibly successful, two month long European tour booked by ROLA music. We’ve been there three times now but this time blew the others out of the water. We are seeing a real following developing over there, and it’s really exciting.

Finally then, what does 2019 have in store for you? What can fans expect from the two of you in the coming year?

F&B: We plan on spending the majority of the year on the road. We embark on a US tour in February that will last through June, stay in Portland in July, then head back to Europe mid-August for festival season. We also hope to get back to songwriting and crafting our next record, although it’ll be a nice to ride the tails of Better Land for a while before we start that process again.

We are also hosting the 2019 Portland’s Folk Festival on Feb. 1st and 2nd, an event that Scott and I created and curate each year. We have 20 acts over two evenings at McMinamen’s Mission theater and are partnered with Breedlove Guitars, Iheart Radio, Jim Beam, Vortex Music Magazine, ROLA music and Royale Brewing.

For more information on Fox & Bones, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their album ‘Better Land’ is available now. Header photo: Amandala Photography.