Karen Elson, the British model and musician, has released her second album following a seven year hiatus since the release of “The Ghost Who Walks”. Elson’s “Double Roses” brings to mind the singer-songwriters of Laurel Canyon and the counterculture musicians such as Joni Mitchell and Carole King. The album has numerous highlights, but “Hell and High Water,” “Raven,” and most certainly “Distant Shore” cannot be passed by. This is an album not to be missed.
Natalie Gelman is widely recognized for her tireless cross-country travel and performances. She’s just released a new album, “Streetlamp Musician” with producers Charlie Midnight (James Brown) and Mark Needham (The Killers). The album is reflective, titled after a song she wrote about street performing and watching New York City change over time.
She was raised in the West Village, NYC, an area of the city considered as “off the grid” and noted for having been home to artists and writers dating back to the 1800s. Living amongst songwriting greats, Natalie came to know artists and true bohemians. She borrowed a friend’s guitar at 16 and started writing songs on it immediately and began busking on subway platforms.
Natalie has been compared to Sheryl Crow, Jewel and Joni Mitchell. She writes honest, heartfelt songs addressing current affairs and revealing parts of her inner self.
Natalie Gelman Photo Credit: Brent Florence
Hi, Natalie. Thanks so much for taking time out to join us. You have quite a colorful and exciting past, is there anything we missed in the introduction that you’d like to add – something else we should know?
NG: Thank you. I think you touched on it all. I loved growing up in NYC and both my parents were artists, so I was raised with a lot of music and art around me both creating and appreciating it. I also think busking and the process of going down to the subway for years over and over again really shaped me as a musician and how I communicate on stage.
I love the tradition of street performers and troubadours, but I actually really fell into it because I was dying to perform but wasn’t old enough to play most of the venues in NYC because they were bars.
Tell us a little more about life in the West Village. Do you have a special memory of those early days you can recall for us?
NG: It was just a wonderful and enchanted part of the city. Maybe some of my opinion is because I was a child at the time, but I think it’s changed a
Photo Credit: Chris Zedano
lot recently and that’s a big part of what inspired Streetlamp Musician. It was one of Manhattan’s little neighborhoods but it felt very free and had so much character.
I was pretty free to do my own thing and entertain myself growing up. I would climb trees, hide in them and then whisper from the tree to people walking by who would laugh, I took a lot of walks with my mom and sister and we would see prostitutes hanging out of windows from a building on 14th street trying to seduce potential customers – that’s now a posh restaurant. It was just a wild place where no one was trying to be something they weren’t but they still were passionate at creating a beautiful life and beautiful art.
In addition to your current work, you’ve shown quite a range of ability in the past – opera to rock. How did you come to music, and in particular, acoustic folk? Tell us a bit about your journey.
NG: Well I always loved singing and music. I started out singing what I was watching in the movies, lots of songs from Disney and then some musical theater songs. I ended up getting into the High School of Performing Arts in NYC (the FAME school) and there I was able to study more classical music as a way to build good technique. I think that’s a great way to start and I ended up in college studying opera having just picked up the guitar before I left for school.
Having been raised around classical music it took me a while to realize that I had actually been a songwriter of sorts. Growing up, I used to compose on the piano and make up songs a capella. When I got to college I started writing as a way of coping with the changes in my life. I was listening to a lot of Jewel’s “Pieces of You” album and that definitely shaped my sound when I was starting to write.
Now I surround myself with a lot of music from friends and artists slightly off the beaten path and I’m definitely continually inspired by their work.
Let’s talk about your first album, “Natalie Gelman”. Standout songs include “Rest of the Way”, Sweet July” and “Always Was”. Can you tell us what was behind that work?
Photo Credit: Craig O'Neal
NG: Most of the record is about my first big relationship and breakup. My favorite song on there is actually “Never Had You”. It surprised us in the studio because it wasn’t one we were expecting to be great, but I think sometimes the simplest ones are.
As far as the recording, I was lucky that a friend asked if she could record an album for me. I had already been in the studio with different people to make demo’s and an EP, but we made the decision to dive into the unknown of recording a record together. She had a few friends she brought on and then it was up to me when she was done recording to really see it through mixing/mastering and then all the logistics of creating a physical CD and having it printed and released. It was a big learning experience for me at the time.
You’ve recently released “Streetlamp Musician” http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/streetlamp-musician-ep/id559892889?ign-mpt=uo%3D4. From the get-go, this work has a lot to say about love along with disappointment, hope, perhaps frustration…It opens with “One More Thing” – a sharp opening drumbeat and lost or broken love. There seems to be hope in “Long Stemmed Roses”…tell us your thoughts about this latest work.
NG: I grew up a lot since I made my first album. “Streetlamp Musician” definitely deals with the deep heartbreak of love lost. It wasn’t just inspired by different important relationships in my life though. I did a lot more observing to write the record both as an artist on “Most the While” needing to make music, as someone watching people who are in a long term relationship maybe not love each other as much as you think they would on “Long Stemmed Roses” and in what is probably my favorite song to play live “Laugh So Hard You Cry” which is that balance of hope and going through the trials of life.
Does any one track strike you as particularly significant?
NG: I haven’t lived with it long enough for just one song to be significant. They all have felt significant, sometimes two or three times over at one point or another. I am really proud of the writing on them all and the feedback that it’s been getting. “Most the While” was a very hard song for me to write emotionally. I didn’t think that it would get shared with anyone but realized after playing it for a few close people how much it helped them process things themselves and that it had to be on there.
We’ve taken a liking to “Long Stemmed Roses”. Let’s have a look and listen to your studio vid released in August.
Fantastic! You travel a lot…You played out in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival…how did that come about? Good time?
NG: I try to keep playing as much as I can where people are interested in listening… and sometimes even for people who aren’t so interested too! I went to Sundance for the first time a few years ago to play at the New York Film Lounge, but I was only scheduled to play for about 15 minutes each day.
I’m always looking for new places and chances to play and after seeing some folks busking I jumped into doing that in the freezing cold and also found some other chances to play at parties. I just put myself out there and it came together little by little growing every year as I keep going back.
What I love is that your surrounded by interesting and creative people. There are so many artists there not only filmmakers and musicians but also the crowd that is drawn out to come watch the films. I always enjoy conversations with people there, I love the Q&A after a film is shows there hearing from the folks involved what they went through making it and I just leave inspired to start off my year creatively.
What’s next for Natalie? Any particular goals in mind?
NG: I want to get back on the road a lot more next year. I’ve even started looking into a European tour and getting out there finally! If that comes together it would be later in the year 2013. Right now we are gearing up to put out the record (it’s just out digitally right now) and I know I’m going to be working hard on that but I already have plenty of songs I want to put out besides what made it on to the EP so hopefully the wait for the next album will be really short too.
Okay. I usually finish interviews by asking you if you have any particular personal superheroes [and I am going to ask, but first, I have to ask…what’s the story behind the red fox SpiritHood in your “Sundance in Your Eyes” video?
Thank you for asking. That’s one of my favorite songs lately. It’s a little love song I wrote when the opportunity to play on the Sundance Channel
Photo Credit: JL Cummings
came up. It happened so fast because I was asked if I had a song I could change the words to be somewhat about the festival and if so maybe I could get to play it on the Sundance Channel. I thought I would have a better chance of the opportunity if I had a song about Sundance so I told them I did already and they got back to me saying could they film it the next day at 10am… It was already dinnertime on the first night of Sundance last year and I didn’t even give up my first night of seeing people and a bit of partying to write it. I had the chords, melody and some lyrics right away and was just pushed to finish it.
It was pretty magical the way it was written and then became a bit of a theme song at the festival everywhere I went. As I said earlier Sundance is somewhat the start of the year for me and has been a catalyst for change in a lot of ways in my life. I just had so much love for the event, the films and the artists that come out and put all of that into the song. I also am blessed to have an amazing man in my life that I met when at Sundance. Brent and I ended up connecting and being together and the song was very much about him and our relationship. He’s an artist as well and has a hilarious comedy out that’s about two filmmakers struggling to follow their dreams called Eagles in the Chicken Coop. You will probably see some collaboration from us in the future too.
Connecting with Spirithoods and the making of the video for Sundance in Your Eyes happened because one of the creators, Ashley Haber, is a good friend of Brent’s and had heard the little rough cut I made of the song the night I wrote it. Spirithoods happened to be at the festival in a gifting suite raising money for charity. Part of the fun of Sundance is running around meeting friends of friends and connecting with lots of creative and wonderful people. We all met up towards the end of the festival and Ashley got the idea to film the song in the snow outside the suite we were in. We did a little one take of the song with some soft snow falling down and within minutes he had posted it to Youtube. It all just came together like a lot of things do at Sundance and was amazing to watch it become a favorite song of people who have never even been to the festival. I plan on recording and releasing it soon.
Wow! Glad we asked the question…great story! And now…personal superhero?
NG: I don’t know about a superhero but I’m a fan of people who follow their heart and dreams even when it’s tough. I’m often moved by other artists work and Brent, nature and playing with life in everyway I can inspires me a lot too.
Natalie thanks so much. Getting to know you has been very interesting, and honestly, good fun. You have an interesting story to tell and it’s a pleasure for us to work with you. It’s been a real pleasure and we wish you the very best of fortune going forward. We hope to see you in Europe – hopefully a HorizonVU Music live event!
Andrea Soler is an Australian singer songwriter with compelling vocals and insightful lyrics who has just recently toured the UK summer festivals including Isle Of Wight, Larmer Tree and the Sunrise Festival. Musically inspired by the passionate joie de vivre of her French ancestry she exudes a distinctly European influenced sound, yet maintaining her own take on indie folk. Likening herself and her music to the old ways of gypsies and travelers; expect a swathe of moods and emotion from Andrea’s soulful live performances.
Andrea, it’s really a pleasure to meet you and to be part of your journey! We know a bit about you from earlier talks and your bio, but tell us a bit about your musical path and how has your career has developed.
AS: When I was 18, I went to the Woodford Folk Festival here in Australia. I’ll never forget the feeling I had watching band after band blow me away. I knew then, one day I would play that festival, all I wanted was to be a musician! So, I then bought a guitar and started playing and writing songs. I went busking on the streets with my sister. After recording a home made demo, I decided to try my luck overseas and bought a one way ticket to Paris. I ended up living there for over a year and played in bars in Montmatre and even Fete De La Musique in 2007! I then went to the UK where I was then sponsored to record my first EP ‘Better in The Sunshine’ at The Sonic Kitchen Studios. I played festivals such as the Larmer Tree, Isle of Wight and Sunrise Festival, UK. I got on so well with my producer that I went on to record my debut album ‘Earth On An Axis’ with him as well. Since coming back to Australia I achieved my dream of performing at many festivals and lastyear I played at the Woodford Folk Festival, the place that kick started my musical career!
Is there anybody who has really helped you along you path, Do you have a mentor?
AS: I am very lucky to say that I have had so many people help me along the way. My biggest mentor is Alan ‘Big Al’ Hill. He was the incredibly brilliant man who produced my first two records. He believed in me and taught me so much about the recording process, about music and about life. He truly was an incredible man, a world class musician (played bass for Jack Dejonette – Miles Davis’s drummer, produced for Shirley Bassey & many more). Sadly, Al passed away a couple of years ago, is greatly missed today by so many people around the world. I still count him as my biggest mentor. I always think – what would make Al proud?
What’s next for you? What’s coming up for you live and recorded?
AS: I have just finished recording my brand new EP called Daydreamer. I’m going to be launching it here in Australia at the beginning of June, and then embarking on a twelve week tour through the UK and Europe! I’ve booked 18 shows already which includes four festivals in the UK. We’ll also be making a documentary about this tour to inspire independent musicians to manage themselves and book their own international tours. I am very excitied about this trip, especially to return to Paris!
Do tells us a bit about your latest album.
AS: Daydreamer is a five track EP. It’s a collection of songs I’ve written on the ukulele. A lady once said to me that you can’t write a sad song on the ukulele. Well, one day I was sitting at home and wrote a song called ‘Heart Break Floor’. It’s about my first heart break. At least I can prove to the lady you can write a sad song on the ukuele! Then there’s ‘Love at First Sight’ which is a true story about a guy who was lost, walked into a cafe to ask for directions and fell in love with the girl behind the counter, and there’s Daydreamer which is the title track. It’s a song to remind people how important it is to believe in their dreams. Lonesome Traveller is a haunting tune, and The Palmreader is a song about.. well, I guess you’ll just have to hear it and find out!
It’s hard to believe that anyone would have the nerve to break your heart! Let’s take a few minutes out to let everybody in on what’s going on as we watch “Daydreamer EP”
We work with a lot of young emerging artists. Can you share a certain moment in your career – good or bad – that’s kept you moving on?
AS: I think I’ll share a good and a bad if that’s ok? The bad moment was when I lost one of my best friends and producer Big Al. He means so much to me. He always assured me along the way. Gave me advice, feedback about my songs and made me laugh too! He brought out the best in me, and I’ll never forget all that he did for me.
A good moment – I think it was just recently, when I walked onto the stage to play at last years’ Woodford Folk Festival! It had been my dream for over ten years to play at this festival. I had to pinch myself a couple of times to realise that I was literally living the dream. It taught me to never give up on my dream, keep working hard, and enjoy the journey!
I always like to ask our guests about personal heros, so here goes…who is your hero? Why?
AS:There are so many people that inspire me. When I read the biography of Edith Piaf, I felt so inspired by her zest for life and for everything she achieved from her humble beginnings as a homeless girl on the streets of Paris. Then there’s Joni MItchell who got Polio at the age of 8 and started singing to get better. She is another woman who overcame obstacles in her life and achieved her dreams. I think another of my heroes would be Sally Dastey. She is an Australian singer and is such a beautiful person and gives her whole heart to her audience. I like artists that give their all.
I have to tell you, that my colleagues here at HorizonVU Music are not to wild about that question (they’ve heard me ask it so many times), but I think you saved me…we’re all Joni Mitchell fans! Andrea, again, thanks so much for your time and we look forward to going live in September. We’ll be posting your gigs!
In 2011, Anne Erickson, writing for Gibson, gave hard-earned and deserved recognition to “The Top 10 Female Guitar Players of All Time”. We’re re-posting the list now. HorizonVU Music follows Gibson/Epiphone endorsed artists such as Lindsay Ell, Maura Kennedy, Amy Speace, and Emily Zuzik.
If for no other reason than just having fun, take a look at the list and let us know your choice(s)! Rock on…
While the world of guitar rock, admittedly, is male-heavy, a number of female players have risen to the top over the years, proving women have just as much aptitude for the 6-string as their male colleagues. These women crushed instruments and eardrums in pursuit of a new way to make the guitar sing, scream, shout and move souls.
In this Top 10 list, Gibson.com pays respect to those pioneering players. Who are your top female strummers? Join the debate in the comments section below.
10. Joni Mitchell
Beginning her career as a folkie with an impressive armory of open tunings and evolving into a jazz-influenced player, Joni Mitchell brought a silky touch and smooth, bending voice to her pop-folk songs, with subjects that touched on everything from lost love to the government. Musicians of every genre – Prince, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan – count Mitchell among their key influences. Meditative and thoughtful, her songs helped create the flourishing style of early ‘70s California, and her songs scaled the charts, including “Help Me,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Free Man in Paris.”
9. Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt’s honeyed voice, skillful slide guitar work and archetypal collection of folk, pop, blues, soul and R&B songs have made her one of the most hailed musicians of her generation. Though she was an industry favorite from the early ‘70s, Raitt didn’t reach the equivalent in commercial success until her tenth studio album, 1989’s Nick of Time. The #1-selling Billboard 200 album whirled her into the mainstream with captivating, flawlessly performed tracks “Have a Heart” and “Thing Called Love.” After multiple Grammy wins, platinum-selling albums and an induction into the Rock on the Roll Hall of Fame, Raitt has achieved the kind of widespread success fans and critics had expected for decades.
8. Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson’s sweeping guitar work helped define ‘70s and ‘80s classic rock. As songwriter and guitarist for Heart, she brought loud-and-proud arena rock songs and high-volume power ballads to a hungry rock ‘n’ roll public. Wilson’s playing presented acoustic fingerstyle work in an electric environment, and it came together with her sister Ann’s muscular vocals. Forceful yet melodic rockers such as “Sing Child,” “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” quickly coined the band “the female Led Zeppelin,” but Wilson’s knack for near-folk ballads made it clear she had her own identity and vision for Heart from the get-go.
7. Kaki King
Georgia-born solo guitarist Kaki King brings an illustrious fusion of jazz, punk and folk to her shows, not to mention a rare percussive technique and the use of unique tunings on acoustic and lap steel. That originality and imagination earned her the first-ever female “Guitar God” from Rolling Stone. As for collaborations, King has teamed with Eddie Vedder (for the soundtrack for the movie Into the Wild), Dave Grohl (on the Foo Fighters’ Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace) and co-produced a track for Miley Cyrus with Timbaland. Call King a new generation of guitar player, with an acoustic sound that’s full of tapped melodies and darting rhythms.
Swapping licks with Carlos Santana and sharing the stage, all too briefly, with Michael Jackson surely wasn’t enough for twenty-something guitarist Orianthi. The Australian-born, blonde-haired shredder was set to play lead guitar for the King of Pop’s ill-fated This Is It tour. After his untimely death, she came back as a singer-guitarist, touring the world to promote her debut Geffen release, Believe. The album’s title track hit the Billboard 100. Between lightning-fast guitar solos, the album goes from blues to jazz to pop-rock and has a wide scope of sounds proving Orianthi is the real thing.
5. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gifted jazz guitarist and vocalist, and even though she spent years staking her claim in the gospel world, Tharpe never abandoned her jazz origins. A lively performer who often trifled with blues and swing, she brought spiritual music and soul into the mainstream by playing clubs and theaters, helping to spearhead the upsurge of pop-infused gospel. During World War II, Tharpe and the Golden Gate Quartet were the only American gospel acts to tape V-Discs for American militaries overseas. A prodigy who mastered guitar by age six, Tharpe’s legacy packs heaps of genuine feeling and tight musicianship.
4. Jennifer Batten
Guitar shredder and two-handed tapper Jennifer Batten’s big career break happened in 1987, when she got a tip from a friend that Michael Jackson was holding auditions for a guitarist for his upcoming tour in support of Bad. Batten tried out on the last day, which gave her as much time as possible to master the King of Pop’s music, and Jackson hired her has a touring guitarist for the next year-and-a-half. She toured with him on-and-off through the years, and in 1998, Jeff Beck asked Batten to join his backing band. Since linking with Beck, Batten has played on 1999’s Who Else! and 2001’s You Had It Coming, plus several tours.
3. Mary Ford
Singer and guitarist Mary Ford and her guitarist husband Les Paul, ruled the ‘50s with 16 top-ten chart-toppers. At their onset in 1951, the couple sold six million records. Over time, the pair churned out a string of popular jazz standards, their biggest being “How High the Moon.” The hits featured Mary harmonizing with her own vocals, singing closely to the mic, giving the recordings a very intimate sound. From 1953 through 1960, Paul and Ford also hosted a syndicated television program, The Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home Show, and kept recording until they divorced in 1964. Watch a classic video clip from the show, below.
2. Lita Ford
After rocking with Joan Jett as lead guitarist in the Runaways, Lita Ford took her pop-meets-heavy metal guitar heroics solo and hired Sharon Osbourne as her manager. In 1988, producer Mike Chapman (Blondie, The Knack) helped Ford concoct her breakthrough album, Lita, packing it with gigantic, glossy arena pop-metal hooks and catchy concepts. The spicy, riff-heavy album not only pleased die-hard shredders but also got the mainstream’s attention with focused, digestible hits. Sweaty rocker “Kiss Me Deadly” and ballad “Close My Eyes Forever,” the latter a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, both reached the top 15 of the Billboard 100 chart. Although Ford never lived up to her true potential, especially after alternative rock’s rise in the ‘90s, she was at the pinnacle of ’80s arena rock. [The video originally posted by the author is no longer available on YouTube. "Broken Dreams" has been substituted without permission of the author.]
1. Joan Jett
A down-to-earth player who, in a few strums, can get an entire audience chanting to her early-‘80s chart-topper, “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll,” Joan Jett made a name by playing sincere and simple rock ‘n’ roll. In the process, she became a role model for numerous generations of female rockers. The leather pants-sporting player carries a large-scale range of influences, from undying ‘50s and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll to primal three-chord punk to glam. Her brand of rock ‘n’ roll is loud and organic, with larger-than-life hooks in the mood of AC/DC and the Stones. Jett’s boisterous, tough-chick attitude is simply the icing on the cake. Many have tried, but few rival her personality-packed chops, genuine delivery and “real deal” vibe.