Last month, I sat down with the bundle of absolute fun that is Natalie Gray. Writer, singer, songwriter, minion-lover and rocking an amazing Pikachu phone case, the artist shared her thoughts on life, mental health, anxiety and creativity: a down to earth and honest look at life as a creator.
“Things happen when they’re meant to happen.”
I believe this is true for a lot of people. I also believe it is by sending out the right signals and giving yourself permission to share and put yourself out there, that you’ll end up creating the opportunities that work for you. Just be ready to receive what is sends back, no matter the outcome. After my conversation with Natalie, this belief has anchored itself a little deeper.
This thought gives you resolve when you’re hearing “no”, when you’re creating and excavating the idea, movement, thought, song, play, script from the depths of your being. And on that note, let me pass you over to Natalie Gray for extra nuggets of creative wisdom.
“Once you’ve given birth to it, it’s no longer yours”
Natalie and I have a shared experiences of creation: it’s not always a pleasant one, far from it.
“Writing songs, you kind of go “this is a piece of my soul”. A Horcrux.
“It takes a while to see if you can trust this part of you to the people around you and, ultimately to the world out there. But once it comes out of you, it’s no longer yours. I believe it’s Ed Sheeran who explained it this way: You tell a story – it’s personal to you. You then put it to paper, put it in a song… wherever. It is now no longer yours. The girl down the road’s broken up with her boyfriend. Your mum is dealing with this or that situation… It’s no longer YOUR story: it’s everyone’s.”
“Go live your life: what experiences are you writing about?”
A few months ago, Natalie Gray met up with this producer: a little creative chat, nothing else. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas and perspective with another member of the industry you work in. The advice she received then, will resonate easily with every writer, creator, artist or performer:
“You’re doing everything right work-wise. Putting your stuff out there, networking, performing… But go live your life. What are you writing about? What experiences are you writing about? When was the last time you went out? The last time you went to a music venue not for research? Or watch a musical and just enjoying it?”
“And he was right,” Natalie said.
“This is life. There are some events and experiences I obviously write about. But THIS is life. We get so wrapped up in writing songs, that it’s easy to drown in it and disconnect. I believe it’s still Ed Sheeran who said in that same podcast “Your first album will always be your best album because there’s been no deadline, it’s been about your life.”
It’s also why it’s important for me to take some “me-time”. I’ve been gigging, performing musicals, working: this isn’t life. I can’t write about these things. I need to be me for a bit. Or one day, I’ll hit sixty and be like “why did I do that instead of doing this?”.
“Stay unapologetically you“
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One day I’ll stand still, nah probably not!! – – Thank you @martinshawphotography for this shot of us supporting @kaiserchiefs at @pennfest ⚡️❤️ @ladbandofficial – – – – #mondaymotivation #singer #songwriter #band #penn #festival #feativalfashion #teamginge #ladband #ladmusic #retro #80s #synthpop #newmusic #synthwave #throwback #happy #hatersgonnahate #potatoesgonnapotate #mondaymadness
“Music isn’t about writing a catchy song. It’s so much more: it’s something to which the only answer is “I’m so on board with this.” It’s about living your life and sharing your experience of it. And if anything, I’m writing about what makes me different: if I wrote about anything, I would just be like everyone.”
Recently, Nat’s faced some challenges in her personal life. Following those struggles, Gray sought out help and support for her mental health.
During one of her recent sessions, the psychiatrist simply said: “this is one body, one life – why do you give a sh*t?”
And in that moment of despair, she had a revelation:
“This year feels like a lost year. I wasn’t me – I didn’t know who me was. I wouldn’t say “boo” to a ghost. I should be in a relationship as me. I am not being defined by others. Be you and let me be me: I’m not going to apologise for being me, being weird, making noises and really enjoying the minions and Pokémon because that’s just who I am.”
A memory that keeps her going
A few years ago, Natalie wrote “I Never Said” – a song about a guy the red-haired performer was seeing. “At first, I wasn’t interested in him. He made efforts and went the extra mile: I got interested. He left. Very much a “HAHA – GOT YOU”, end scene kinda moment. And to be fair, he admitted that was what he was doing.”
In that song, she pointed out that she’d never said “I love you”, she never said she wanted him – the other guy said it, and ultimately, it wasn’t what Natalie wanted.
“It’s a fun song for sure! But it’s also a vey much: b*tch, I never said this.”
One evening, after having performed this song at an event, a woman came to find her through the crowd, tears still running down her face. “I’m just divorced and that meant so much to me”, she said.
“She told me what it meant for her, and all I could say was: it doesn’t mean that to me, but I am glad you’ve had this experience and found something in it. She hugged me. And every so often she pops up on my Instagram and likes or comments on what I’m up to.
Look, I may not be signed. I may not be making thousands for this. But it’s moments like that, putting things out there and having people saying “I love this song. I relate to this, this and that.” And this is where I go: I’m doing my job then. And I’m very lucky to get to do it.”