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Nathalie is inspired by nature
Nathalie Stern interview
By contributor Ben Holland
Swedish singer-songwriter Nathalie Stern is now based in the north-east of England and says she's inspired by the region's culture and nature.
Nathalie Stern is talking castles.
"We don't have castles in Sweden. We call them castles but they don't look anything like [they are here], I didn't think they actually existed… they are fairy tale stuff."
Nathalie is from Sweden
The more observant reader will note two things: 1) Nathalie Stern is Swedish; 2) She likes fairy tales. Dark, hulking, abstract fairy tales at that.
But more of those later on.
Raised in the industrial town of Västerås, on a diet of native folk and choral music, Nathalie first came to the attention of Newcastle's music scene fronting rock-folk duo, Lake Me, back in 2003.
Since then, wooed by an in-store performance by underground indie songstress Rose Kemp at Alt Vinyl in Newcastle, Nathalie has developed an ethereal solo style founded upon layered vocals and looped samples.
"It's experimental, electro, glitch folk," she smiles, "but accessible."
Sitting in the upstairs bar of the Tyneside Cinema, it is clear that this is a musician interested in the emerging cultural offerings from across the region.
As she talks, her eyes - framed by deep red spectacles - flit constantly between cinema listings and the current photography exhibition adorning the cinema walls.
So, having made the decision to move to the UK, what is it particularly about the North East that is so attractive?
"You have Gateshead, Sage and the Baltic, so much money being put into culture... that is the soul of any town. Without culture it is nothing."
And, as an artist, how does that cultural investment compare to the artistic life in Sweden?
"There is a thriving music scene here which I think is very supportive... compare that to Stockholm, I find people there very elitist," Nathalie says.
"It's all about how cool or quirky you can be but then they are all cool and quirky and so they all look the same to me – not so cool and quirky really."
Building songs from the simple patterns afforded from folk tales, Nathalie has built quite a reputation on the live circuit for creating unique, choir-like a cappella soundscapes, with each performance a crystallised take on her own music.
"I don't always do [the songs] exactly the same because I use a loop pedal, I make mistakes so I can't do them exactly the same," she says.
Nathalie likes North East culture
With support slots in the offing with American ukulele wizard Dent May and ambient folkies Trespassers William, Nathalie is gearing herself up for the autumn 2009 launch of her debut album and is booking a full UK tour to follow.
It is, though, the simple pleasures closer to home that give her the inspiration to write in such an inventive style.
"I live near Heaton Park, that goes into Armstrong Park and Jesmond Dene and those are places of real beauty to me.
"The kind of stuff I do is very folky - nature and landscape has a real place in folk music hence why it is folk music, discovering how it all interacts. So having those parks on my doorstep is a real influence."
And what of those dark fairy tales, what inspiration can be found in them?
"I wrote a song after I saw a Doctor Who episode," she says.
"It was a murder mystery but it had a huge wasp in it so I wrote a song called Queen Bee - and yes, I know they are two different things - but in it I am writing a letter to my parents saying that I am not the daughter you thought I am… I'm transforming into a bee."
She shrugs, "Ok, so it's a little bit abstract."
Nathalie Stern morphing into a bee?
You can hear the buzz already.
last updated: 02/07/2009 at 11:14
Nathalie Stern recommends...
These are Nathalie's recommendations for local bands to check out in the North East. Click on the links above for more information.
Multi-uked and multi-vocalled they blend tenor, alto and soprano ukuleles. Influences range from Bananarama to Kraftwerk.
Fado, a Portuguese flamenco/jazz tradition, is an important influence on Bridie's music and performance style.
Mansions of Glory
A straight up punk rock band.