If you love live jazz take a trip down to Ronnie Scott’s if you haven’t already, for the laid-back mellow soulful sound of neo-soul/jazz artists like Natalie Williams. This beautiful singer with a big voice hosts and performs ‘Soul Family’ at Ronnie Scott’s – the renowned Soho jazz club – and quite literally is, a breath of fresh air.
Stunning live vocals and even more phenomenal skills mean Miss Williams has been rightfully described as ‘Erykah Badu x 20’ by friend and sophisticated jazz artist Jamie Cullum. This is just one of the many compliments she has received. Flavour caught up with Natalie on a Friday afternoon, to talk about Lauryn Hill, her sexiest songs of all time, songwriting and her new album
My Oh My. You must be excited about your fourth album release My Oh My. What inspired the album name?
To be honest, I couldn’t think of what to call it. Basically I was just looking through the titles I’d written and saw which one would jump out the most – I thought ‘My Oh My’ was probably the most eye-catching.
Who is your biggest inspiration musically?
You know what? The music that first inspired me was jazz. Originally that’s what my Dad used to listen to at home and when I was growing up. Early inspirations were Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra even. Then I started getting into more soul music – a lot of Aretha Franklin in my teens, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway. One of the first albums that I rinsed and which I’m sure everyone else did was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – that was one my favourites, and such a big inspiration. Shortly after that it was Erykah Badu, Jill Scott… a lot of female artists.
Jamie Cullum described you as ‘Erykah Badu x 20.’ How does that sit with you?
[Laughs] Its weird when people draw comparisons to you and I don’t always think that’s what I sound like or that’s the sound I’m going for – but it’s really nice of him to say that. I love Erykah Badu – that’s a massive compliment but I think we are quite different artists really. I’ve gone away from the neo-soul thing quite a bit to more of a… I suppose commercial area.
This issue of Flavour is our Sex issue. Fitting in with our theme what do you think is the sexiest song of all time?
That’s really hard. Let me just look through my iPod! [Laughs] That’s a tough one. We can come back to that?
Yeah, we can come back to that… You’re incredible live. How do you prepare for a live performance? Are there any tips or warm-up techniques you would recommend?
I’m a really lazy singer when it comes to that –the more you do it, the more you can just get on with it! I’ve been doing it a while now, and I studied music so I know how my voice works and I’m familiar with my instrument so to speak. So long as I’m not too vocally tired it just takes a couple of songs to warm into it and then I get going!
Lil Wiser – I’m addicted to… I think it’s fab! The video is wicked too. Out of all your songs, which one is your favourite?
It depends on my mood, to be honest. From my new album I really like the song Company – which meant a lot to me. I remember writing it when my boyfriend was away on tour a lot and we had a bit of a rough patch. I was really missing him. [He’s a musician as well] We weren’t very good at dealing with it. I wrote that song and I remember getting really emotional. It sometimes happens and it can be quite therapeutic.
The other day I wrote a song which isn’t released yet. It’s going to be on the next album. It’s a song about my mum – I burst into tears when I was writing it because it was just so emotional. I’m not the kind of person to want to talk about things all the time – I swallow it all and then it comes out in my songs. I generally write songs when I’m unhappy because I get more inspired. On my last album and one of my favourite songs of all time because of the production was Butterfly from Secret Garden. That’s kind of in that Jill Scott – Erykah Badu – neo-soul vibe. I love performing that one.
Should we go back to the Sexy Song Question?
OK, Tweet – Oops (Oh My) I like. I also like Addictive by Truth Hurts, and Spanish Joint by D’Angelo is a good one – and I think Milkshake by Kelis is really hot. They’re my sexy songs.
Natalie Williams album My Oh My is out now
For more info about Natalie, music and live performances check out: www.myspace.com/natwilliams
Alternatively, visit www.ronniescotts.co.uk/artists/natalie-williams-soul-family
Interview by Kemi Giwa