In March 2012, we had the chance to chat with the wonderful singer/songwriter Natalie Gelman right before the release of her second EP, Streetlamp Musician. Here is what New York native had to say about the EP and random other musings!
Lemonade Magazine: How are things going down in California for you right now?
Natalie Gelman: Things are pretty great. I am working on a record and we’re closing in on the finish line. It’s in sight now!
LM: This is the follow up to your self-titled debut, right?
NG: It is. My first album came out almost six years ago now. It’s still new though for so many people, since I have just been selling it at my own shows. I signed a production deal with these two producers about a year ago and we’ve been working on a record. It’s weird to call it a follow up, because I feel I have grown so much more than what a follow up would qualify as.
LM: I discovered your music after seeing a video of you at Sundance. You’ve gone to Sundance the last couple years. Tell me a little more about your experience there.
NG: As a musician I just love all the creative energy at Sundance. This is my third year going, the first year I went – to be totally honest, I haven’t seen a movie at Sundance since that first year I went – but I just loved the energy and I stuck around for the panel afterwards. It was so cool to hear the process of these filmmakers. I really respect it and I love all of it. Sundance always feels like a catalyst for change for me as well. It’s like really the start of my year, more so than the New Year is.
LM: You have a fun part of your website where you list all the different things people have tipped you with. What has been your favorite and weirdest tip?
NG: As shallow as this sounds…I love getting money! *laughs*
LM: No, that’s totally understandable! *laughs*
NG: I also love all the different money from around the world. It’s really fascinating, especially when Europe started really using the Euro. It made me think looking at the art on the money like this is art that is appreciated by the whole country. It’s the art, symbols and history that people choose to put on their country’s money. I was kind of sensitive to that and sad that that’s what was happening in Europe, because I think I had just taken my first trip there as that was beginning to be the case.
Also specifically when I first started performing I had somebody who was listening and he picked a penny up off the ground from like a foot away from my case and put it on the edge of my case and slowly pushed the penny in. It kind of creeped me out, but I was really pretty lost in the music and I didn’t care too much. This was when I was performing on the street in Time Square.
He was dancing up against the building and I was on the sidewalk against the street with my back to where the cars were and he was kind of being weird, but he left and these people came up to me and were like, “That guy was being weird! Be careful of him!” Blah, blah, blah!
I guess I am a little bit more fearless than the average person, so I kind of just blew it off and was like, “Oh I am sure he’s fine!” Maybe I was a little naïve, but he came back a few minutes later and gave me a $50 bill and I said to him, “Oh, I can’t accept this!” I didn’t really know what to do I was just like, “What are you doing?” and he said, “No, I want you to have this. It’s really important to me that you have this!”
There were other people there who had been listening and they were like, “Take it! Take it!”, so I kept it and I told my sister about it and she was the first to say, “Just because you are playing on the street doesn’t mean you’re not worth more than that! What you’re giving to people doesn’t quantify with an actual number. It’s just the energy you are sharing with those people.” I actually saved that $50 bill and framed it with the penny from my case that day and wrote on it, “Remember what you’re worth.”
LM: You took opera in college. What sort of impact did that have on your music?
NG: It definitely made me respect how fragile my voice is and how you really have to be at optimal health to sing well. It also gave me the basis of technique that I had to work from, but it also has affected my melodic writing. I grew up listening to a lot of music like that and I am a talented “melodist” – or whatever you’d call it – because of that. I feel I have a talent from writing things that are very memorable melodically. There’s a reason why that music has stuck around for years and years, you know?
LM: Another interesting part of your life is your rollerblade tour from Miami to New York City. Whatever inspired you to do that?
NG: *laughs* It was kind of this turning point where you know I had been walking around my college carrying a guitar, going to opera class and playing various gigs at bars, coffee shops and stuff in Miami. It was frowned upon by the opera department and I was just very ready to be done with school and studying. I was using that summer to decide whether I really wanted to do this anymore, since my heart wasn’t really in it.
I had gone to Salzburg, Austria for opera studies and I was going to this teacher’s class who I knew was going to be a bit kooky and I had this thought, “Why don’t I just drop out of school and rollerblade to every state in the US and write a song with everyone? That would be awesome!” I went to his class and he was like, “That IS a great idea! You should totally do that!” My friends were all sort of in this free spirit of Europe and they were like, “You should do that, that would be awesome!”
I dropped out of school, went back home and my mom sort of went for it for like two weeks and then she was like, “Hey, if you’re not going to school, you have to start paying for rent and you have to get a job.” I was like, “Well, I can’t be organizing this tour with all of that!” So I decided to go back to school but I didn’t lose that thought in the back of my head.
The next summer I was helping out with a children’s charity by helping get kids sponsored and I had sponsored a child and I thought it was really cool. I wanted to get more people my age to want to be involved with that. It all came about again and again that I really wanted to be done with college. So I decided I wanted to rollerblade all the way home to New York from college in Miami. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to, because even at that age I had already broken a lot of promises to myself. This is something I have never really said before, but you start to lose trust in yourself and believe you are not capable of your dreams.
LM: Was there a moment where you thought, “Oh my God! This was a bad idea!”?
NG: I mean, there was a moment in Georgia where I was going through what had just been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm where I thought, “Are you kidding me?” At that point I was thinking that I should have done it in the winter, but I realized that I only would have gotten to Virginia and then would have to wait for spring there. I don’t know that there was a moment where I thought that I was completely crazy, even in the first day where I traveled from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and got hit by a car. Even then I had this feeling of “I am going to do this!” I had planned for stuff like breaking my leg and how I would use crutches while still on roller blades and even set aside rest days for those possibilities.
LM: So after all this…what’s next?
NG: I am really excited for this new record and my goal for it is that I think it would be cool to make videos for every single song. I think that’s the most ambitious thing I’d like to do with this record. I want to get a lot of artists involved and make something really beautiful and special.
As for something crazy, I have thought about biking the perimeter of the country and I am not even a cyclist! Rollerblading was something I am used to, since that was how I got to and from high school every day. I’d really like to bike the perimeter though and raise awareness for energy and use of the Earth’s resources. I really just love performing though and I think that sharing my songs is the best thing I can do.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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