As she readies herself for Liverpool's Threshold Festival, Natalie McCool talks to Jamie Bowman about her close connection with the city and a busy year ahead
Last updated: 10th Mar 2016. Originally published: 8th Mar 2016
Awards and accolades have come easy for Widnes singer songwriter Natalie McCool since she first came to the attention of a wider audience almost ten years ago.
Winning the Yamaha-sponsored Make It Break It award - a competition judged by Coldplay'sChris Martin and future collaborator and renowned producer Steve Levine - was the big break but more was to follow when she then picked up Best Female Artist of the Year at the Liverpool Music Week Awards.
A smooth route to future success looked assured when she began working with Levine and released her debut album in 2013 but almost three years elapsed before we finally started hearing the fruits of her new partnership with David Berger from Liverpool favourites Outfit.
The results were stunning, with tracks like 'Cardiac Arrest' (watch Natalie perform it in session at the BBC below) and 'Fortress' ushering a sublime synth-based sound that still managed to capture McCool's famed guitar playing, lyrical flair and experimental edge.
With a new album set to drop soon and a load of festival dates on the horizon, starting with her appearance at Threshold Festival in April, we caught up with Natalie to chat about what 2016 has in store.
Your debut album was released in 2013 so there's been a long gap for your fans to wait for new material. What's taken so long?
I feel like the recordings have gone pretty fast! The only reason this album has taken so long was that I was going to make an EP originally and since then we've been working on various mixes. I'm quite involved in the production process when we record. Dave and I work together on all the productions - I wouldn't say I'm s perfectionist but I'm just really involved.
You started out working with Steve Levine but have now linked up with Dave from Outfit - how did you meet?
He approached me a few years ago after he did sound at a festival I played at in Liverpool. He had a studio and said I should come down and have a look. We got on really well and had the same sort of views on things.
Outfit's debut album Performance was a pretty mix of pop and alternative sounds - is that a similar sound to the one you're striving for on new songs like 'Pins' and 'Cardiac Arrest'?
I think Outfit are great and I'd been to see them a few times. They're very cool and the production is so good as well it made me want to work with them. I have been writing really poppy songs recently, which is really fun. But Dave’s been the one to pull them more towards where I want them.
You've played Threshold regularly over the years - it's clearly a festival you enjoy?
I've played in previous years and it's always a really good event. It's nice and in a picturesque area of Liverpool which is really up and coming. There's all these little pop up venues and warehouses that they turn into stages and it'd just a really nice event. Everyone knows each other.
The audience in Liverpool have really got behind you over the years haven't they? You seem to have a special relationship with city after studying here (Natalie is originally from Widnes but studied at LIPA)?
I've played most venues in Liverpool and there's a really strong connection there. I'm definitely going to be here for a while and call it my home for the foreseeable future.
Summer means festival season and you've got a busy few months ahead. Do you enjoy playing festivals?
I've got Threshold and the Smithdown Road Festival and then lots of others. I've never done so many before. I like playing to people who've never seen me before. It's fun to engage new people who might be unaware of what you do. It never gets boring.
Festivals usually have a really nice vibe. If it's a good festival you're usually really taken care of. Being on stage is very different to a normal gig - it's just not standard and I like that! And as long as the weather's nice it's a really fun thing to do. I did one festival in Liverpool that had biblical rain and it wasn't fun for anyone - I think the stage got closed in the end.