12 Days of Christmas: Natalie McCool reflects on The Great Unknown, one of our Albums of 2016

natalie mccool the great unknownNatalie McCool has created one of the albums of the year. It’s official. Her debut album The Great Unknown – which takes its name from fan favourite and early single, “Oh Danger” – was recorded by McCool at Parr Street Studios in her home city of Liverpool, and given a soft release via PledgeMusic earlier in the year. Now available to the public via iTunes and Spotify, the full length cements her importance on the alt pop scene as much as it proves that pigeonholing the innovative singer songwriter isn’t going to be possible.

“It feels like ages ago,” McCool confirms, when asked to comment on the gap between recording the album, promoting it through the above mentioned crowdfunding platform, and actually releasing it. “I can’t believe how long the process has been, but it’s good to get it out now.”

“I know I’ve got a really good fan base and people who really support [my music], and I just wanted to drum up a bit of excitement, and a bit of interest,” she explains of the PledgeMusic campaign. “I thought it would be nice to do just before I released to everyone.”

When Natalie McCool says she has a good fan base, she’s not underestimating herself or the strong sense of community that’s formed around her. Her fans are dedicated and willing to rally in McCool’s support, to help her music succeed. It’s certainly not the kind of lackadaisical and trendy reaction the indie world is more commonly used to seeing.

McCool attributes the key to her success to her presence on the internet and how she approaches touring: “Just being there on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, and on Instagram, and building up mailing lists… Meeting people at gigs; the home circuit is the key, because people get to see the music, and they get to see you, and talk and interact, so I think it’s really important.”

Watch "Dig It Out" from The Great Unknown below.

She continues: “I did a gig on Wednesday in Cargo in London: that was really good. It’s just really nice to talk to the audience sometimes, so they get to see who you are as well, aside from the music.”

“I think [being close to fans] is [important] for every artist and band, no matter who they’re signed to or what’s going on. I think it’s always really important to be physical and be vocal and interact with fans, and interact with everyone, really. You won’t get as far if you don’t do that. It’s nice as well. It’s nice to hear what people think and where they’re coming from.”

As well as interacting with fans, McCool also interacts with musicians, often in collaboration – working with Silent Cities and Laura Lomax most notably – while others including Thumpers and Paul Denton have remixed her original tracks. Natalie, however, draws the line at remixing other people’s work: “I wouldn’t know how to do it,” she laughs. “I don’t think I’ve got the technical know-how. I mean, I kind of do my own little demos before we go in the studio, just to hear the songs, but as far as remixing other people, God, I could probably tell someone what to do, someone who knows how, but I don’t think I could do it. I’d have to learn!”

Natalie McCool is an interesting case: although she uses conventional instruments such as guitar, piano and drums, a lot of her recorded materials sounds as though it’s used remixing skills. She agrees:

“The record is very electronic, and full of electronic [instruments] like synths and electronic drum sounds and little bits like that, but there’s always my guitars, and my voice, and the various drum sounds... So it’s a real mix of electronic and acoustic elements, but live it’s pretty much all us.”

The resulting sound, as our album review puts it, mixes angular pop with 90s style and 21st Century innovation. Of The Great Unknown, McCool says: “I don’t feel as though I’ve been swept into [the 90s revival scene]. Everyone who has reviewed the album has said you can’t place it in a genre apart from pop, because of the songwriting, obviously. But there’s a lot of different influences and a lot of different sounds that are quite unique-sounding, in a way, and there’s been nice feedback from all the reviews [of The Great Unknown] I’ve gotten.”

And the song that embodies this eclectic sound the best?

“Well, it’s the opener, I think. I really like it. I think that’s my favorite one. I mean, it wasn’t the first one I wrote for the album, but it was the one I wrote where I thought, “This is probably going to be the central track.” And anyway, the album is kind of an album of breakup songs. All the songs are about my life and what’s happened [to me] in the past two years, I guess. That one, for me, is the most honest song on there, so I guess that’s the one I always gravitate towards personally.”

Natalie McCool's debut The Great Unknown is out now and available to purchase here.

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