Twenty-four-year-old folk/reggae/rock artist Natty doesn’t just transcend musical genres. Hailing from north London’s Archway area, he’s also one of the very few people in music who have managed to bridge the gap they call the Thames, and happily make his way into the south of the city. “I not only worked there, I actually lived there for four or five years. I’d say I was from both now. I’m a middle Londoner,” he laughs as he’s mocked for going to the south side.
Before he recently signed to Atlantic Records, Natty worked across the river in Battersea’s Sphere Studios as a sound engineer with acts ranging from Razorlight to Jamie T and Mos Def.
His job meant he was often in the background as the recording process went on and saw more of it than the actual bands do. Managers whispering to labels, labels talking to producers, producers talking to managers – all while the artists were out of the room, has given him a unique eye into what goes on and how the industry machine works. Not wanting to be a knob-twiddler for the rest of his life, he worked at the studio to get free time to write, rehearse and record his songs. It’s a nice new angle to come into the industry from. “It’s better than Brit School,” he says, “where everyone seems to have come from at the moment.” He didn’t go that way though. He played at open mic nights. “That’s how I got on board,” he says. “They led to gigs, which led to interest, which led to more interest and led to me being signed and has now led to me being in this magazine.”
Growing up within spitting distance of the musical maelstrom that is Camden also meant that Natty has been pitching up at all kinds of gigs over the years, punk, hip-hop, garage; he’s influenced by everything, but mainly by folk music – Neil Young and Bob Dylan in particular. But Lee Perry and a raft of other reggae-based artists, Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Underground plus a lot of African music, and everything pre-1980s (only Prince after that) have all had a hand in shaping his musical horizon.
Natty’s commentary on modern life shows him as a ‘voice of the yout’ but doesn’t want to be seen as just that. He wants to spark something amongst what he sees as a bland society, which we live in, that has forgotten about passion. “Even though there’s still stuff to fight for, no one gives a fuck about fighting for it,” he says passionately. “Maybe everyone’s just high – the weed is a lot stronger these days.” With his unique blend of music, and with an indifference to the fame that he seems to be about to find, Natty wants to make a difference, whether it’s musically or socially. He wants to prove to people who feel they haven’t got anything that they actually live in a place with access to everything.
“How do I describe myself?” he responds when asked. “That’s a tough one. I’m gonna have to think about that…” Eventually the definitive reply comes. “I’m a mixed-up mix tape. That’s what I am.”
Big Chill Festival 2010