NATALIE D-NAPOLEON RETURNS WITH ‘YOU WANTED TO BE THE SHORE BUT INSTEAD YOU WERE THE SEA,’ SET FOR RELEASE ON MARCH 26th, 2021.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. —For an Australian singer-songwriter entrenched in the traditions of folk/rock and Americana music, not only did writing her latest album on the front porch of her 100-year old California cottage give Natalie D-Napoleon the time and space to create You Wanted to Be the Shore but Instead You Were the Sea (due out March 26, 2021)but also the passing world served as a poignant muse.
“I sat there and wrote and wrote and wrote,” explained Natalie. “Sometimes people stopped and listened to me playing, mainly parents with kids. Guys walked up and asked what guitar I was playing. But mostly folks ignored me and kept walking. I really liked watching the world go by, offering up song ideas, while I plugged away on my instrument and sang.”
The view from her porch also gave Natalie a new perspective.
“All my life I've written ‘personal’ songs.” Natalie continues. “I’ve tucked myself away and poured my emotional life into music, yet I discovered after a while it burnt me out. It wasn't always a well that was nourishing, but one that began to drain me emotionally.
“As the songs began to flow, a theme emerged — I was telling stories of women that passed me by. But these were stories that aren’t commonly told in song. Women have long been the muse in song-writing but it’s been a very one-dimensional view. Rarely have our complexities been portrayed — I wanted to change that.
“Second Time Around” is a song about the wisdom that comes with starting over and “No Longer Mine” enthusiastically celebrates the resulting liberty from ending a relationship while “Wildflowers” is a rustic front-porch song.
“The songs did not come without work,” Natalie is quick to add. “But this time I decided to feed the songbird within me. I gave her water and seeds as you do to any living creature you want to keep coming back to visit.”
It wasn’t always easy going. A songwriting session in Taos, N.M. with American folk icons Eliza Gilkyson and Mary Gauthier ended in tears when Gauthier pushed Natalie to her creative and emotional breaking point.
“Mary suggested a song I played wasn’t personal enough and that I was skirting around telling the story,” she recalled. “I broke down as 25 years of grief and disappointment came to the surface. That night I howled as loud as the coyotes outside our cabin in the New Mexico desert until the early morning. I had decided I was finished with songwriting, but the next morning I picked myself up and went back to the workshop. I had dedicated too much of my life to the craft of songwriting for me to give up now. Later that same day I wrote ‘Mother of Exiles,’ a song inspired by Emma Lazarus’ poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty celebrating America’s embrace of immigrants — immigrants just like me.”
Through that experience Natalie found a poignant poetry in the face of adversity, which she channelled into her writing.
“Thunder Rumor” is a haunting exploration of one of the most dangerous times in many women’s lives — when they decide to break free from an abusive relationship; “Reasons” explores the emotional rollercoaster of losing an unborn child; and the album’s title track is an exploration of childhood trauma and the lifelong scars it can leave.
When Natalie’s songbook was full, she turned her thoughts to recording. A lot had changed since her 2012 release, Leaving Me Dry, was produced in a lavish Santa Barbara studio with an all-star cast. Her long-time sidekick Kenny Edwards (who for decades was Linda Ronstadt’s leading man) had passed away, while David Piltch was back on the road with k.d. lang.
Natalie and her pianist/drummer Dan Phillips soon found a musical ally in producer and bassist James Connolly. Jim hatched a plan to record the songs using a single microphone in an old wooden chapel nestled in the hills behind Santa Barbara. The aim was simple: to capture the beauty and spontaneity of a song’s performance when it’s fresh and new.
“Jim and I worked on arrangements,” Natalie explains. “He suggested changing a lyric from a statement to a question, which transformed an entire song. We co-opted Lucinda Williams’ long-time sidekick, Doug Pettibone, to play guitar, pedal steel and mandolin and all the pieces of this puzzle we call an album began to miraculously fall into place. We went into the room with faith and trust in each other and — damn — the music gods delivered.”
You Wanted to Be the Shore But Instead You Were the Sea is Natalie D-Napoleon’s surrender to music — a place where it’s okay to be vulnerable and courageous, fierce and kind, and to stand your ground yet still be forgiving all at the same time.
Follow Natalie D-Napoleon:
# # #