March 9, 2023
Words by: Nathan Reece
A soul for the natural world, and feeling all within it – we had the pleasure of welcoming Natalie Holmes to the studio last year to record a series of livestreams that are up on her YouTube channel now. Her album ‘Vitamin Be’ was self-released last year and is available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp.
Her Patreon is here.
Vitamin Be was released at the end of Summer last year – it sounds great! We’d love to know how it came to be? Did you approach writing in a different way and how did it all come together? And how are you feeling now that it’s out in the world a few months
Like many larger projects it’s a culmination of many years of writing. I gave new life to some really quite old songs as well as a few newer, so it’s a release to have it out in the world and interesting to see how people respond to those songs when the age doesn’t mean anything to them. Over the past few years I’d uploaded the majority of these songs as produced demos for my Patrons, which is why when it came to working on them for the album they were already so far along, the vision so ingrained in my head that it just felt easier to finish them by myself – and a very fulfilling challenge to have to step up my production and mixing game as I went!
The album itself came to life in my mind when I noticed a running theme, both thematically and sonically, through a particular bunch of old and new songs, and knew they just had to be a family. So the songs were written as an album by accident really – they had no idea they’d be together forever!
Having it out feels really great, and although part of me still thinks ‘you should have hired a pro’, I’m glad I learnt what I did, including that working alone is not the way I want to continue. It’s my first album baby, I proved I could do it, and now there’s infinite room to grow!
How is your music best enjoyed?
Lying in the grass, wandering through woodlands or watching the rain on the window with a hot chocolate – but the woodland option allows you to bop when songs like ‘Wave Back’ and ‘Pretty Birds’ come on!
You’re an artist that really makes the most of the multitude of avenues available to artists these days, such as Patreon, Discord, Tik Tok, Bandcamp and YouTube as well as socials – how important is it for artists to utilise these tools in 2023?
Eurgh, frustratingly important. I honestly wish I didn’t have to deal with any of the social channels, as they are so addictive and end up taking up more time than the creative parts! But alas as an upcoming artist you really do need to utilise the personal connection with fans (and rightly so) – I just wish there was a simpler way to do it rather than juggling a million different apps and posting the same thing on all of them! Patreon is the best. It’s one place where people are committed to seeing what you post and valuing it, rather than spending ages putting up content for people who are gonna flick straight past it, maybe listen to a few seconds, not follow the link to the full thing you worked really hard on etc.
Don’t get me wrong, Instagram and TikTok can be really fun at times, and I totally get the appeal of discovery, and the growing trend of virtual collaboration which feels so wholesome and in the right direction. It’s just intense, and time consuming, and more than ever feels like you’re a needle in a haystack! It’s really rough for DIY artists these days to keep believing they have a chance at this – because although social media has given a platform to literally whoever wants it, that’s also the huge pressure to be totally unique and amazing and special, consistently, all of the time. That’s a big weight!
What value has Patreon had to you as an artist? How has it help to consolidate your own fanbase and allow you to have a controlled method of communication to them? What benefits has it had?
I started Patreon for a bundle of reasons, the core one being that I am always writing songs and have no one to show them to until/if they are perfectly finished and released on a streaming platform and I’ve made a big song and dance about it. I wanted to be able to share the songs as I wrote them, and to explore my production skills via the demos without the pressure of it being ‘final’ yet. It’s given me the motivation to play month after month. No matter how many admin days I have to do, how many other jobs I’ve got on the go, how many mental health do-nothing days I have to give in to, I am also obligated by my promise to my patrons to keep writing that new song every month and spending a few days messing about on Logic. I love it, it constantly brings me back to my creative child, and as a cliché ‘struggling’ artist, knowing that’s part of my ‘job’ now really helps. It’s pretty hard to grow my Patreon community without being down people’s throats about it all the time on social media, but at least it’s more or less steady, it reminds me that a select few believe in me enough to commit to regular support, and to give time to feedback on new songs, read my ramblings etc. It just keeps me grounded, keeps me smiling as the unknown chaos around it fluctuates!
In your recent Patreon video you mentioned that creativity can often come from feeling comfortable within a vulnerable state – I wondered if you’d be able to expand on your experience of this and some of things that help you to find comfort and productivity in that state?
Absolutely. For me, I only really write in that state, whether that’s a positive or negative feeling of vulnerability. And honestly, I spend most of my time there… I’ve noticed and accepted that I’m pretty sensitive to life, in the sense that I respond very acutely and enthusiastically to small things. The difference an hour of sleep can make to an entire day, the instant euphoria from touching the bark of a tree or seeing a ray of sunlight on a cloudy day. My mood feels very alive, all of the time, and it’s from that experience that all of my songs emerge – the difficult part being actually to come into a more structured, organised state in order to pick up the guitar and notebook, stop only feeling for a moment in order to form sentences and rhymes and hooks. It’s odd, I think that’s something that’s changed overtime, that need to enter an organised state in order to write. That said, I think that is wholly dependent on my situation and instrument. When I have access to a real piano, which sadly right now I don’t, I don’t need that organisation. A real piano can bring forth the music comfortably and naturally like it always has. Guitar was never my true love – more of a convenient one, so I have to try harder to maintain the magic when I pick it up to put form to an idea. That is why my main domestic goal in life is simply to have a house big enough to hold a baby grand…
What do you have planned for 2023 and what’s your next show?
Honestly, I was a little worried about this question cropping up, as an unmanaged artist I’ve gotten to the end of the few years of album creation, delivery, promo etc. and am now kinda floating, like ‘now what!?’. But actually some really great things are happening this year. I’m releasing a whole body of work across the year with an electronic artist I am a huge, huge fan of, called ‘Gelka’. He really does give me free rein over his tracks, which is such an honour, so it still feels like I’m releasing a bunch of stuff that’s ‘me’ and I’m super attached to. It gives me a little time to consider what’s next for me as a solo artist and to continue my mission to find a team to help me plan that!
So far I have a couple of festivals booked this year but I don’t think I’m allowed to announce them yet!
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