Ventura Music Scene
by Pam Baumgardner
You know we’re heading back to normal when the Ventura Music Festival confirms live concerts. These will be 100%-vaccinated events for artists, crew, audience, staff and volunteers. The three-day line-up includes Aubrey Logan on July 23, Time for Three on the 24th and Italy’s Andrea Roberto on the 25th. Tickets and more information on the artists can be found at VenturaMusicFestival.org.
Quick Notes: RJ Mischo has a one-man show at Namba, Saturday, May 29; Cadillac Zack presents Kirk Fletcher on Monday, May 31 for a Memorial Day Blues Bash at Vaquero y Mar (call for tickets at 323-377-5291); McWorter, Berghoff & Jones are starting back up Tuesdays Blues Day at Copa Cubana; and tickets go on sale May 20 for the Gin Blossoms Concerts in Your Car date at the Ventura Fairgrounds for Saturday, June 19.
In this issue of the Breeze, I have Part One of a Two Part Interview with local artist Natalie Gelman who will soon be releasing Moth to the Flame this next month.
Pam Baumgardner: Congratulations on your new music! So many questions to ask, but first share the basics.
Natalie Gelman: Thanks! I’m really excited to be sharing this new music from Moth to the Flame and can’t wait for the full album to come out on June 18th. The singles are being really well received and it’s my best music yet which I know everyone says but this album has been seven years in the making and I worked very hard to bring together amazing people to make the music I heard in my head come to life.
Charlie Midnight and I produced it together. Charlie is a fantastic, Grammy-nominated songwriter and he and I wrote many of the songs on the album together as well. We recorded in Ojai at Carbonite Sound with Grammy-winning engineer Jason Mariani and featured musicians from Ojai and Los Angeles that have played for some of my favorite artists. The mastering on the CD and vinyl was done by Bernie Grundman; he’s mastered so many legendary records like Tapestry for Carole King and Thriller for Michael Jackson so it was a treat to work with him. This is my first full-length album and first release with an indie label so that’s really exciting.
Before we circle back to Moth to the Flame, get us caught up on your music history to date.
Natalie: Most recently I’ve released a series of singles, a fun song called “2020” came out this past December. It’s a look back at the crazy year we all went through and there’s a fantastic music video out for it too. Before that, I shared “The Lights Upstairs,” which is a song I wrote for my mom. She passed from Alzheimer’s a few years ago and I wrote the song when she first started showing signs of the disease. It ended up giving me a lot of hope and grace to keep the message of the song close as she progressed and eventually passed from it. There’s an artful music video for that song that captures the lightness of the message. The last single I released looking back is “Sundance In Your Eyes” which is a love song I wrote after I met my husband while busking at the Sundance Film Festival.
Before those singles, my Streetlamp Musician EP came out. That music was produced by Mark Needham as well as Charlie Midnight who was my songwriter collaborator on many of the songs too. Those songs took me around the world on tour playing for lots of folks and those are still some of my favorites. Looking further back, my debut, self-titled EP Nataile Gelman came out a long time ago but I still get requests to play songs from it and love it for the role that it played in me starting to release music more officially. I had a bunch of bootleg studio EP’s before then that I released in college and somewhere those are still floating around waiting to embarrass me I’m sure.
I’m certain there’s been several lessons learned since your first recording session, but what sage advice would you pass along to artists looking to record for their first time?
Natalie: I think the best advice I have is to not rush and to be prepared. Studio time is expensive but you don’t want to push to get too much done and then end up without anything that’s truly great or even usable. It’s better to record one amazing song then 3 that are just okay. I would also suggest to record yourself a lot at home before you go into a studio; even just into your iPhone or Garageband… really whatever you can get your hands on. Then you can listen back to your song or your band and see if there are things you don’t love about it. That’s the time to work on it and change it, not when you’re already in the studio. Unless you have a rich uncle paying for it all and money is no object then do whatever you feel like.
How well prepared are you before you step into the studio? Do you just roll out the tunes, or is there collaborating with your musicians and/or working with a producer and changing things up?
Natalie: It’s actually in the woodshedding and preparedness that you can be spontaneous and find some magic and happen upon something amazing. I had lived with some of the songs that I recorded for many years before recording them for this new album. So, there were hundreds of shows where I played them live and tried things out and I also rewrote parts of the lyric or arrangements. Then, I also was prepared with lyric and chord charts for all the musicians in the studio but found out that they would write their own too.
Each song was mostly tracked live with the core band; drums, bass, acoustic guitar, pianos/keys and me singing live over a series of 4 days. Before we would record each song, I would sing through the song with the band and we would talk about the vibe and try out some things. I sent them demos of the songs before the session so they were already familiar and they would listen and chart what the form was and make notes about what they wanted to do within the arrangement. It was amazing to see how even the guitar player playing acoustic could mimic the way I play and the kinda “singer-songwriter” percussive vibe of my strumming. They were just incredible musicians. Because of their talent and ability, it allowed for us to get the song down in 2-3 takes usually and then we would go back over it and try new things if one of us heard something.
Having it be mostly live really breathes a lot of life into the recording. We did some percussive overdubs and a half day of electric guitar overdubs too. We also overdubbed some instruments that I didn’t have on each song; banjo, cello, harmonica and violin and I also spent sessions with Jesse Siebenberg at his studio going over each song and adding a little more percussion, some guitar parts and harmonies.
There were a couple sessions of just vocal overdubs on some songs too. I noticed that I could approach my songs differently as a singer once they were built with the band. Often at my live shows it’s just me and a guitar, ukulele or piano and I have to communicate the full range of the song with just my voice and instrument. When I had the full band playing, they are dynamic as well and create the energy or mood with me. Then I can use my voice more to sit on top and share the intimacy of the stories in each song. Some songs were very different from how I approach them solo so that was very cool to unfold.
It’s all such collaboration. I have tons of ideas always but I like to bounce them off people and often what I’ve come up with is just a stepping-stone to an even better idea the musician has. If you bring creative people together sometimes the best thing you can do is just get out of their way and let them be creative.
Be sure to pick up the next issue of the Breeze for Part Two of my interview with Natalie Gelman when we find out more about Moth to the Flame, her mentors, free music on her website and that time she opened for Bon Jovi.
Do you have any music-related news or upcoming shows you want help publicizing? Please send all information short or long to Pam@VenturaRocks.com, and for updated music listings daily, go to www.VenturaRocks.com.