Host Spotlight: Natalie McCool

Host Spotlight: an opportunity to shine a light on our wonderful radio hosts and wider community, be it a new music release, a brand new music residency or simply to champion them as an individual. Ahead of a slot at SXSW and a UK tour, we chat with singer, songwriter and ‘McCool and The Gang’ host, Natalie McCool! Her latest album ‘Memory Girl’ has received support from the likes of Clash, LOBF and BBC Radio Wales, with the title track constructed by fan’s memories. We find out more about the album, Natalie’s process and where it all began… 

Hi Natalie! Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into music?

When I was really young, I used to listen to songs on the radio and kind of deconstruct them in my own head, with the melody and lyrics. When I was in school around the age of 14, every weekend I used to go to a free jam session for young people in my town and that gave me some amazing confidence to start playing with other young people who were into music, like me. This led to me writing my first song, followed by my first gig at one of the live nights! From then on I never looked back.

We’re really excited for your forthcoming single ‘Memory Girl’, which you wrote using fans’ memories, out in early March. What’s the key to building a dedicated fanbase? How important is this connection to you?

It’s so important for me to hear about who’s listening to my music and who I’m interacting with on the internet! I think I just love a chinwag, whether it’s online or in real life. I love to show people my own universe, what inspires me – it’s a constant connection which I suppose is addictive in all kinds of ways. I think the key is communication and passion. I am very passionate about my music and my live shows and of course, when I see that in others, it really draws me to them. The ‘Memory Girl’ project was an amazing learning curve and process. It felt quite sacred, honouring the memories of other people and really bringing them into my own music world. I love the track so much and can’t wait for people to hear it and discover which memories inspired it.

Congratulations on your upcoming slot at SXSW! How are you preparing for it?

Thank you! I don’t think I’ve ever been so organised in my life! We’re absolutely just buzzing to get over there and play at the festival. We’ve been fine tuning our live set already and I think anyone who comes to see us is in for a real treat. Playing the album live has been extremely cathartic and we still genuinely love playing all of the songs, so I’m sure our energy will definitely put a smile on people’s faces and rub off on the audience!

You’ve a UK tour kicking off in April, too. What are the best things about going on tour? Any challenges?

The best thing about touring for me is the sense of travel, camaraderie and genuine outreach. Playing your music night after night to new people at every show, it doesn’t get better than that. Also meeting everyone who’s been listening to the album and hearing about it in their own words – I just find it so interesting! Obviously a challenge for me is that it’s really tiring on the body and voice, so you do really have to conserve your energy a lot.

You’ve welcomed some incredible guests to your McCool & The Gang show on MDR, including object blue, Låpsley and more. What value do you see in internet radio?

It’s really accessible and easy to listen back to and promote. I think there has to be variation for people, and that means all different kinds of radio, specialist and alternative too! For me there has to be a mix of music and entertainment, as I love music but I also love podcasts and storytelling. There has to be context to the music.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your music career, what would it be?

Remember to always value yourself and your own ideas, skills and opinions. Sometimes even without realising it people try to pick holes in what you do, they have their own agenda and want their own way even if it’s detrimental to you financially or mentally. So you have to stay strong and focussed and build your own community with people you respect and trust.

What else is on the horizon for Natalie McCool?

I’m producing some more new music which I ABSOLUTELY love, so keep an eye out for more single releases after ‘Memory Girl’! And get down to a show on the tour 🙂 would love to meet you!

Grab a ticket for Natalie McCool live on 23rd April at Liverpool’s Mountford Hall with The Wombats here, and listen to her album ‘Memory Girl’ below!