Natalie Dunn: I don’t think you know that
Delve into the undergrowth that is a flourishing garden for Brisbane’s electronic scene and you will uncover immense talent. This is particularly the case for vocalist extraordinaire Natalie ‘Tali’ Dunn. Singer, songwriter, performer; Nat Dunn is the latest bone fide musician to infiltrate the hothouse of electronica. As the latest in a long line of femme vocalists to work with vocal house DJ/Producer Mr Timothy, Nat herself has an extensive list of credits to her own name. She has written songs for the second Mrs James Packer being Erica Baxter, been signed to *Michael Gudinski’*s Liberation Music and Mushroom Publishing; released a tune that reached #32 on the Arias, completed performances at Rumba Festival, Pepsi Live, Video Hits and a multitude of appearances on the varying television channels; opened the Goodwill Games; collaborated with the creme of Australian music talent including John Foreman and Daniel Jones just to name a few.
But with all these credits under her belt, Nat has remained relatively unknown to the great unwashed. This is set to change with the recent collaboration with Mr Timothy I Don’t Think You Know That having just been released on Ministry of Sound’s latest installment: Ministry of Sound 2008 Annual (mixed by MoS favourites John Course and Goodwill).
While Nat may be a newborn to the dance arena, she has toiled for the last six years on stages and in studios. At 17, her first single Whatever (mixed and mastered by Tom Coyne at Sterling Studios in New York) hit the arias at #32, followed by her next single Don’t Be Sorry. After coping with the plague of issues that always seems to weigh down a young and inexperienced artist when ‘done over’ in the music industry, Nat was re-signed to Liberation Music as a singer and Mushroom Publishing as a songwriter – minus her then problematic manager. “I was sooo young,” Nat reflects on her past experiences, “and needed to find out where I fit musically by myself – instead of someone else telling me what was ‘marketable’ and what I should do. Now I’m 23; a little older, a little wiser, and I’m comfortable where I am musically – which feels really nice.”
Having grown up out west in Mitchell and then moving to the Sunshine Coast’s Elimbah, and schooling in Wamuran and Caboolture, Nat alternates between her second home of Melbourne as well as Brisbane. She points out that that she loves the land – but loves the city too. A self confessed beach bum who enjoys wakeboarding and jet-skiing and also a lover of The Smurfs, the Aries girl states that “music has been apart of my life since I was little” and that “it was just a natural progression for me to do it for a living. Music means happiness to me,” Nat relates. “It means memories and emotions. It means so very much. [Music] is an expression. It’s culture. It’s a medium. It’s joy.”
And the power to touch and relate is something she hopes to achieve with her music. “It’s nice to give someone three or four minutes of enjoyment . If they’re diggin’ your tune – that’s pretty cool! I wouldn’t mind it if I could keep making a living out of it too, ‘cause I don’t know what else I could do with myself!” Knowing her to be surrounded by an endless stream of incredible musicians, I thus quiz her on her favourite instrument. “Mmm that’s a bit tough isn’t it?” she laughs at me. “I honestly don’t think I could choose just one,” she points out. “I love a good bit of organ playing. I love the sound of a Rhodes or a Hammond, but then there’s nothing like a good player rocking out on a guitar either. Nope,” she finally concludes. “Can’t choose – sorry.”
I ask here what makes you different as an artist? Nat finds it hard to answer this question. “I have a love and an appreciation for such a broad range of genres,” Nat points out. “I believe that I’m influenced by a lot of them – so maybe I’m a bit of a blend.” This is certainly so, for one can find Nat belting out Aretha Franklin tunes for corporate galas and events across the east coast of Australia in corporate covers showband Honey; to crooning the easy jazz and tinpan alley tunes of the Andrews Sisters. With her strong voice that can wail and holler easily alongside any Soul diva, Natalie is likewise comfortable penning down her experiences into a song. Noting that life is her greatest inspiration, Nat comments that it “maybe not always my experience (like maybe a friends) or maybe just my observation of a situation or even just my thoughts or opinion,” but life itself will motivate Nat to sit down and churn out a tune.
“How did you meet Mr Timothy?” I ask her. “Tim and I have known each other since I was a 16 year old kid,” Nat relates. “He actually remixed my first single back in The Tali Days”. We are very comfortable working together because of that, I guess. We are very honest with each other. He gives me grooves to write lyrics and melodies over and then we sift through the good and bad to end up with the final product.”
What are your thoughts on Australian Electronic Dance, I ask. “This scene is actually quite new to me,” Nat points out. “But it’s rocking the Oz music arena at the moment! I’m loving Sneaky Sound System and they’re independent – which just means I admire them so much more. The Calculators are also dear friends of mine and they’ve been knockin out the electro for donkeys years. I love their stuff too.” Inspired in her performances by such names as Nikka Costa, Janice Joplin, Lauren Hill and Sam Brown – “rock with soul vocals” she points out – Nat is inspired in the studio by such producers as Sting, Elton John and Seal. But there are “soo many more that I could rattle off!” Nat laughs. Preferring both the ambience of a studio and the hectic pressures of the stage, Nat notes that they are both very different. “I couldn’t live without either,” she affirms. “Being in the studio and creating something is so rewarding and magical. Getting up and performing your work live is such a rush and the energy you get and give from a bunch of complete strangers is something that blows me away. I think the whole music industry is very exciting at the moment,” Nat comments. “The bad and the good. The whole download situation sucks badly for artists, but then there is this overflow of touring with it too; which is wonderful at the the same time. There really is nothing like a great live show.” she affirms.
Indeed, her words will be put to the test as her first live performance with Mr Timothy will be presented on the Glam Stage, Sunday November 18 for Fluffy’s first festival at the RNA Showgrounds. With such names as Ricky Lee, Slinkee Minx, TV Rock with Seany B, Vandalism, Potbelleez, Alex Taylor, Alexei Paige and Miss Synthetique on the bill, Nat will showcase her incredible soulful vocals and improvisational skills onto an unsuspecting but oh so willing crowd.
Buoyed by the intense and banging grooves of Mr Timothy, Nat Dunn is sure to expose Australian audiences to the power of truly sublime vocals and ardent lyrics, and with her incredible performance talents, Brisbane’s very own Natalie ‘Tali’ Dunn will continue to prove that musicianship and talents are the key to enduring success – and Brisbane will be right there beside her, encouraging her luminous gifts.
Catch Natalie performing with Mr Timothy on Sunday November 18 at the Fluffy Festival at the RNA Showgrounds.