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Natalie McCool


Natalie McCool is regarded as a singular voice, whose influences include Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, PJ Harvey and The Stone Roses; and whose guitar style shifts from delicate fingerstyle to chorus-drenched Johnny Marr-esque riffing. Many music journalists and publications, including the Guardian and Louder Than War journalist John Robb, and Liverpool’s arts, music and film magazine, The Double Negative, have praised her musical artistry.


As have many national and local radio station hosts, including XFM’s John Kennedy and Hattie Pearson; BBC Radio 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins, Tom Ravenscroft, Shaun Keaveny, Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson and Huey Morgan; BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, Janice Long, Steve Wright, Richard Allinson and Claudia Winkleman; and BBC Radio Merseyside’s Dave Monks.


In 2007, she won the Yamaha national songwriting competition 'Make It Break It', judged by music industry professionals such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Grammy Award winning music producer Steve Levine and Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith.


In 2009, while a student at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) she received a one-to-one songwriting master class with Paul McCartney, where he helped her write a bridge to one of her unfinished songs, and played along to it on guitar. At the end of the master class, he signed her guitar.




Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


A: Yes I think every songwriter thinks of their lyrics as poetry—they have meaning, universal or personal and they convey a message to whoever reading/listening. Written word is very powerful and I don't see any difference in the written word and sung words, except sung words probably have a lot more power because you have added another dimension to the words. The recipient of those works are also responding with an added sense—aural instead/as well as visual—so I suppose it makes the whole experience more “sensory”.


Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?


A: I don't think it's too important, I think it “rounds” things off if you rhyme lyrics, but plenty of lyrics don't rhyme and still deliver the same power. Going back to the first question, lyrics can be like poetry—there are “stream of consciousness” lyrics like rap and Bob Dylan's work that have as much meaning as rhymed lyrics—and perhaps are more inventory as they are less conventional than rhyming and having a specific “metre” there within lyrics. I actually sometimes think that lyrics that rhyme can sound slightly juvenile, but then again they are fitting into a specific “song” format—which is tried and tested. All of my lyrics rhyme or half rhyme, but then that is just my personal preferred writing style at the moment, and not to say that I may one day experiment with lyrics that don't rhyme.


Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?


A: Well as in my answer above, I think conventional songwriting does conform to these structures, but more unconventional writing styles are being experimented with and also have been around for years (e.g. Bob Dylan's style). I do like a conventional song, as in my opinion these are the most powerful, and also very accessible, memorable to the ear, and that is what a great song is about: message > recipient by the strongest and most memorable means possible. I am a huge fan of this type of songwriting, which modern pop and rock has made so widely used. The structure “makes sense” to my ear—but as to whether it's because this style is so popular and what I've grown up with, or whether it is actually the most effective way of songwriting—I'm not sure.


Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?


A: Yes I definitely did—I would actually read the poetry that rhymed with a melody in my head; I think rhyming poetry has that “song” feel about it anyway when you read it to yourself; because of the structure and metre of popular verse, in your head you are putting conversational inflections to the words anyway; which in my mind is similar to “singing” the words.


Q:  Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?

A: Yes lots—my A Level English Literature class is the reason I love writing lyrics and probably the reason why I have such a passion for songs and songwriting in general. I absolutely loved finding different layers of meaning in poetry,
analysing metaphors, words and the style the writer has chosen to best get their message across to the reader—I still find it fascinating, and I brought much of that depth to my own style of writing. I love the way there are no boundaries—as long as what you write has meaning, there are no rules. Poetry is an incredibly interesting thing to study.


Q:  Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?


A: They are simply more accessible to people, no matter your background, language or education. Remember—not everyone used to be able to read and write—only the upper classes—but everyone could learn a song or words by ear and hum a tune. It is human nature—like another level of conversing emotionally. You would not sit in a room and recite poetry out loud with 50 other people—but you could sit in a room and sing a well recognised song with 50 other people, and it would bring you all together for the duration of the song. There is also the added dimension of harmony when you sing—if you have a simple tune you can have 2 part, 3 part or even 4 part harmony, which adds so much to the emotional and group experience of singing—something which you would never find in poetry.