Open eyed and yearning for change, Natty is a poetic singer-songwriter that came on to the scene in 2008 with his debut album Man Like I. As thought-provoking lyricism takes centre point in his music, Natty’s acoustic reggae sound combines a laid back vibe with an upbeat tempo. A sound concoction that has gained him international acclaim, taken him to play gigs around the world and even a tour of America with Ziggy Marley, who Natty describes as an “irie guy”. Since the success of Man Like I, Natty has released the Out of Fire EP in 2012 and a follow-up album, Release the Fear in 2016. Now, 10 years on, he embarks upon a tour of the UK celebrating the success of his debut album.
After being born in San Francisco, Natty and his family moved to the UK, where he grew up in North London. “It definitely had a strong hand in shaping me, you can’t help but take in all the different inspirations because London is like a melting pot for culture. As an artist, you can’t help but be inspired by what you see.” Natty himself could be described as the product of a culture melting point, explaining how he had “a very eclectic musical household” With a South African mother and British father. “I’ll give thanks for that. I was listening to lots of different styles of music from Grateful Dead to Burning Spear and from Miles Davis to Pink Floyd.” The different styles come through in his own music to produce a wholly unique singer/songwriter style.
Before Natty started on his own music career he worked at a recording studio. Wanting to be a producer, not a musician, he worked with the likes of Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers and helped produce music “from X Factor stuff to cool stuff like Mos Def.” After a while though, “I kind of got bored of it. I co-produced Razorlight’s first album and after that I had a lot of indie bands wanting to get in the studio with me and it just wasn’t really floating my boat.” Always writing his own music in his downtime, Natty decided it was time to give it a go himself and commenced his solo career.
Throughout his music there is a common topic of change and revolution. “What is there not to see? It’s all in front of our face. You’ve got to be pretty privileged to not see that change is necessary, just open your eyes.” On the Man Like I record, Natty sings ‘I dreamed of a revolution’ implying the change he wants to see in our world. “Every day we are faced with financial disparity: the amount of wealth owned by such a small amount of people whilst the amount of suffering that the planet is going through. Poverty, what we do to the planet and how the elite move and act are probably the three main headlines behind my lyrics.” By addressing these globally important issues Natty gives his music a consciousness which stands him apart from many contemporary artists in his genre.
Natty’s career has allowed him to travel the world and see parts of it that many do not get to see, and although Natty was raised in London, he admits “England comes with a certain sense of privilege just living here. What it does is it curates a certain type of cultural arrogance. When you come back here, certainly from poorer countries, you notice how many fake smiles there are. People smile with their eyes and their heart in other parts of the world.” Experiencing other cultures has widened Natty’s perspective on life, which he wants to share through his music. “If you keep your eyes open you can become more humble to it and know your place in the world. I feel like it is important to speak your truth and if your truth is consciousness and helps the others involved then it is important that you keep your line and you don’t stray.”
Equipped with a philosophy in life, Natty decided to take action and help found a charity called ERASE, which is an acronym for Education, Responsibility, Aspiration, Steadfastness and Empowerment. “We’ve got an orphanage and three schools. We’ve got different clothing programmes and warehouses in Africa, which as we speak are getting emptied and getting delivered to people.” Natty has been working with the charity for around eight years and decided to partake in the project for not only his wider humanitarian beliefs but also because of his heritage. “Whether we were taken out of Africa or whether we travelled ourselves out of Africa, us as black people have a different perspective on this ‘ere Babylonian system that we find ourselves in. And so know how to get even further than people in Africa, so it’s important for those ones in the diaspora, like myself, to make sure that we take back to Africa what it is that we have learnt.” A lyricist on paper and in conversation, it’s difficult not to be extensively inspired by the words of Natty.