Hello and welcome to Future Classic Women Awards with me, Stefania Passamonte, on Women’s Radio Station, a programme where we search for the most amazing new female artists on the Classical panorama. Today on Future Classic Women Awards we will be talking to Natasha Hardy, a classical crossover singer-songwriter from London. Her voice has been described as angelic, haunting and ethereal. Natasha is trained in both classical and contemporary traditions and writes her own material.
Good morning, Natasha!
Good morning, Stefania!
Natasha you’re from London so you’re a bit like a unicorn, right?
*Laughs* yes, well you know I love unicorns.
*laughs* That’s what I thought.
Well originally, I’m from St Albans, I was born in St Albans and I grew up in Hampshire. Then in my early 20s, I moved to London and I’ve been here ever since. I would consider myself a ‘proper Londoner’ now as it is the place that I have lived in the longest!
Absolutely, I am almost a Londoner too. *both laughs*
So, tell me Natasha, how is it being a classical, opera singer that is actually mixing contemporary traditional with original song. How has that happened?
I’ll rewind to the beginning because originally, I didn’t want to be a singer, I actually wanted to be an actress. I became interested in singing because I just saw lots of advertisements for auditions for actresses that could also sing. I took that on board and I started classical singing lessons, I simply fell in love with the art of learning to sing. It all started from there, and singing became the thing that I wanted to do!
Sort of like mystical call, isn’t it?
Yes, it was, it was very strange and so as the years went on, I decided that I would instead of singing other people’s songs I would write my own songs! Sometimes you want to change things up and in the classical world you have to kind of ‘abide by the rules’ so it was very difficult for me to get across what I wanted to put into the performance. I thought that the best thing I could do was to write my own music and then I have a free reign to do what I want to do, that is how it started!
That’s very, very impressive, so I mean you just came out with an amazing album that is called…
‘Lost In Love’, yes thank you very much.
It is impressive that you actually wrote all the songs, did you write also the lyrics?
I wrote all of the lyrics and I wrote the music! I did, however, have some help arranging the piano with a very talented, classical pianist, Stefano Marzanni. We worked together to create the arrangements. Once I had the songs ready, I took it to my producer, Tom E. Morrison, who helped me arrange the string sections like cello, violin, double bass, flute, trumpet – the list is endless! There was a lot of hard work that went into it, but I hope everyone is going to like it.
Yeah, there is nothing not to like.
Aww, thank you.
What surprised me is that there is also an Italian song in your album, why did you choose to use the Italian language?
When I first began classical singing, my favourite songs to sing were in Italian, I loved the use of the vowels and some of the first songs that I sang were by Puccini! I always thought that one day I’ll write something in Italian, so that’s why two songs on the album were in Italian, it is the language of love at the end of the day!
I may say, so if we had to choose the song that most present your style and your journey what would that be?
I think would probably be ‘In Too Deep’ is the first track that I released earlier this year, it begins with a very easy piano accompaniment and then the orchestral arrangement comes in. It comes into more of a very full score and that represents my journey. I think as a singer, songwriter and a performer that you start off slowly and you build and build your repertoire, your skills and…
You open a darkness of a new beginning!
Exactly, a new beginning!
Absolutely beautiful, shall we listen to it?
Yes, thank you
Like I said, it was the first song that I recorded for the album and I released it in April. We have Stefano Marzanni on piano, Alice Sophie on cello, Alexander Verster on double bass and Dermot Creehan on the violin! Tom E. Morrison produced it and it’s one of my favourite songs on the whole album.
Amazing, it is really beautiful. How was to collaborate with this classical musician?
It was very interesting but very nerve wracking as well. It was the first time that I had been in a studio with lots of musicians! I was there during the sessions and we put the pieces together, layer by layer, so I haven’t experienced being in the studio with all of the musicians yet. But hopefully touch wood that will come to be, but it was a beautiful (experience).
Natasha, you bring in a modern, timeless, twisted classical music. How is that?
I think it’s because I didn’t go through the traditional classical music ‘route’. I didn’t go to a Conservatoire and I came into music a lot later than the average singer or musician. I didn’t start singing until my early 20s. And like I said, it was a different journey. Although, I would definitely recommend going through the traditional route of music school because it took me a long time to learn and it wasn’t the easiest journey! But that said, the flipside of it is I didn’t get ingrained with a particular mindset and I have to say that some people thought it was rebellious the things that I was doing! However, I thought that was normal because I was exploring music! I think that’s how I’ve managed to blend the classical and the contemporary styles.
Absolutely. So, there is something also that struck me from your album which is that is very visual apart that you’re very beautiful.
Thanks very much!
I love this some sort of fairy-tale visual language of your album that is probably also in the music. And also, there is this take on Celtic music, so can you tell us a bit more about this?
Well, first with regard to the visuals, there’s a huge part of me which is still a big actress! When I write, I don’t just write for the emotion, I also write to imagine what it’s going to be like when performed on stage. I think about how I want to bring emotion out of people that are watching and to get them to experience my music at its fullest.
It was really important that I encapsulated the feeling of love. It can feel like a nightmare, depending on who you’re in love with, but it was really important for me to get this fantasy kind of fairy-tale look. One of my favourite operas is Rusalka, and so anything with this kind of fairy-tale theme really appeals to me.
In response to the Celtic theme, I’m actually 8th Irish, so some of my ancestors are from Killarney! And so, I wanted to have a little bit of a Celtic theme. Also, one of my earliest musical influences was Enya and, I don’t know if you’re familiar with her music, but the Clannad and this Celtic ‘feel’ is very inspirational to me.
Going back to the opera and talking about Rusalka, would that be your dream role or do you have other?
I think it’s probably one of my dream roles, yes, also, Violetta is the other dream.
So, is this why? Why you have some operatic style songs? In your album, which song would you consider the most similar style?
I think that both of the Italian songs on my album, ‘Mi Ritiro’ and ‘Il Segretto’, have the most operatic feel. I wanted to give the listener a little taste of my operatic voice, but I didn’t want it to be an overly operatic album. I can build up to that in the future, I have lots of plans!
Oh, we like that. So, shall we listen to ‘Mi Ritiro’ first!
I would say ‘Strong’, it’s the last track on the album. It features Dermot Crehan, which is a world-renowned Violinist and fiddler. He did the main theme for the Lord of the Rings movie, and my song, ‘Strong, was recently licensed to a film called Viking Destiny. It features at the end of the soundtrack so it has a real Celtic feel.
Let’s listen to it…
I think that the most exciting moment of my career is right now. It’s what I’ve been working towards for a long time. I’m enjoying every moment, I’m so excited for the future and all of the new things that are coming up. I’m excited to be able to perform my songs next year as I’m putting together a tour, I’m looking for artists that I can work with in the future and I’m also looking for artists that I can support on stage. I’m very excited about the future, so right now is very exciting. I’m enjoying every moment of it.
Beautiful and what would be the most challenging moment in your career if you had any?
I think that the most challenging moment was when I was making my album, it was everything that I expected to be. It was really exciting and wonderful and very enjoyable working with different musicians and working with producer. However, it’s also very, very hard financially. I got out a very big loan and I spent a lot of my life savings to produce this album.
I had to do it this way was because it is a new genre that I’m pushing forward. It’s very difficult to create an operatic style of music that is also going to have Celtic themes and my ethereal vocals! Unless you’ve heard a song and like it then it’s very difficult for people to come on board.
Even to find it, if you like to look for it.
Exactly and now, it is out there, in the world, for everyone to hear. I think it’s going to make the pathway a lot easier for myself to make more music like this, but also for other artists too.
And that’s exactly my point, I’m excited for this programme to meet so many amazing strong women that they want to shake the classical music industry and you know the moment you started talking about classical music you think about old and rigid, if you like, but classical music is still evolving, can still be exciting, it can still be fresh and new.
Yes, I totally agree with you Stefania. One of the things that happened to me that really catapulted me was when I was singing and a company said ‘no, you can’t sing it like that’ and I told them I want to sing it like that! That’s me, the rebel, and I will definitely have to write music where I can kind of mix this contemporary vocal sound with the operatic sound.
Absolutely, so there’s a question I wanted to ask. I was very intrigued by the fact that you started as an actress. So, do you still have some place in your career for acting? Opera is a great combination of acting and singing and classical music…
I really love opera and it’s one thing that I would definitely like to do in the future. I would love to mix my acting and singing skills! It’s definitely another goal of mine. In regards to acting alone, I think I will at some point whether it’s in a play or a film, I have no idea, but right now I’m concentrating on my music. I am a great believer in what comes to you is the right thing and so we will just see how I evolve!
In this very inspiring mode, then, what would be the song that you think convey most of this?
On the album there’s a song called ‘Enter the Gate’. It was a spiritual journey for me. I had been recommended a book called ‘The Pathway’ by Eva Pierakkos. It is about learning to have self-love, and I think it’s one of the greatest loves of all, to really learn to love yourself, and I think my song ‘Enter the Gate’ conveys this inspiring lesson.
For example, do you have any strange hobby to relax your mind?
I wouldn’t say strange but I have a couple of hobbies that I love because I’m not good at them. I find ice skating a real challenge because it completely takes over my mind.
Oh, I love watching it.
It’s very, very hard and it completely baffles me how ice skaters manage to skate around on the ice with what looks like such ease! I think in another life, I would have loved to have been an ice skater.
Me too, we might meet there!
Then, although it’s not a strange hobby, I also paint. I love to paint in various mediums. Oil, acrylic, watercolour, and I find that that it completely relaxes me. No one is watching you, you can be in your rough clothes, no makeup on, and pony tail! I can just be myself.
Absolutely, it is not related to music, though that might inspire you for songs as well, I guess you know the image that you might create or that catch your eyes.
Yes, well, I am inspired by a lot by art. I really love art.
In all shapes and forms!
In all shapes and forms, and especially in the form of painters and illustrators. When I was at school, I did well in art and I think it showed while I was young that I was going to end up with a creative career, but I would say I’m probably a better singer than I am an artist!
Wonderful. When I was little, I would spend ages just observing the classical sculpture, the Greek and neoclassical as well. I would go through the beauty of the marble Angela.
Yes, when the light reflects on the marble, it’s just beautiful. Two of my favourite artists are Vermeer and Degas, the way they capture the light is amazing. I think, as a musician, you want to capture this sparkle in a performance, it’s similar but it’s conveyed in sound rather than on a canvas.
Do you have any superstitions before going on stage?
Oh yes, I have a lot of superstitions. How long have we got? I bring my own tap water from home.
I also bring my own yoga mat so I can do some yoga before I go on stage. I always eat a banana before performing! These are a few things and I think as any type of performer, you have these little rituals. It makes you feel secure and relaxed as I do suffer from stage fright!
There are also always funny things that happen on stage, sometimes these superstitions like to make us think that they will stop this from happening!
There’s been various funny things that have happened throughout my career, once the microphone didn’t work! Once my pianist lost their place because I went to the wrong part of the song! I’m very lucky that I’ve worked with some very talented accompanist’s as you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry I’ve done this wrong’ and the funny thing is when you do something wrong the audience usually don’t even know!
But the truth is that when you do a performance is not important to be absolutely perfect, you are sharing the art of music, and that doesn’t come from perfection. We need to remind the younger ones that perform because that’s when you get stage fright the most!
Yes, and I think the reason that you can get stage fright is not because you’re nervous about performing, it’s that you want to give the perfect performance!
Well, what shall we listen to finish our beautiful interview?
I think you should play ‘Il Segretto’ from my album; it is one of my favourite songs. It’s written in your language of love and if you don’t know what ‘Il Segretto’ means, that’s the secret! Sometimes you can fall in love with somebody and they don’t even know about it. The song is about being secretly in love with someone!
Let’s listen to it then.
Thank you so much for having me, Stefania it’s been an absolute honour.
It was our pleasure indeed.