Creative Insight: Natty

He’s the king of the Rebelship and Mr Vibes and Pressure. He has toured with Ziggy Marley, lives life as a globe trotter, and brought us his favoured songs ‘Bedroom Eyes’ and ‘I’m Alive’. Natty talked to Fringe Frequency about his music, his journey and his autumn UK tour.

Natty, how are you?
I am fine, thanks. I am blessed.

Who are your favourite musicians? Who’s at the top of your playlist right now?
Jimi Hendrix, he’s up there. Billie Holiday, Burning Spear. Midnight is probably at the top of my list right now. Maybe even The Congos, Yussef Kamaal, a British jazz band. Yeah, I listen to all types of music.

How would you describe your sound?
I wouldn’t describe it. I would leave that to someone else. Maybe it would be some kind of blend between roots and future. That’s where my head lies.

What inspires your music?
The sunrise. My children. I mean, my surroundings, you know, they’re the biggest influences to my music. And music is something that is just natural to me. Then obviously, I get inspired by listening to other musicians as well. Probably my biggest influence on my sound is Miles Davis, who taught me about space between notes, and Fela Kuti, just ’cause the groove. It’s all important.

Your albums are very different. Almost as if you’re two different people. What was the biggest difference for you?
Well, they were released, like, seven years apart. I think you can become an entirely new person in seven years. It wasn’t designed that way. But on the first album I had two weeks. We recorded the album in two weeks. On the second album, we recorded in maybe two years. So that is probably the main difference. The first album it was just bosh! We put it out. And on the second one, we took time to care for it, and make sure it was ready.

You’re almost as famous for being a Rastafarian as you are for your lyrics. How much of an influence does it have over your music?
Yeah, being a Rasta has a major influence on my music. I mean a lot of the songs I write come from a mindset that has developed through becoming a Rasta or fulfilling it, let me say. I’m not trying to be like other Rasta men, in the obvious way of inspiration. But, in terms of the word sounding, the lyrical content, and the way we approach music, that is all very much influenced by the mindset and my spiritual make-up, which has grown massively since finding his majesty.

You write and sing about love and fear. What do they mean to you?
All the emotions that we feel, derive from these two subjects. These two points of polarity: love and fear. And so, fear being the biggest and most harmful weapon that has been manipulated and manifested in creating a society that is easier to control. Love is the source of all things great.

You went from being signed to a major label to an independent artist under your own label, Vibes and Pressure. Why the change? Any regrets?
Coming off of the record label was a necessity and a must for my state of mind, and just like my balance in terms of creating music. It got to a point I was finding it very hard to create music, because of the constraints, and different ways of creating. The label was trying to put their influence onto me. So, yeah, the biggest change, has been the freedom, the creative freedom and also having to do everything myself. Which is a good learning for me, because I’ve had things done for me, I’ve been blessed like that. So, yeah, I take all lessons quite willingly. No regrets.

What’s your favourite part of being a musician? And what’s the worst?
I get to make music. That in itself is the biggest feeling. The worst part is probably having to be other things to supplement being a musician. Other things such as a promoter, a social media person, all of that stuff.

To date, what’s been the highlight of your career?
Many highlights, but probably the travelling is the biggest highlight. So, getting to see different places, yeah: India, Japan, parts of Africa, South America. That’s the biggest highlight.

What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters and musicians?
My advice to stay true to yourself. Always follow your heart, but try getting to know your heart before following it. Don’t base what you’re doing on who you’re trying to be. And the rest should just fall in line.

You perform with your band the Rebelship. Can you tell us about them?
My band the Rebelship are some of the baddest musicians around – and not only in the UK, but the world. I’m very blessed to be among them. Jahmel [Tallis Ites]: tallest, bass player, is my right-hand man. He leads the band alongside myself. Then on keyboards we got Calvin [Bennion]. He’s a producer as well. Everyone’s pretty much a producer in the band. Then, we got a couple of guitarists we use – Leon and James – dependent upon the freedom. And then we got a new addition on drums for this tour, his name is Marley. Wicked drummer. Yeah, we’re all friends and it’s like a band of bruddas. I give thanks to the Rebelship.

You’re about to head off on tour. Are you excited?
Yeah! This is what I do: I make music, I tour. So, I give thanks. I’m just looking to make it a really good tour and bring love and healing to the tour.

What are your hopes for the tour?
That everyone will complete what they say they’re going to do. In other words: everyone learns their part, all the promoters do their job, the people come out, we all have an upful and vibrant time. When everyone does their job, everything will be just fine because the music and the vibrations take care of themselves.

Your shows are a very spiritual experience. Is that an organic result or have you cultivated that?
A bit of both, I suppose. Music has the power to heal. The spiritual experience that you speak of is something that is free and lives within, and outside of us. In terms of all of us coming together, there’s a spiritual something in the room.

The spiritual experience that you speak of is because we’ve worked hard and we know what we’re supposed to be playing. We play it right together and because we’ve cultivated this way of playing music that is tight, and it’s also free at the same time. From that we get a spiritual experience, which I believe is organic. So, yeah, it is both cultivated and organic, because I don’t think we can get there without working hard, which is the cultivation. But you must open up your mind and your heart to allow it to come forward, and that process is organic.

What’s your favourite song to perform?
Probably either the first one or the last one that we play on stage because it’s always a moment of clarity. Recently we’ve been playing ‘Release the Fear’ last and starting with ‘Gaia’.

What can we expect from your tour?
One can expect a high vibration and frequency, well disciplined and crafted musicianship, and a room full of upward vibrations.

If you can describe your tour in one word what would it be?
Necessary.

What’s next on the horizon for you?
The trip to the Amazon, the Sacred Journey. We called it Release the Fear: The Sacred Journey. I’ll be taking eight people with me to the Amazon to meet my shaman and my friends out there. So, I’m looking forward to that, heading out a couple weeks after the tour.

Natty and the Rebelship’s autumn UK tour started in Manchester and continues until December 8. The group are appearing at The Garage, London, on December 4. Tickets can be purchased here.

Image: Karina Stevens