Natalie clark

Clark’s journey has been ‘magical’

Natalie Clark will perform at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday evening as part of the CraicFest.

By Peter McDermott

“I tell it from the heart,” said musician Natalie Clark in an interview last weekend, “I’m quite autobiographical in my writing. I can’t help it. I tell it like it is.

“It’s not cryptic or anything,” she added. “It’s straight to the point.”

The Scot who relocated to Los Angeles in recent times is working on her second career EP and promised to unveil some of her new songs on stage at the Mercury Lounge for the CraicFest on Saturday night.

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Clark defines her music as “soulful pop.” She said: “I love Motown stuff. It’s soulful, but there are a lot of great pop hooks.”

She can recall loving Aretha Franklin and the Beatles growing up, but Ella Fitzgerald had perhaps the biggest influence on her.

Her father Christopher Clark is a consultant physician, but he has always kept up his interest in writing, singing and playing jazz guitar. Natalie Clark made her performance debut singing jazz standards at a gig of his. In addition, her mother Kathleen is a qualified piano teacher and both parents started out at age 17 singing Irish and Scottish folk songs (Clark revealed that her paternal grandmother and all of her great-grandparents were born in Ireland).

Her older brothers, Stephen and Michael, are accomplished musicians also, with the latter taking the professional route back in Scotland. “They inspire me,” she said.

Natalie Clark gave up her job as an elementary schoolteacher in Scotland a couple of years ago to pursue her own dream of being a professional musician

A little while later, she was wondering if taking the leap had been the right thing to do. Then she had a “serendipitous moment.” On a recorded BBC show, Clark asked Richard Branson about being “brave.” The world-famous entrepreneur turned the tables on her and asked her to sing.

“I didn’t have a guitar or anything but I went for it and sung my own song ‘Weakness,’ which is actually about being brave, about going your own path,” Clark said.

“It went well and it was a boost,” she recalled. “I was in touch with him afterwards and having his encouragement and support, I thought ‘I’ve got to go for it now.’”

She had previously visited Los Angeles with her father, and though she loves New York thought it would be a good place to live.

“Growing up on the west coast of Scotland with the rain, there was something magical as soon as I got off the plane,” Clark said. “I thought ‘This is amazing!’ It’s been quite a magical ride since.”

She was talented-spotted on YouTube by the NBC show “The Voice,” and described her appearance on that as one of her L.A. highlights so far.

“I didn’t go particularly far in the show but it was just an amazing experience,” she said. “They flew out my mum and my brother Stephen. And they contacted Richard Branson and he sent a ‘good luck’ message, which was very sweet.

On the show itself, Christina Aguilera praised Clark’s "cool, powerful voice.”

“I thought ‘What is happening? This is brilliant!” she said.

“I got some lovely feedback,” she added.

Another important moment was being asked by Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the duo Indigo Girls to open for them on tour. “They are incredible musicians and songwriters,” she said. Before that, she’d never played at venues like the Beacon Theatre in New York.

And she returns this weekend to her other favorite American city for a second consecutive appearance at the CraicFest. “As soon as you touchdown, New York has that energy and excitement, especially for a musician,” she said. “In L.A., it’s quite relaxed and you go to find the energy pockets.

“I’d a lovely time last year,” Clark said, “and I’m delighted that Terence [Mulligan] has invited me back.”

For more details about the 20th Annual CraicFest, go to thecraicfest.com.