Natalie Pearson talks homage to 1960s classic anthem

25 November 2020 | 11:05 pm | Mallory Arbour

Natalie Pearson has re-imagined You'll Never Walk Alone and talks of the importance of taking care of your mental health during the pandemic.

Natalie Pearson has been making a name for herself in the country music scene. She has opened for several big hitters in the music scene, such as Adam Brand, Travis Collins, The Wolfe Brothers, Jessica Mauboy and Karise Eden, and has performed at Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Music Muster, Tamworth Country Music Festival, Wonderland Spiegeltent, SugarFree Country, VDM Fest, WolfeFest and Groundwater Country Music Festival.

She recently released an re-imagined classic of a 1960s anthem You'll Never Walk Alone about hope and togetherness – a message meaningful to the current climate around covid and released on R U OK? Day. Born in Liverpool UK, the song is a salute to her family, and those who are also distanced or feeling isolated by the pandemic.

Many people have spoken of the positives that have come out of the covid pandemic, such as learning new skills or growing closer to their families etc. Did you experience anything similar?

Yeah, I learnt that I probably need to have a better work/life balance. I still think I'm a hard worker, but I was putting work before everything else, whereas now, I feel like I've made some more time for friendships and me time as well.

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I'm always working on my career, so [to have] that taken away from me for a while where I had nothing to do but do stuff that I enjoy, I really felt better for it. And now I'm like, “Okay, I'm going to make this an ongoing thing.”

I can’t imagine what it’s like to essentially have, as you said, the thing you put before everything else taken away from you. When you initially first heard of the pandemic, how did you react?

I didn't deal very well if I'm being honest. It was hard for a long time [and] I went into a weird headspace. I like to think I'm very go, go, go [and] be proactive about making things happen and take control of what's happening in my world, but I felt like all of that had been taken away and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

I was stressing about finances and feeling like I was gonna become irrelevant. I really questioned what I was doing with my life [and] I had no motivation to do anything if I could, and then I felt guilty for not doing anything. Now that things are starting to be a little more positive, I have a whole new mindset.

What were the things you did that helped you come around to a happier mindset?

Going to the beach – even though it was not allowed right at the start. Face-timing with my artist friends – having a chat about life and real things instead of always hustling about work – and I got into some Netflix TV.

When we were allowed to, I had some massages and facials done and went to the gym. I started to really get back to fresh air and sunshine, and feeling good about relaxing.

What Netflix TV shows do you think you watched the most of?

Grey's Anatomy, for a start. Suits. I watched the whole Nashville TV series from start to end. I went through pretty much most of the catalogue I reckon [laughs]. Some of them were good, and I kept going, and some of them were like, nah.

Let’s talk about the new single You’ll Never Walk Alone. What was the idea behind the music video?

I was kind of recreating the version that’s out for Gerry and the Pacemakers on YouTube, that black and white vibe, where it's showing togetherness and human connection.

I asked all my Natpack Facebook fan group to send me some of their own footage. I gave them a brief on what to do and I filmed some stuff myself and with some of the Natpack that came and met in either Gold Coast or Brisbane. When they were filming with me and I was like, “You know you're getting the sneak peek? You're getting to hear it before anyone else.” A couple of them cried and I was lucky enough to get it on camera too. It really shows the emotion behind the song.

Numerous artists have covered You'll Never Walk Alone from Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley and even Johnny Cash. However, it originated as a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Apart from the Gerry and the Pacemakers homage, do you have any personal connections to the song?

That, and You'll Never Walk Alone is most famous because it's the Liverpool theme song. I was born in Liverpool. My immediate family live over in Western Australia – because we emigrated when I was little – and all the rest of my family's still over in the UK. With covid, everybody has been isolated and away from the people they would normally get to hang out with and see on a daily basis. I can't see any of my immediate or extended family and, given this song has a strong family connection to me, and the message behind the song, I thought it was very appropriate for what everyone was feeling through covid.

How far into the covid pandemic did you have the idea to record the song?

Probably about a month in, I recorded it. Then I went into a weird headspace [and] it was not right [to release it] when there were so many people going through a hard time as well. And, even though the song is meant to encourage hope, I felt like I didn't have any at that point in time. It's got to be real. When you're singing a song that has a message, you've got to believe it if you want others to believe it.

I knew if I was going to put it out, I would need to put time and effort into the promotion of it [but] I didn't want to be in that competitive headspace to try and stay relevant. So, I let it go for a while. I got some video submissions in. And now, that we're coming out of it, I'm feeling better about where I am in my headspace and in general everyone's feeling a little bit better. Maybe the song would have been better coming out right in the crux of it, but it didn’t feel right back then to do it [but] it feels right now.

Every recording of the song has had its own unique differences. When first deciding to record your own version, how challenging was it to not only to make the song your own, but also not stray too far from the beloved original?

I wanted it to sound very cohesive with what I've already put out but, at the same time, it's such a classic song so you don't want to mess with something that was so great in its classic format.

It’s got such a big vocal range as well. When I was recording it, I messed with a couple of notes so that I could get to those low notes. I sent the first demo to my dad. He’s not musical, but he sent it back and said, “You’re singing it wrong.” He meant, it didn’t sound like the melody he was used to hearing over and over and over. Because I’d changed a couple of the notes to fit in with my vocal range, it didn’t sound natural to him.

So, I ended up having to re-record those bits. Like, “I’ve got to do it right! Dad says it didn’t sound right, so I’ve got to do it again [laughs]” I changed those notes back to the original melody and he loves my version of it now. Him and my mum both said that it brings them to tears, which obviously means I’ve done a good job in terms of sticking to the homage of the song [laughs].

You mentioned how you recorded the song as a means to encourage hope. Was releasing it on R U OK? Day a deliberate forethought as well?

That was a great coincidence in timing. I did want to put it out the week before because it was Father's Day, but I couldn't get that timing. R U OK? Day was perfect timing because this song is so much about knowing that you're not alone.

A lot of people, during this time, were physically isolated from people and feeling like they weren't going to get out of this funk. I felt like it was appropriate because, even if you're by yourself, there's always someone out there who cares.

In Australia, 3000 people every year commit suicide, which is an average of about eight people per day. According to the website, R U OK? Day is a national day of action to remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, “Are you OK?” is someone in your world is struggling with life’s ups and downs. Would you agree that its message is more prevalent than ever this year?

Being in the creative industry, this is very important issue. It's a very tough industry to be in and a lot of people I know do struggle with self-esteem, mental health, depression [and/or] anxiety. I myself have anxiety issues, which I've had since I was little. Sometimes it can physically make me pass out in a panic attack. I've learnt to deal with that and I'm getting better, but sometimes it does take control and you can't see beyond it.

R U OK? Day is very important to remind everyone to check on their mates. If you are staying in communication, that small thing could be the one thing that they are holding on to. They might not let you know, but knowing you're there on the other side of the phone can be such a big deal for someone.

A lot of the time, if you’re going through tough times, you don’t want to be that ‘woe is me’ person – that can take over – and you don’t want to talk with people, but it’s about looking for the signs. If you haven't heard from someone that you normally see post every day on social media or someone seems a bit flat, just being like, “Hey, do you want to grab a coffee?” or sending them a funny meme, that just lets them know you were thinking about them [and] that can be all the difference.

Restrictions have eased a lot around the country. Living in Queensland, have you found that venues have started requesting life music again?

I've started getting quite a few gig inquiries coming through for cover stuff and weddings, also festivals and support gigs, which is good, because obviously there was nothing for a long time.

Now it's starting to come back and I find that the music lovers are really getting on board, buying tickets and coming to all the events because they’ve been so deprived of that lately that we're all really now appreciating life music and events while we can go to them. I think that's a bit of a positive spin on it.

Apart from attending live gigs, as many Australian states still don’t have the luxury of live music yet; what other things can fans do to help aid their favourite artists?

Introducing a new audience, [buying] some merchandise, or just even interacting on social media goes a long way. To get to know us and we can get to know them better as well, to have that interaction – it’s a good time for everyone to focus on getting to know people. We were so deprived of it for a few months that, we really got to be personal online.

Putting on shows on Facebook live streams in our lounge room, people got to know us almost as if we were in their own homes so everyone got a stronger sense of awareness of who the artists are. Everybody's more invested now, which is great.

Keep up to date with Natalie Pearson on her Facebook page here.

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