Tucked up in the small town of Niwot, just outside of Longmont, CO, an artist that is living and breathing music resides. With a retreat style creative space, getting out of the city is exactly what was needed in order to fully immerse themselves in the art. With a drive, a focus, and a passion, many musicians can see the payout of their labors. However, there are the few, that make it to the next level. And Natalie Tate is taking her journey from local to national with grace and her heart on her sleeve.
By Veronica Lee
Originally from Denver, Natalie Tate has lived all along the front-range of the Rockies. From Colorado Springs to Boulder, she now resides in an apartment surrounded by friends and family in a town called Niwot. Longmont isn’t terribly far from the “big city” of Denver, but it’s far enough for her to have the freedom to explore the duality and her complex love of both lives. “I can have a little more space to work, and to walk, and do the more retreat style,” she explains, “then I come down to the city and go wild,” she offers with a giggle.
We first found Tate at The Soiled Dove Underground, her version of going wild while playing an opening set for Chris Pureka. A soaring set of beautiful and emotive songs, the singer/songwriter puts the audience in a trance-like state with stories of love, learning, and growing up. Her shyness is put on a shelf while she plays and captivates, but there is a strong sense of humility that still is ever present. “I’m pretty introverted,” she tells us. “I like being social for sure, but it can be more depleting than energizing.” Which is exactly why having a safe space at the end of the night to recharge the creative fire is the balance she prefers.
Tate started writing and performing in high school, she recalls playing with fellow local musician Laura Goldhammer at their school assemblies. Their friends would be in tears in the front row and she beams at the thought of how, even back then, she could move people so deeply. She and Goldhammer rented out The Bluebird Theater and performed a show for their schoolmates, friends and family, and Tate still fondly thinks of it as a career highlight. Though, after college, she put down music for a while and wasn’t even confident it was what she was going to ultimately pursue.
“I took a major break, I did not want to play music at all. Partly to try exploring some other parts of my identity and partly because I was scared to do what I loved.” She was just finishing up her school focus and dangerously close to testing for a teaching license, when something clicked again. “I kept having this experience of going to see concerts and feeling really jealous and resentful of the performers.” She realized that this choice wasn’t making her happy, music in some capacity needed to be revisited. “It became sort of unbearable, the thought of never giving myself that time and space to at least try. And at that point it was just to try and start writing and performing again, I didn’t really know if I was going to try and make a career out of it.”
Step by step, she’s stuck through with leaps of faith here and there, and now admits it’s to the point that she feels it’s her calling and her path, “I don’t feel like I have much of a choice.” The life of a working musician. While she is doing what she loves, it is in essence like any other job. Some parts are extremely rewarding and satisfying while others are a bit more of a stretch. “Generally, I would rather be in the studio or creating; performing is the hardest part for me,” she explains. However, she knows that is part of the job description, and takes on the task because she knows the payout is pretty darn good. “All the energy of putting yourself out there is expending energy, but it can be also energizing and feeling like the icing on the cake when you feel like you reach people.”
Some days, taking to that stage are simply more difficult, and Tate doesn’t think that it’s a bad thing. In fact, she willingly draws the crowd in to her energy and mindset on those harder days. Allowing herself the freedom to be vulnerable, not just with her music, but with what she’s feeling in the current moment, she connects on another level. “I think I have to be kind of honest on stage, and usually end up taking that leap and telling the audience how I’m feeling.” In the way of a songwriter, she uses the metaphor of being “caught in the net of the audience.” There is a beautiful comfort of knowing that people respond to honesty and are there to catch her if she falls. That’s trust. And that’s the kind of network of fans, friends and family she can rely on.
Yet, what happens when she steps outside of the net of Denver and out into the big sea of national touring? “I went on my first bigger solo tours last year to the Midwest, it was really challenging to go and play for people who hadn’t heard me before” she admits. Being a local favorite, she can generally expect that people are there to hear her and they are engaged and actively listening. Out on the road, though, that is a very different experience. “It was a really good experience because in order to play and connect to the music I had to just be doing it for myself, regardless if I knew anyone else was connecting. On that tour, I went from feeling totally shut down to singing out and having fun, just for myself.” And, along the way, she undoubtedly acquired a new fan base and piqued interest.
Tate relates it to exercising a muscle, staying present and being in the moment, getting out of the head space and trust-falling back into the creative mind. “I compare it to playing ping pong or tennis, it’s really good practice for me that relates to performing. As soon as you starting thinking about what you want to do, where you want to hit the ball, you’ll hit it into the net,” she explains. She knows that the same “rules” apply on stage and with performing, “It’s immediate feedback when you’re in your head. If you can not think and let your body do what it automatically wants to do, it tends to go well.”
However, not thinking is nothing close to how she is approaching the next steps of her career. Careful strategic planning and mapping out what is in store for the rest of the year is keeping Tate in an eye-on-the-prize state of mind. She is currently working independently and executing all the roles that are required behind the scenes of a solo-artist business enterprise. She is her own manager, publicist, booking agent, promoter and networker. Just earlier in the morning before our interview, she was connecting with Spotify over playlist placement and sending out press kits to radio stations. That’s a lot of work for one person… and yet she knows this is what needs to happen and she’s ready for the challenges.
“I’m really enjoying doing it on my own, feeling really a part of the local community. We’ve got really great support and feedback, it feels really good to be deeply participating in the Colorado music scene.” However, 2017 is going to entail focusing her reach outside of Denver. A fall tour going directly to more industry forward cities and building a team of Tate. The hunt in LA and Nashville will hopefully acquire her a manager and booking agent, two roles she feels need to be filled in order to get to the next level. She has a unique concept of what touring is going to look like and how that’s best going to fit her future goals while meeting her current needs. Tate envisions establishing a residency style of touring; rather than hitting the road every day and playing in a different city each night, she wants to stay in one location for a bit of time. Her ideal is establish a presence in a city, play multiple venues over a few weeks in order to establish normalcy and gain exposure to the city’s reputable industry decision makers.
“I think this record is the best thing I’ve made,” she excitedly proclaims, but she’s nowhere close to feeling complete or finished. “I feel really excited to keep going and writing better and better stuff. I’m trying to keep the creative projects going, I’m back in the studio recording a single right now, while also doing the things that feel like grunt work.”
This summer is packed with firsts and exciting adventures for Natalie. She is a featured artist at the Film on The Rocks event at Red Rocks coming up June 5, which feels like a massive accomplishment she is confidently ready for. The full band will also be playing The Westword Music showcase June 24, The SnugRug Studio Patio Sessions in Fort Collins June 29 as well as Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (UMS) right here in Denver in late July.
“I think we all hold ourselves back from what we want and who we are, it’s one of the greatest tragedies. For me, it’s taken a while and I’ve gone through periods of totally wanting to throw in the towel and self doubt, all kind of obstacles I’ve put in my own way. Something has shifted for me in the past few months, I just feel so lucky and I think we are all capable of doing what we love.” Taking charger of her own destiny, Tate has taken the thing she loves most, worked diligently and transformed it into what she is doing for her career and her life. We should all hope to be so brave and lucky.
See the Slideshow of Natalie Tate at The Soiled Dove
Learn more about Natalie Tate
Related Article: Chris Pureka at The Soiled Dove