Posted On 16 Nov 2016
Nataly Dawn—also known as one half of the duo Pomplamoose, whose songs and videos have amassed nearly 115 million views on YouTube with over 450,000 subscribers to their channel released her sophomore solo album, Haze, on October 29th.
Produced by Dawn and mixed by Beau Sorrenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Bob Mould, Superchunk) Haze was recorded in the Northern California home studio she shares with longtime partner (now husband) and other half of Pomplamoose, Jack Conte. The LP contrasts barebones guitar-vocal tracks with synth ballads, all featuring Dawn’s trademark melodies and gritty lyrics where she picks apart her evangelical upbringing and other relationships-gone-bad.
“I called the album Haze because that was my general state when I was writing these songs,” she says, “It’s that feeling of ‘walking around in a haze.’ The uncertainty that comes when a chapter of your life ends abruptly, and you’re not quite sure what’s happened. It also relates to the idea of being hazed: put through some strange and often cruel rite of passage.” She compares the process of writing the record to “doing an autopsy,” saying, “It’s a pretty gruesome process, but it’s the only way to know what happened…what is happening. It’s really no fun at all finding out what’s underneath! But it’s the only way to move ahead. So you dig and you pry and you try to get to the bottom of it, with the hope that maybe someday it will help somebody else figure out their shit too.”
The album marks a return to Dawn’s home-studio roots following her widely praised 2013 solo debut How I Knew Her, which was recorded at Sonoma’s Prairie Sun Studios following a successful six-figure Kickstarter campaign. NPR’s “All Things Considered” said that the album “retains a lot of [Pomplamoose’s] whimsy and charm, but the music reveals a side of the singer that Pomplamoose fans might not have known was there,” while TIME Magazine called it “an eclectic folk rock-ish album of probing, poignant songs” and The Chicago Tribune described it as “a collection of self-penned, introspective, semiautobiographical songs, sung in a voice that is strong yet intimate, alternately confessional and conversational.”
Dawn now funds her work—including Haze—through Patreon, an ongoing crowdfunding site for artists that Conte co-founded in 2013. Instead of funding one large project, as was the case with How I Knew Her, Dawn’s “patrons” now support each individual video or song that she releases. She averages two music videos per month and her patronage has reached $7,000 per video. All 1250+ of her patrons’ names will be printed on the physical Haze LP.
The daughter of missionaries, Dawn spent much of her childhood in Europe where she attended Lyçées Français in France and Belgium before returning to the U.S. to study art and French literature at Stanford University. It was there that she met Conte and formed Pomplamoose. In 2010 the band released its first compilation of original songs with lyrics by Dawn titled Pomplamoose VideoSongs, as well as an album of covers aptly named Tribute to Famous People. That same year, the duo released The Holiday EP as an incentive for a charity book drive, raising more than $130,000 in books for the Richmond, CA school system.
Learn more about Nataly in the following All Access interview:
Now that we are in the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year? What have been some of the highlights for you and your music?
This year has been an education. It’s like I’ve been working toward a PhD, but instead I have an album. Making Haze was really a three-year process, but the first two years were spent mulling around, writing, trying things out. There was a lot of wandering. This year, I chose a direction. I guess there’s a time for experimentation, and then there’s a time to make decisions. So far this year I have finished two albums (one solo and one with my band Pomplamoose), set up a tour, released sixteen music videos, and collaborated with several amazing artists. It’s just an insane amount of information to take in!
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor and my mom was the music director at every church we attended. I was always surrounded by music and can remember sitting by my mom at the piano when I was just three-years-old, harmonizing with her as she played hymns. She’s the reason why I became so involved in music, and why certain things like harmony always came so easily to me. But I never thought I would be a professional musician. It felt like such an irresponsible and indulgent choice. So I avoided it. Never studied music. Intentionally kept it as a “hobby” and if anyone ever asked if I wanted to be a musician, my answer was an immediate “Nope!” Then I met Jack Conte my Freshman year of college. We started making music together. By the time I graduated my own parents were telling me to put off looking for jobs and focus on the band. No parents ever tell their children that. So I listened. Four months after graduating I was making a living from mp3 sales, and I’ve been making music full-time ever since!
How do you think your upbringing as the daughter of missionaries and all the traveling has influenced your music and ultimately, you as an artist?
Well, I’ll never be “normal” if that’s what you’re asking. 🙂 I think it’s difficult for most people to understand what it’s like growing up as a Pentecostal, Evangelical Missionary Kid. I haven’t seen the movie “Jesus Camp” but from what I’ve heard that’s not too far from what I experienced. That said, the extreme religiosity isn’t what’s stayed with me. I honestly feel very lucky (dare I say, “blessed”) to have been raised in the church. I’ve tried to guard myself against too much pessimism, because what I was left with is truly beautiful. I got to see so much of the world growing up. I speak French fluently. I know so many Bible stories, so much theology, so many hymns! And then there’s the whole fear-of-hell, self-loathing, maybe-there’s-a-demon-under-my-bed part which isn’t so great. But hey…that just makes for better lyrics.
At the end of this month, you will release your newest solo album, “Haze.” What does that feel like? How long did it take to make it? How different or similar is it to your debut release, “How I Knew Her”?
I wish it felt amazing and that I was totally enamored with my accomplishment. But honestly, I still pivot between feeling proud of it and wondering if it’s too late to take it off of the iTunes waitlist. Mostly, I’m glad that it’s done, and I hope that it will mean something to the people who hear it, because it took so much out of me. I’ve been writing and producing this album from home for over three years. That’s a long time to spend with ten songs. And it definitely feels like a departure from my last record: a similar style of songwriting but recorded very differently. “How I Knew Her” was made with accomplished session musicians, and recorded live to tape in a real studio with real engineers and fancy old gear. This album was self-produced at my home-studio. I play most of the instruments, and sometimes you can hear my dog’s collar twinkling in the background. I love that it’s homemade. Recording in real studios with professional musicians is great, but this record really challenged me, and I’m proud of myself for getting over the whole “impostor syndrome.” You never really know what you’re capable of until you’re left to your own devices.
What’s it been like working as a solo artist when you have been part of the duo Pomplamoose? How is your sound different than the duo’s music? Was your husband still very musically involved with the creation of “Haze”?
My husband, Jack actually wasn’t involved at all in the creation of Haze, aside from the fact that he was the first to hear my songs. He gave advice when I asked for it, and helped me figure out Ableton when it was being buggy. But mainly he was there as a sounding board (no pun intended?). I love working with Jack. He’s such a good communicator and an amazing producer. Writing songs with him is one of my favorite things to do. It’s way more fun than doing everything myself. I don’t want to make it sound like Pomplamoose is “easy.” We work our asses off. But there’s something very fluid about our creative process. We make decisions quickly, and the whole process feels fun and lighthearted (even though we’re working our asses off). My solo music is…more like pulling teeth. Hopefully not to the listener. But the process of writing and producing on my own involves way more introspection and self-doubt. Mainly because there’s no one there to say, “yeah, that’s great! Let’s move on!” It’s just you. And you have to decide when it’s good enough. And that’s never easy.
Can you talk about using Patreon to fund your work? What has the response been like so far on it?
Patreon has changed my life. Side-note, my husband Jack founded the company. He also loves dubstep, sci-fi monster and flying drones, and none of those things have changed my life. So – just to be perfectly clear – this is not a paid endorsement. I love Patreon because it is what allows me to be a full-time musician. There’s this handful of wonderful people who for some reason want to live in a world where I make more music, so they give me a dollar or two or one-hundred for every video that I put out. Right now, I’m at about $6,000 per video, which is insane. That means that I can hire people like accountants, lawyers, mixers and cinematographers, so that I can focus on making music full-time. It’s a dream come true. If you’re someone who likes supporting the arts, you should check it out.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
Vampire Weekend and Metronomy are the bands I listen to most. I also love Vulfpeck and Blake Mills. I will never stop worshiping Paul McCartney, and if I could work with any producer it would be Greg Kurstin.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
I love cooking. Damn, I love cooking so much. And eating. And drinking. I can’t believe that I get to live in San Francisco right now. The food here is ridiculous. And my housemate, Aubrey Saltus, is the best chef in the world. I would commit felonies just for a bite of those leftovers. Speaking of which, I am really hungry right now.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I know it’s cheesy to say, but it really does mean the world to me when a fan tells me that my music – and in particular my lyrics – helped them get through something difficult. I’m not “pulling teeth” just for the fun of it. I write to get to the bottom of whatever I’m feeling. And I hope that my music will comfort the people who hear it, and maybe help them process whatever they need to.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Well, I’ll be going on a West Coast tour in November! Tickets at natalydawnmusic.com/shows. I’ll be playing LA, SF, Seattle and Portland with my dear friend Lauren O’Connell. We have a band together called “My Terrible Friend” and she is one of my favorite people/musicians in the whole world. If you’re in the area, come check us out. Worst case scenario, you’ll hate the music and laugh a lot. That’s not a bad night.