We Love Music: Natalie York

Natalie York wants to rock. That’s her goal. And in a climate chock full of male rockers, her goal isn’t unfathomable but rather something to respect, admire, and follow.

This past week, York released her second full-length album titled “Promises,” which is an album crafted with that exact goal in mind – rocking out.

When York released her first album in 2010, the collection of songs ended up being a production effort associated with her final senior project at the University of Miami. While proud of the efforts on that debut album, York is finally ready for chapter two of her young and promising music career.

Despite calling Brooklyn home at the moment, York is a northern Virginia native who’s looking forward to a big CD release show for “Promises” (now available on iTunes and Bandcamp) at Jammin’ Java with special guest Dave Farah on Friday, January 31.

With the big release of “Promises” coming to fruition, York is ready to jump feet first into what’s next for her and her band.

“I had more of a rock and roll vision for this record,” she said over coffee in Georgetown one Saturday afternoon earlier this month. “ […] Doing the whole live band in the studio was kind of a magical part of [starting] that.”

“Promises” Cover Artwork // Fun Fact: The “Promises” Cover Art is actually a painting by the late Tim Hildebrandt of Star Wars movie poster fame.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, York was able to raise well over her $15,000 goal to complete the project. As part of the overall project, York and her band holed up in the Catskills to record “Promises” in what was described as being the perfect setting to make an album. “There were no excuses. No one could go anywhere, but in a good way. Everyone wanted to be there so much and be completely focused on the task at hand,” York said. “I think it shows. It shows that we were all in that place and ready to do it.”

For “Promises,” York took a different approach to the recording process. After learning a lot from making her first album, she feels that “Promises” is a much more cohesive album in terms of the way it was recorded. When looking back on her previous process, that makes a lot of sense. 2010’s “Threads” was named one of the best local releases of 2010 by The Washington Post for her “soulful and warm vocals” as well as her “sophisticated palette,” but it was what York described as being more of a “piece meal” process.

“The first record I started in Texas and then finished up in Miami so it was just different,” she said. “I think [Threads] was pretty romantic and this one is too but in a different way. It’s more about the false starts and stuff that doesn’t really work out, but there’s hopeful moments, there’s regretful moments, but I think it hits a little bit harder overall.”

York went through several different titles for the new release before settling on “Promises.” The struggle for her was identifying just one universal theme to tie the whole project together while so many options existed.

“[…] For whatever reason, a lot more of the song titles on this record I feel lent themselves to album titles so we went through, we tried a bunch of them, and it wasn’t until […] we had settled on a few before this one came about […] it wasn’t until we had the album art that it was like, ‘Oh, it’s gotta be Promises.”

When York sings, it’s reminiscent of Norah Jones’ soft, yet powerful breathy phrasing combined with Ingrid Michelson’s tender energy. That combined with the fierceness of Janis Joplin and a slight touch of Diana Ross circa her Supreme days somehow encompasses the performance York achieves when she takes the stage or records.

Heavily influenced by Folk, Country, R&B, and Motown, it’s nice to see an artist who quite obviously draws from the source material to execute a solid full-album from start to finish. But, at the end of the day, this songstress is writing and performing material that’s special to her.

“Listening to Natalie York’s new record reminds me of why young songwriters move to New York in the first place,” Andrew Gregory (of the Gregory Brothers) said, “to stay out late, drink beers, fall in love, and write kick-ass songs about it all.”

Based on the conversation I had with York about “Promises” and the next step in her career, I have to say that what Gregory said is true because our conversation boiled down to this final line, “[The new album] is about the promises we make for ourselves and the ones we know we won’t keep. It’s about the promises that let us down and the ones that give us hope.”

Natalie York’s hometown CD release show will be at Jammin’ Java on Friday, January 31 with special guest Dave Farah at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA. General Admission tickets are still available.

Rachel moved to DC in the fall of 2005 to study Journalism and Music at American University. When she’s not keeping up with the latest Major League Baseball news, she works on making music as an accomplished singer-songwriter and was even a featured performer/speaker at TEDxDupont Circle in 2012. Rachel has also contributed to The Washington Examiner and MASN Sports’ Nationals Buzz as a guest blogger. See why she loves DC. E-Mail: rachel@welovedc.com.

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