In celebration and honour of the February 6th birthdate of the iconic Natalie Cole, we rewind to 1975 when SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan conducted Natalie’s first-ever phone interview for what was then her debut Capitol album, “Inseparable,” the first of many conversations the two had over decades…
NATALIE COLE: THIS WILL BE…
By David Nathan
June 1975, phone interview in New York City
Being the daughter of such an internationally famous man as the late Nat King Cole could conceivably pose a problem for any budding star. After all, how many times have we heard that old accusation of someone living off the name of talented parents? In the case of the incredible Ms. Natalie Cole, nothing could be further from the truth.
This is one lady who, aside from being able to stand very firmly on her own two feet, is out to give all the soul girls more than a run for their money! A first hearing of Natalie’s debut album for Capitol – entitled Inseparable – has sent various reviewers, DJ’s and industry personnel into ecstasies with everyone proclaiming that Natalie is the best thing to come along since Aretha Franklin burst onto the scene back in 1960! Strong statements but not without justification. One listen to the album will ensure any self-respecting soul fan that this is no ordinary singer. This is a superstar in the making – and mark our words carefully because it’s only a matter of time before Natalie Cole knocks the world sideways with her special brand of soul. And she’s only just begun!
So why have we had to wait until now for the lady to commit herself to tape? Over to Natalie: “Well, I’ve been taking care of my education. I graduated from the University of Massachussetts back in 1972 – I was studying child psychology – I had gotten a B.A. But I had never really considered singing as a career despite the fact that my father had been so famous because everyone, including him, had always told me not to do it ‘unless you really know how’. And I had worked hard not to get into it, in a sense. Then in my senior year, I did some singing during the summer break. And I guess after that, I had aspirations to do both things – singing and studying.”
Eventually, and thankfully for all those who’ve heard what Natalie is capable of, the singing career won out and Natalie really began working professionally three years ago. “Yes, having Nat as my father helped inasmuch as some of his style, his vocal phrasing and so on was bound to rub off on me. But then at the same time, it has been a problem in that people expect me to sound just like him – and of course, I don’t! My main influences from way back were jazz people like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and of course Nancy Wilson. And then Aretha came into my life when I was about 10! And although I’ve had no gospel influence per se, I guess I got that through Aretha. In fact the only time I remember singing in church was when I was 11 and the song was ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’!”
After Natalie had decided to embark on a singing career in earnest, she spent some two years out on the road and recalls that when she first started, she incorporated one of her father’s songs in her act, namely ‘Mona Lisa’. “A lot of people had been encouraging me to ‘do my own thing’ but I felt I ought to include that in there. And you know what happened? Everyone, everyone in the placed just started crying. So I had to leave it out because it really began affecting me too. But now I do ‘L-o-v-e’ which is one of his more ‘up’ songs and in future albums, I want to include one or two of his songs. In fact we would have done that this first time but we found we have enough material already.”
And how did that first album come about? “Well, I met my producers – Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancey – back in October in New York. They’d heard me at a club called Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago – and neither party was sure who was rehearsing for who! We got together through my management and the first song we tried out was ‘You’. Yes, everyone says that it sounds as if I wrote the songs myself but that’s just how close those two fabulous guys have come to capturing how I feel. It was like an instant magic, magnetic touch. Believe me, it has been really thrilling find people who could really interpret what I wanted to say.”
After completing a further three demos, the team decided to try and place the product and Natalie explains that Capitol was not at the top of the list “because I felt people would think it was natural that I should go there with my father having spent his career with them. But as it turns out they are putting everything behind the album and seems like the best place we could possibly be.” With Chuck and Marvin busy writing material, there was no problem in finishing a whole album and Natalie says: “I was totally flabbergasted by everyone’s efforts. It was just beautiful the way we all worked so closely together and remembering that this was my first time in the studio, it was truly incredible the way session came out. All the people who worked with me gave me guidance and inspiration and although there might have been times when I felt I could have been near to tears because I don’t think I could get it all together, everyone pushed me to show me that I could do it. Each song seemed to call for something different too – if you listen, you can hear all kinds of things there. But I have to say that I feel that this is just a taste of what I can do – there is more to come!” Which is distinctly worrying for anyone who has already heard the first fruits of Natalie’s work!
So far the initial response to Natalie’s single, ‘This Will Be’ and the album advance copies suggest that the young lady is on the road to the top. “Already, things have started to happen so fast,” Natalie exclaims. “I’ve been busy rehearsing with a band down in Washington D.C. and some background singers here in New York, which is my home. And I’m getting ready to go out on a promotional tour across the country. Am I ready for it all? Well, if not, I’d better get ready! Having been out on the road though, it is not a total new experience – although that first time in the studio, I was nervous, I have to admit!” With the talented guidance of Marvin Yancey and Chuck Jackson (whose names must be familiar to you via The Independents) and the all out backing of Capitol Records, Natalie Cole can look forward to a sensational future. A superstar is born and don’t say we didn’t tell ya!