Interview by Scott Preston
Buckle Up Music Festival 7/18 – 7/20
Natalie Stovall performs at 3:30pm on 7/19
Whether it’s Natalie Stovall’s breathtaking vocals and larger-than-life stage presence, her band’s turbo-charged, take-no prisoners live shows, or the collective unit’s barnstorming worldwide tours, Natalie Stovall and The Drive prove they are arena ready. A humble, charismatic entertainer with a trademark lion’s mane of big blonde hair, Natalie and her powerful vocals and sparkling fiddle leave audiences spellbound.
Although she can seem larger than life onstage, offstage she’s as down home and as easy-going as can be. One-on-one sincerity and a contagious personality just come naturally to this small town girl from Columbia, Tennessee. Make no mistake though, as soon as you put this small town girl in front of an audience – something spontaneous, mesmerizing, and explosive happens. (from Nataliestovall.com)
Cincy Groove: I see that the band just made their Grand Ol Opry debut, that had to be pretty special.
Natalie Stovall: I was in the Opryland Kids Club when I was a kid. Because of that I made my debut when I was 12. It was something at the time that I couldn’t even comprehend. It was absolutely amazing to be able to get up on that stage and sing. I always had a dream to get back on that stage and be able to play my own music with my own band. The rest of the band has heard me talk about it, so they knew how big of a deal it is. You know its going to be emotional and overwhelming. Its not until you step in that circle on the stage that it really hits you. Its such a rush of history and emotion that comes over you.
Cincy Groove: CMT has named you one of the next women of country, how does it make you feel?
Natalie Stovall: Its pretty overwhelming. Its been a big year for the band. We have been on the road as a band now for 9 years. To be getting this recognition and validation from my peers around me feels really good. It doesn’t seem real to see my name included on these lists. It seems all the touring for the last 9 years is starting to finally pay off.
Cincy Groove: I know its a combination of a lot of things, but can you think of a few experiences that might have pushed your music in front of people a little more?
Natalie Stovall: Signing our record deal with Headshop last June was pretty big. We were doing really well and headed in the right direction and whether you sign with a label or stay independent, its scary. Its going to be tough no matter what road you take. The band always though that when the right label came around, we would know. It really felt like that with Headshop. When they came along they were so passionate, they almost barred the doors shut until we agreed to sign with them. They really wanted us to be a part of what they were doing. To find someone that wants to work as hard as us on our career is something that doesn’t come along very often. This time last year was when we signed the deal, we went overseas to play for the troops. As soon as we got back we went right into the studio with Paul Early recording our record. We never felt we captured what we do on stage in a studio format. When we got in there with Paul everything started to make sense. He really gave us the confidence we needed to do what we do. What fascinated us is that we didn’t really do anything different. We went into the studio and tracked live, and Paul would right away say thats exactly the sound he wanted. He helped us to not over think anything and just play the way we know we can.
Cincy Groove: What type of environment do you like to be in to write your music?
Natalie Stovall: I get very little writing done on the road. I might get an idea or part of a song. It would be a different situation if we were on a bus, because you can seclude yourself to a certain degree. But when you are van touring, like we have been for so long, you are right on top of each other. So its very difficult to get any writing done. For me my brain has to settle, I have to be not in a meditative state, but somewhat relaxed. It really only happens when I’m off the road. For me touring and writing are two completely different mind sets.
Cincy Groove: You have a long history of playing for the troops overseas. When and how did that start for you?
Natalie Stovall: I’m actually at Fort Benning right now, we are going to play their 4th of July celebration. They can’t celebrate on the 4th because they all have to work. The first military show I did was actually out here at Fort Benning which is quite serendipitous because my dad is a retired Army Colonel. He did his officer candidate training her eat Fort Benning in the 1960’s. Last year he was inducted in the bases museum / hall of fame. It started here and then we started getting booked at different bases around the United States. Then we got hooked up with Navy Entertainment, which is the Navy’s version of the USO. Once we started working with them they realized how passionate we were about doing the best we could for the troops. So they started taking us overseas and I think this year is our 6th trip. Those shows are some of the most rewarding experiences that we have as a band because we are able to take a little bit of home over there. Its our way of saying thank you to them.
Cincy Groove: When was the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
Natalie Stovall: The first time we heard Baby Come On With It was in February right after we released the single and one of the stations in Nashville played it while we were at home. It was one of those things where we knew it was about to come on. The station would send out a text message when your song you requested is going to come on. Miguel, my guitar player, James, my drummer and I where hanging out in our living room at my place. The song was getting ready to come on and they played my nieces voice requesting the song which was very cool. I just started screaming even though I knew it was coming and started dancing on the coffee table. I still get excited when one of my songs come on, because we normally aren’t in one place for very long.
Cincy Groove: How was your experience at the CMA Festival?
Natalie Stovall: It was chaos (laughing). I had no idea how much they could pack into 3 days. I have been to CMA Fests when I was younger. One of the questions we get more than any other at the merch table is “When are you going to be at CMA Fest?” We just played in California last week and had four seperate groups of people come up to us and tell us how much they enjoyed our set at CMA Fest. It was just weird getting that reaction in California, where we haven’t really toured that much. All the fans and all the artists come together in a short period of time. We played a bunch of acoustic shows and one big electric show. It really feels like everything is starting to happen now.