These days, you can barely walk five steps without tripping over a sign imploring you to ‘keep calm and carry on’ or reminding you that it’s ‘okay not to be okay’. This is the British way of acknowledging that everyone 'goes through stuff' whilst avoiding eye contact at all cost. Perhaps this is why speaking to singer songwriter Findlay feels so refreshing. She speaks in depth about finding her identity, dealing with self-doubt and self-loathing and ‘waiting for something to happen’ before accepting the hard truth that she had to make change happen for herself.
Her up and coming album is a self-described ‘late coming of age story’ and feels like a sort of catharsis for the Manchester born musician - a release of pent-up emotion and a marker of how far she’s come. And she's come far. Moving to London to pursue her dream she was left disappointed with record labels, leading her to become her own manager. On top of this she is one half of psychedelic rock opera band Ttrruuces, she produces and directs her own music videos and she’s in the process of writing her first short film. When walking past a ‘reassuring’ sign in block capitals and Arial font it’s hard to feel any connection to your own experience, but maybe there is some comfort in keeping calm and carrying on. If Findlay is anything to go by - if you don't give up, you just don't know how far you can go.
Rachel Edwards: You describe your new album as a ‘late coming of age story’ - tell me more!
Natalie Findlay: I feel like I spent a lot of my early 20s waiting for something to happen, like I felt entitled to success just for existing but it doesn’t work like that. In that way, my coming of age was the sort of realisation that I had to make things happen for myself - success and fulfilment wasn’t just going to be handed to me on a golden tray by a label or granted to me as I got older. Opportunities are created through hard work and networking and being open to the world and new experiences. I spent way too much time smoking weed and being depressed. I was still writing and making music but I wasn’t really trying to push it out there. I had no confidence, I didn’t want to meet new people, I was afraid of a lot of things so I got stuck going through the motions. The last few years something clicked and I decided it was time to work through a lot of my mental health issues or I’d never be able to move forward. I literally hated myself for such a long time and that fed into my idea of the suffering artist, like the more depressed I was the bigger the break the universe would eventually hand me. But that’s bullshit. You can’t do anything if you’re depressed and anxious all the time. I really struggled with coming to terms with who I thought I was and I feel like I transitioned into adulthood late because I was still figuring that part out. Now I’m facing up to myself and trying to be a better healthier person... It’s taken me a lot of time and a lot of talking and therapy to get to this place but now I'm here and in a relatively good place, surrounded by good people, it’s inspiring me to keep going and create further happiness for myself. I’ve written a lot about this change in my mindset on the next record. It’s been cathartic to get it out of my body and mind, onto paper and into music.
R.E: It feels a bit like you embody different characters both through the music and videos - do you imagine yourself as different characters when writing? Are these your alter egos?
N.F: I have many alter egos. I’m a Gemini so I feel as though multiple personalities are just a part of me. I think honestly I'm just a weirdo with an overactive imagination. I’m also really malleable and easily influenced. Like if I watch a movie and resonate with one of the characters, that character will take over my personality for a few days until I’m bored and go back to being myself... whoever that is... I’m still figuring myself out. I don’t think we ever really get there until we’re about to die and that’s our kind of final form that we have to accept. I’ve started writing some stories and scripts because I think I actually need somewhere further to go with some of these characters and places I create. I’m planning on shooting my first short film in 2022. Funnily enough it’s about therapists.
R.E: You’re also in band TTRRUUCES- what’s the biggest difference in being a solo artist compared with being in a band?
N.F: TTRRUUCES was a rock opera, so it was a full on narrative story and concept around two characters. Me and my band mate Jules- we really went so deep into what would happen to them and into the world we created for them, musically, story-telling wise and visually with the music videos that all came together to make the movie. I LOVED that experience so much. It was really collaborative between Jules and I. I guess that was the first time I’d let go of the reins a bit and handed some control over to someone else. With Findlay however I'm a fucking control freak. I’m really glad I have all these outlets. With TTRRUUCES I can be collaborative, open to anything, experimental and not take it too seriously. With Findlay, it’s only mine - my name and my brand so in a way so I'm much more protective and annoying about every step it takes going into a record, especially lyrically in terms of what I’m trying to say because that’s all me and it’s literally my name on it. TTRRUUCES was a concept and a story, whereas Findlay is either autobiographical or stories that only I can tell, if that makes sense.
R.E: What’s your favourite song on the new album? Why?
N.F: I think it’s ‘Somehow Someday’. It’s really about accepting the terrible and having hope about the future. The opening line is “Somehow someday I'll laugh at all of this and how I got away with all these changes”. I was going through pure hell when this was written. Someone close to me was dying of cancer, my mental health was at an all time low, I was smoking too much weed, drinking too much and broke. This was before the pandemic fucked me up even further... but after all this I think I've reached the someday I was longing for or I'm really fucking close now to living in the future I was singing about when I felt that awful, so it’s kind of reassuring that I got to this place. I can’t laugh about it just yet but I’m not mentally destroyed all over again when I think about the past.
R.E: That’s so powerful. I know you’re passionate about female artists having autonomy in the industry - tell me about your journey working with labels?
N.F: I signed myself away when I was so young and so dumb. I was just thrown to the wolves at 17 but it’s a boring story. It’s happened to so many girls. It’s probably easier to find a woman who’s had a shitty experience in the music industry than one who hasn’t. Every label I've signed to, the person who signed me then left within a year – this has happened to me three fucking times. Going independent was the most important and liberating thing I've done for myself and my career. I also decided to manage myself, or at least until someone who can truly elevate my career comes along - ideally a woman who gets what it’s like. The music industry is brutal, especially for women but I don’t have a kill or be killed attitude. I don’t have the energy for that. I think every woman in this industry needs to have the basic knowledge of how it works to be able to advocate for themselves and to be strong enough not to take shit from anyone. I always keep my door open to anyone who wants or needs advice and I wish I'd had more female creatives around me when I was starting out.
R.E: Are you a perfectionist?
N.F: Absolutely. Everyone should be when it comes to their art - what’s the point in making something that you yourself don’t find perfect? How is anyone else going to like or respect it if you can’t even push yourself to perfect your own art?
R.E: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
N.F: Don’t rely on anyone other than yourself and those you trust. And know that even those you trust can let you down. So guard yourself, guard your art. Make it great and then let it go.
R.E: You are constantly making music but what do you do in your spare time?
N.F: Aside from the boring admin stuff I’m taking care of now I’m managing myself I’ve started to direct music videos. I started with working more in depth on the TTRRUUCES videos and now I've done a few for Findlay and I’m just starting to work with some other artists on directing their videos. I’m really enjoying a side to my creativity that isn’t just music. There’s a lot to learn but it’s really exhilarating and I’m getting a lot of joy from it. I’m also going a bit mad working on the script for this short film I’m doing next year. It’s something I’d never considered until this year but I’m honestly just enjoying coming up with concepts, working on set design, finding cast members and I enjoy the filming and editing side too. I’m excited to see where it takes me.
R.E: That is exciting! Where’s your favourite place to go in London?
N.F: I barely ever leave my neighbourhood to be honest. I live five minutes from Victoria Park so I go there a lot - having so much nature nearby saved me during the lockdowns. I’m always on the lookout for new bars and coffee shops too, I like just walking around East London and I like people watching so I’m kind of happy just being anywhere with a window and watching the world go by.
R.E: What’s your secret to having so much energy?
N.F: I absolutely don’t! Sometimes I do. Right now, I just want to hibernate but I have a to-do list as long as my leg. I find it hard to prioritise and to know what’s the right thing for me to spend my energy on. I’m definitely not some superhuman ball of energy, I love to procrastinate and sometimes I’m really fucking lazy.
R.E: And finally, what's your favourite F Word?