By Paige Lambie
The Coffeehouse Sessions tour is currently entertaining students’ unions up and down the country, bringing some of the best unknown voices to each and every corner of the UK. Last Wednesday saw Australian-born musician and teacher Natalie Gauci take to the stage on her fourteenth show in eight days. Catching up with the former Australian Idol winner after her sound-check, I asked how she’s finding the tour so far, how she’s tamed her eclectic style of music to a strictly acoustic basis, and also how she likes her coffee.
Paige: The Coffeehouse Sessions tour must be pretty hectic, performing 23 shows in about two weeks. How are the shows going so far? Any particular highlights?
Natalie: They’re all really good. They’re all good in every way – if I think back, every single one had its own unique thing, every single one is different, and that has been the most interesting thing for me because I’ve had to adapt to each uni really quickly. So I can’t really pick one highlight to be honest!
PL: You’ve had a bit of time to explore our uni before you go on stage, what are you expecting from the show here today?
NG: There’s a lot of people here today, it’s a big crowd and the sound is really good too, so I think it’s going to be a really great show. I think we’re going to really enjoy it – it’s an acoustic set-up, but it’s big, it’s a big sound and I always love performing when it’s a good sound.
PL: Your style encompasses lots of different genres, from soul to electro. It must be quite different playing a full tour of strictly acoustic shows, what has that been like for you so far?
NG: It’s been really, really good because I’ve been able to tune into my solo piano playing and just going back to the basics of the songs, so I can actually tell if a song is going to work or not just by performing it live to an audience. I’ve been working on recording my new album, so I have loads of new music and I’m now in a transitional period where I feel like I’m letting go of the old and bringing in the new. What I’m doing is just focusing on the delivery of the lyrics, the melody and the chords – the actual feeling of the music.
PL: So what’s the reception of the newer songs been like so far?
NG: Much better (laughs). It’s been really good, so I’m really confident with it now.
PL: You’ve been playing music professionally for a number of years now, and one of the most notable events during that time was surely winning Australian Idol in 2007 – what was that experience like?
NG: Well, how long have we got? (laughs) I will write a book one day, I have to now because after all of these interviews and speaking to so many people about the show and everything, I’ve had so much time to reminisce and think about how it was for me. If I’m going to say it bluntly, it’s a double-edged sword that you take on when you win a show like that because it’s epic, it’s massive how you just get so famous so quickly, and the success… it taught me so much about myself and how I work under pressure.
I got to sing in front of hundreds and thousands of people, millions of people on TV and I just felt like a superstar – it was unbelievable. Once you get out of it, and you face the real world again, it can be a real shock – it threw me quite off balance at some points in my life. I made the decision up until probably a couple of years after that I wanted creative freedom to do what I want to do, and that was a massive, massive decision for me to make because I had to walk away from something that was very, very successful. It’s definitely been a spiritual journey for me and I feel like I’ve come out of it a lot wiser and a lot more experienced. I guess I just feel like myself again, which is cool.
PL: It’s quite a stretch coming from something as huge as that, to being here and playing a string of acoustic shows at universities…
NG: Exactly, thinking about playing in front of millions of people without having this first… It’s like I’m doing things backwards. When I first came out doing my original music, I didn’t have the confidence; I thought “What’s going to get me the quickest way out there and exposed” and then I thought, “Australian Idol is going to do that for me, so I should do it.” And I did it and I won it – now I want to go back and do the hard yards, and really feel what it’s like to be a real artist.
PL: You live in England now, which was part of taking a step back and starting anew. What has it been like living in the UK so far?
NG: It’s been unbelievable, every year is a growth spurt so much quicker than I would have had living back in Australia. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I’m having now if I had of stayed there. I miss my family like crazy and I’m going home soon so I’m really excited about that, but I’ve grown up a lot. In London, everything is so fast-paced, everything moves so quickly – you have no choice, it grabs you by the balls so you either have to stay or you get spat out. I’m staying!
PL: You’ve obviously worked really hard to get to where you are today, which is what the students here at the uni are also working at – what advice would you have for them?
NG: When I came here, I got advised a lot – I got advised that “nobody cares about Natalie Gauci, nobody cares about Australian Idol, it’s naff, it’s cheesy and you’ve got to start again.” I went through hell, like “oh my God, I’ve got nothing left of me, what am I supposed to do?” I lost perspective – I changed my name to Nellie Bell for two years, and I became and created something completely different where no-one told me what I should do, no-one told me how I should do it and I just did what I wanted to do. It completely changed my perspective on everything about myself, about the music industry and, now that I’ve done all that, I can honestly say that you must follow your heart and your passion. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes – and practise, and practise, and practise.
PL: Finally, you are currently on the Coffee House Sessions tour, so we have to ask – how do you like your coffee?
NG: At the moment I have a black coffee. Sometimes I have a soy latte, other times I have caramel syrup in it. It just depends on my mood, if I need to be sweetened up I’ll just pour sugar in it – today I don’t need sugar, so, totally black.
This or That:
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter
TV or Film? Film
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Cats or Dogs? Dogs
England or Australia? Oh no, no-one’s ever asked me that question before! I have to say Australia because my mum will kill me if I don’t.
You can catch the Coffee House Tour every Wednesday, downstairs in Student Central.