You’ve seen her behind some pretty big names on some pretty big stages, but it’s taken Natasha Stuart longer than she imagined to get around to releasing a debut album. Michael Smith checks out why.
Singer/songwriter Natasha Stuart started writing songs aged 11 and was always singing, dancing and writing, but pressure to take up a career more stable than music sent her in a very different direction. “It's a song we've heard over and over again,” Natasha Stuart admits. “So I actually taught aerobics for a while, but I could never turn my back on music and I really just have the fitness career to appease other people and I finally worked out in my mid-twenties that I don't need to answer to anyone else and I really can just focus on [music]. As a result of that, I kind of got really swept away in making sure I was making a living in music and working for other people, which I love.
“I do a lot of backing vocal and I really do adore doing that because I love harmony and working with incredible musicians too, but I think that the combination of all those little factors certainly do mean that at times the album's been on the back burner.”
Once she committed to music, Stuart very quickly became one of Sydney's go-to backing singers and has worked with Tina Arena, Ricki-Lee, Jessica Mauboy, Richard Clapton and Delta Goodrem, just to name a few.
“It's been really great for me to be around some of the incredible artists that I have been around – and some childhood idols as well. When I toured with Tina Arena in 2010, I cannot tell you how amazing it is to work with someone who's songs I sang, again you know, in my car, in the living room and wherever, over and over again – and then to meet someone and not only to work with them as a vocalist, but also to hear their experiences and their take on the industry and what their creative process is and just learning so much.”
Mostly featuring songs co-written with Richie Vez – bass player with Diesel, who also recorded, produced and mixed it – Stuart's recently released debut album, Light This Fuse, is pretty much rock rather than dance or pop based, despite the bulk of her work as a backing vocalist.
“I really enjoy bouncing off other people,” Stuart explains of her songwriting approach, “especially ones who I think can bring something different. Richie is amazing at coming up with really cool bass lines and riff ideas, which is something that I struggle with. I'd often come in with a chorus or a verse or whatever and we'd just see where the mood took us. It's nice to have someone change a chord that I would naturally go to and make me take a different turn.
“But the album actually was years in the making. I did an EP [Get 2 Know Ya] that was released at the end of 2006 and one or two of the songs were written at that time, but due to all kinds of reasons and advice… I had a manager working for me in the US and they were saying, 'Don't release anything here,' basically last year. I was pretty much ready to have it released last year, but we tried to hook some stuff up in the States, which didn't actually eventuate, so another twelve months later finally I can get the album out and feel that this part of this particular project is complete.”
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.