Natalie Holmes

Natalie Holmes (1)

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (combined) 

Year of Graduation: 2014 

 Top Career Highlights: 

  • My first one will probably always be singing with trance band, ‘Above and Beyond’ for their orchestral set around the world. I got to play at venues like Hollywood bowl and The Royal Albert Hall and gig in a completely new genre.
Meet our alumni
  • Over the last 2 years I decided to fuse my interest in mental well being with music, and have been making music for the 'Calm' app, as well as playing live at yoga retreats. It feels so good and right to find outlets for my music that really ground me and support my own mental health.
  • Two years ago I did an Eastern-European tour; Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – it was amazing visiting these places and thinking ‘wow, I’ve got my first fan in this country’.

Natalie graduated from our combined music degree in 2014 and has built a varied career as a singer-songwriter and performer. As a driven independent artist, her music making has taken her around the globe gaining performance experience in a diverse range of genres and venues. Now gigging around the UK, Natalie still draws influence from her classical training and acoustic sounds. 

What attracted you to Leeds and to study music at a conservatoire?

I only applied to a few conservatoires and I’d heard really great things about Leeds – I came to the open day and I thought it was really sweet.   At the time I also wanted to get really far from my home in Bristol!

How do you think studying at Leeds Conservatoire prepared you for a career as a professional?

Being in Leeds was my first proper opportunity to go out and play real gigs. Previously, I’d mainly been building a fan base on YouTube alongside one or two live performances at really quiet afternoon gigs. Meeting other, assured, gigging musicians built my confidence to promote myself and to book my first gig. The really practical and collaborative nature at Leeds Conservatoire is great for building a successful, professional career. Everyone helps each other out and shares their strengths. That’s really cool.

Do you think it was helpful that you studied the combined degree Popular Music with Music Production?

Yes – that was the year Leeds Conservatoire had just introduced the combined option, so it was cool to get that first insight and to feedback on the course. I’m always a fan of mixing things up so I enjoyed the variety and combining the courses has given me much broader skills and knowledge for the music industry. I can confidently produce all my own demos but still enjoy the collaborative process of having further help editing at the final stage. Studying production enabled me to use Logic more in-depth which is always helpful knowledge to have in the studio.

What about songwriting, what is your approach to it? How do you go about your process of writing songs?

It probably differs every time with songwriting. I usually have a concept that I really want to write about, or take inspiration from a cool title for example, or a visual that’s really going to spark some imagery. Sometimes I’m just noodling on the piano and get ideas. Being a classically trained pianist, I’m comfortable sparking ideas through improvisation. I don’t have a real piano at home, so if I come across one out and about I’ll sit down and a song will come. Otherwise it’s always lyrics and the melody that come first.

As an independent artist, how have you sought to grow your fan base?

I started by uploading YouTube videos in 2010 when it was pretty new and a really small community which was amazing. At that time, it was easy to build up a loyal fan base. Now it’s completely oversaturated and the quality of stuff is really high, whereas everyone was just doing stuff on their webcam back then and it was really raw and natural. Nowadays I try and be as open minded as possible, and find as many avenues as possible to expose my music, for example doing collaborations in a variety of genres, live streaming on twitch & writing music for a meditation & sleep app.

What can we expect if we’re going to listen to your music, is it classic singer-songwriter?

Yeah – but the songs are the thing that makes singer-songwriter’s differ from each other so it’s always hard to describe the sound. I try to write honest songs; it’s quite mellow and there’s always storytelling. I don’t stray too far from ‘real-sounding’ music and always want to keep some real instruments – I do some electronic stuff, but I’ll never remove the acoustic completely.

What has having the support of a band enabled you to do that perhaps was not possible as a solo artist?

Firstly, it makes gigs so much more enjoyable and fun to have people on-stage with you. It energises the performance, and brings new life to a solo gig set – you can reimagine every song, even the really old ones, and try different things. Saying this, unless you are playing huge shows, it can be very costly to hire a band, and I like to mix it up, accepting the two different experiences and each of their pros and cons. Playing solo can be a very powerful and grounding experience.

Lastly, how would you say playing your own songs with a band differs from performing them solo?

It’s difficult because when you play your songs by yourself you’re used to them a certain way. I send my drummer all the tracks and he mainly learns them as they are, but my guitarist is much more improvisational. They bring the perfect balance and really understand my music, which feels wonderful. Sometimes it’s tricky being the ‘boss’ of your songs and telling people what to play, but it is something you have to accept doing to an extent when the songs are your own and you’re precious about them!

Keep up to date with Natalie by following her on Twitter.

Learn more about our BA (Hons) Music (Production) and Music (Popular) programme.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles.

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Photo Credit: Rod Duarte

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