IT isn’t so much a case of when Nottingham’s army of rising music stars will hit the charts, but who will be first. Dog Is Dead have been gathering pace with every single they release for Atlantic and much is expected of their debut album in October.
This week Jake Bugg’s latest EP, Taste It, shot in to the iTunes Top Five, which was coupled with the news that he’ll be touring the US with Noel Gallagher.
Meanwhile, 80s dance pop revivalist Ronika continues to pop up in the national press for her own music and collaborations with the likes of Herve and Mylo.
And then there’s Natalie Duncan.
This week her debut album for Decca, Devil In Me, was released.
And the reaction to it has been overwhelming.
“Just might steal the crown of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black as the soundtrack to heartbreak” (Express); “One of the greatest debut albums of the year” (Sunday Times); “An extraordinarily expressive voice” (Q magazine).
Not bad considering Devil In Me is a “soft release” – put out by the label with little publicity to see how it is received.
“I’ve been nervous about it,” admits Natalie, who grew up in West Bridgford and The Meadows.
“But yes I’ve had some good reviews. The single won’t be out until September so it won’t be until then that my songs will be on the radio. And I’m supposed to be playing on Jools Holland’s show around then as well.
“I haven’t had it confirmed yet. It would be ridiculous if that happened.”
That’s also when Natalie will likely tour the UK proper but she has been performing regularly of late, including shows at the Bodega and Nottingham Contemporary.
“To be honest I didn’t think that my voice was very good,” she says of the latter, which was a showcase of Notts talent featuring Liam Bailey, Nina Smith and others.
“I was screaming at Nina Smith and Chris McDonald when they were playing and forgot that I was actually going to be singing after them,” laughs the 23-year-old.
“Everyone else said it was really good and the crowd where really nice. I listened to it afterwards and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
She moved to London two years ago, after an appearance on the BBC 2 programme Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment. The drum’n’bass star scoured the UK for young talent to perform at Buckingham Palace in front of Prince Harry.
“I knew already that I was really camera-shy so I was nervous about that but the actual experience was amazing.
“We became almost like a family overnight and for that reason it’s the best thing I have ever done.”
As well as landing a record deal after the show, she also featured onGoldie’s single, Freedom.
“Goldie is just a big ball of energy, like a bouncing ball. He is really in your face. Sometimes I found that he was quite crazy but he has a heart of gold. No pun intended at all there. But he’s a little bit like a massive child.”
It was her record label who encourage her to move to London.
“And at my job in Nottingham they were saying ‘you can’t keep taking time off for your music’! So I had to choose.”
That was Road To Recovery, a Nottingham-based charity.
“They help people with psychosis become part of society again. I’d teach them music.”
So she made the move but Natalie is no fan of the capital.
“London is too fast. I’m too lazy to live in London.”
She adds: “I won’t always live here. I don’t know if I will move back to Nottingham, though.”
Natalie was actually born in Croydon, moving with her family aged three to West Bridgford. They lived on Ella Road and she went to Lady Bay School but when her parents split up she moved to The Meadows with her mum.
It’s then that something happened which was to have a long-lasting effect on her. Something that would lead to depression and cast a shadow over her music.
“There was one particular incident but I wouldn’t want to talk about it. I don’t mind talking about the fact that I have been quite depressed and that a lot of my music stems from that.
“The songs on the album are revealing but I don’t think they’re that autobiographical. There are clues to good and bad things that have happened to me. You have to read the lyrics and work it out.”
Music had already become a big part of her life by the age of five when she began to teach herself to play the piano.
“But my technical ability doesn’t really reflect that amount of years,” she admits.
“I’ve never had lessons and I probably don’t practise as much as I should.”
After school she studied music at Clarendon (NCN) college then immersed herself on the Nottingham music scene.
“That really gave me the confidence to go out and do my own songs.
“Once you get a taste for performing you just don’t want to stop.”
The album was produced by Grammy winner Joe Henry and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios near Bath.
“The setting was idyllic; I had my own cottage. Although there was a swan on the lake and I don’t like swans. I didn’t really know this until I recorded there.”
When she returns to Nottingham she sees her mum, while her dad is a regular at her gigs.
“He is a massive music fan,” she says.
“We have a relationship based on him coming to my gigs. It’s always been like that.”
Is there a boyfriend?
“I’ve been single for two years now, which sucks.”
Perhaps it’s because she is too busy becoming a music star. There just isn’t the time...
She laughs: “I would make time.”