Natasha Meister(Natasha Meister)

Singer-songwriter Natasha Meister has been flying somewhat under the radar within the South African music scene for about a year now, but the proper release of her debut album, 'Half Way', is expected to change that.

The Canadian, who has roots in South Africa, is currently hard at work promoting her album on tour on the East Coast, and her accessible blues sound is set to entrance the rest of the country later this year.

Andrew Hallett caught up with the guitar-wielding singer and chatted to her about the release of her debut album, her music writing processes, comparisons with John Mayer, and what kind of impact the album will have on music lovers.

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As far as debut albums go, how do you rate 'Half Way'?

It is my debut album and I'm putting myself out there. It is all original material of mine and it is a mix of blues, pop and rock - it is all different elements of my styles; I definitely experimented with my sounds. I think I did the best that I can and people seem to appreciate it. I have received some good feedback on the album. I have been writing lots of new stuff lately so I'm hoping that my next album will be even better. I'm just putting my best foot forward and hoping people will dig it.

How much effort and time does it take in making an album?

We started recording over a year ago. Once I had finished writing all of my material, which I wrote when I came to South Africa, it took me about a year to finish writing all of the songs that are on the album; then we started recording and that took about four or five months approximately to record all the songs. We recorded in my bass player's (Roger Bashew) studio. He has like a home studio in Hout Bay and we recorded there. He did the mixing and mastering, producing the album. It is a lot of hard work, coming back into the studio and layering everything on - doing all the take until we were happy. But it was a fun experience for me and I'm definitely looking forward to recording my next album.

Can you explain your personal music writing process?

I am always with my guitar if I'm writing songs, usually in a quiet environment where no one is around me and no one can hear me. I then start messing around on my guitar until I find a cool riff and then build on that. Then I start messing around with the melody and vocally. Lyrics usually come last for me because I usually struggle with writing lyrics. I try to think of a concept and an idea that would form the song, then I would write the lyrics according to that. A lot of the time I have to go back to the song because sometimes it doesn't sound as cool as it did the other day. So I write as often as I can and whenever I can, or whenever an idea pops into my head.

What message do you hope your album sends out to the fans?

Just kind of like 'this is who I am'. All of the songs are about where I come from and what has brought me up to this point. So yeah, it is just kind of like giving a piece of myself to my fans and hopefully they get to know me better through my songs. There is no particular message , I just like to write songs - honest songs about how I'm feeling and what I am going through. Hopefully people can relate to it, maybe in their own way.

Is there a lot of personal experience in your lyrics?

Yeah. All of the songs on my album are of past life experiences like family, relationships, broken hearts, also of dreams and where I am heading, where I would like to see myself. So it is stuff like that.

Which song is your favourite on the album and why?

That is a tough one! I would probably say 'Safe in the Silence' because we did a first official music video for the song a few months back. That is a particularly personal song for me. It has to do with my shyness, this quiet, kept-to-myself kind of person. That is what the song is about and a lot of people say that they can relate to it. I think that it has my own kind of message in it and it is a cool upbeat tune.

Does your music have a specific target audience?

I think it appeals to everyone - a broad audience. Whenever I am playing parents often bring their kids and they seem to enjoy it. I get good feedback from older generations as well. They appreciate what I do and tell me to keep doing what I'm doing. So a broad audience seems to appreciate my stuff, which is great as that is what I want.

Which artists have influenced your sound and music the most?

I would probably say Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt and maybe a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughn in my guitar playing. Also BB King and Buddy Guy.

If you were to compare yourself to one musician in particular, who would it be and why?

That is tough. A lot of people have compared me to John Mayer, but I like to compare myself to Bonnie Raitt. I really look up to her. She plays guitar and she sings. I mean she has had a long career and she has done very well for herself. I love most of her songs and I just really dig her stuff. I would hopefully like to get to the point where she got to and follow in her footsteps. So a bit of Bonnie Raitt and a bit of John Mayer.

What has been your most memorable experience so far in your career?

I guess playing at Kirstenbosch - I opened for Dan Patlansky at the beginning of this year. I played in front of about 5,000 people and that was one of the biggest crowds I have played in front of so far. It was a really cool experience but it was also a bit scary because I played solo. It was a bit frightening without my band behind me. It was hectic but very cool. We sold lots of CDs, which is SO cool and I think that was probably the best experience so far.

Have you ever considered entering a competition like Idols, or do you relish doing things on your own?

I kind of want to do things my own way and in my own time. I did enter some smaller competitions back home in Canada, smaller singing competitions. I did actually enter Canadian Idol when I was still in High School, but I didn't get too far in that unfortunately. When we moved to South Africa I tried out for Pop Idols and SA's Got Talent, but I don't know, it just didn't seem to go anywhere and it wasn't my thing. I think now I have passed that stage of competition as I've had enough of that. I kinda just want to do my own thing now and hopefully the right opportunities will come along. So I'm just waiting for that to happen and now I'm just going at my own pace.

You are flying somewhat under the radar in the South African music scene despite your undoubted talent. What do you hope 'Half Way' does for your career?

I hope it is a door to more opportunities and to help me make more connections. We have given the album to different record labels. Also just selling the album and getting more exposure, and hoping that the fans appreciate it. Having your first album out is the biggest step you can take as an artist. It is hopefully an open door to bigger and better things. Hopefully...

What are your plans for the near future?

After I'm finished playing at the Grahamstown Arts Festival we'll be heading down the East Coast and playing some shows there. Hopefully later this year we'll be doing a Joburg tour and also in Durban. Next year or in the following I would love to go to Germany or maybe the States. We have gotten a great response from them and I have actually sold a couple of albums to people in America and Germany. They seem to really appreciate my stuff as well, so I'm hoping to get overseas soon.

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We have one copy of Natasha Meister's album to give away. If you would like the chance to win this impressive debut album then simply e-mail us the answer to the question below, along with your name, contact details and the city you live in.

What is the title of Natasha Meister's debut album?

E-mail your answer to zaeditor@msn.com.

One entry per person. Competition is only open to residents of South Africa. Judges decision is final. Prize cannot be exchanged for cash. Entries close Monday July 9 2012.

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Natasha Meister(Facebook)