Interview: Natasha Haws
Girls with guitars are all the rage these days. PJ Harvey, KT Tunstall…actually no, sorry, I’m thinking of initials aren’t I? Initials are all the rage these days.
Bit worrying then that Natasha Haws, the latest in a long and gleaming line of musicians to spring forth from the eternal well of creativity and verve that is the Sunderland music scene at present, is using both of her actual names. Not to worry though, as she’s got plenty of time to change that.
“I don’t think I’ve had a review yet that hasn’t started off with ‘the 17 year old…’ or ‘the older than her years…’ or ‘the doe-eyed…’. Which is nice, it’s very observant, but it worries me slightly because what if that’s the only thing they think is worth talking about? If I wasn’t 17, would they have anything to write?”
They should. As debut years go, the ‘doe-eyed 17 year old’ has had the sort of 12 months that would seem excessive in even the cheesiest Hollywood montage.
“I only started writing songs a year ago, and I only did that because Emma Howe [now her manager and Kittle PR bigwig] caught me at a busker’s night in East Boldon and invited me on Spark FM. The only problem was I didn’t have any songs of my own then, so I just threw two together and hoped for the best. I didn’t expect anybody to like it if I’m honest but here I am. I doesn’t even seem like a year, it seems a lot shorter than that.
“I didn’t really think anything of myself musically until I played Split Transmission last year and I met Tom Robinson [BBC 6 Music and all-round lovely man]. He seemed to really like me and he just told me straight ‘you don’t have to be that girl in your bedroom whispering songs. You’ve obviously got some craic so get that out on stage’. Dave Burn [ex-Detroit Social Club turned producer] was on the panel as well and he’s helped put my EP together for me.”
Just to recap, that’s an open mic night in that pub you see on the Metro line, to gigs in the capital and her own EP launch at Sunderland Minster, in the same time it takes most reality TV stars to start, milk, and shelve a marriage.
Natasha’s talent has emerged with assistance from Wearside’s famous rehearsal and recording space, The Bunker.
“It would never have happened without people like Emma, or the folks at The Bunker because they’ve always given me a kick up the arse when I needed one. If it wasn’t for the Sunderland music scene though, I wouldn’t have done anything. Bands like The Lake Poets and Lilliput have always helped me out and even the venues, I mean Independent stuck me on supporting Karima Francis after I’d had two gigs.
“It’s such a supportive scene here. When bands from Sunderland play somewhere else, I think people are shocked by just how well they all get on. All the bands know each other and help each other out and the people who go to the gigs aren’t afraid to come up and say ‘I really enjoyed that, you’re mint’. Everywhere else I’ve played it just feels like the bands are competing which I think is wrong. Helping other bands out isn’t going to hold you back, it’s going to help strengthen the scene you’re in.”
She’s also garnered a reputation for being one of the most thoughtful and warming songwriters in the region, with a catalogue of ditties stemming from personal experience. “I like it when I see or hear people talking about the stories behind my songs because, ultimately, I wouldn’t be able to write if it wasn’t for those stories. I’m not someone who can take a random subject and create a song about it. If I don’t know how something feels, then I don’t know the craic.
“I think people look silly if you ask them why they’ve written something and they’ve got no reasoning behind it. If they just say ‘awh, well, it sounded good, so I put some words to it’, I don’t know what the point in that is. I don’t think you should write without a reason. You can be a cool band, with tight jeans and singing about getting pissed, but at the end of the day it’s not going to change anybody’s views or opinions on anything, no matter how brilliant the music is. I’m a bit of a political shit, I guess.”
Natasha Haws releases her debut EP on 14th May via BunkerUK Records. She plays Sunderland Minster on Saturday 12th May and The Cluny 2 stage at Evolution Emerging on Friday 1st June.
- Video: Sunderland Minster With Natasha Haws & Reckoner