Nathalie Barret-Mas—better known as Natie—is a violinist, vocalist and producer whose musical style is as diverse as her background: mixing R&B, Electronic, World music, and more, in order to connect with people from different cultures. Natie has gone through a wide range of performances, from competing in Afropunk’s Battle of the Bands to performing alongside Beyoncé and Jay-Z on their On The Run II world tour.
Born and raised in the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, Natie started her musical career at the age of six by studying classical studies at the Conservatory of music of Reunion. Later moved to Mount Lawyley, Australia where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in 2013 from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
She is currently continuing her musical journey in Brooklyn, NY. Before these unprecedented times, she could be found performing with a looper and her violin while collaborating in projects with other artists in the New York area. But as many musicians around the globe, Natie continues to do so by live streaming her performances online.
On this interview done via e-mail around the release of her latest EP In the Key of Fall back in the spring, Natie talks about the importance of diversity behind her artistry and what she has learned and appreciated so far on her journey developing as a performer.
This interview was conducted via email at the end of May, 2020.
Paulette Villa: How have you been? How are you doing with the quarantine?
Natie: Hey! Thanks for the feature. I’ve been good. This quarantine is the first time in over 20 years that I completely unplugged: no alarm, no to-do list, even took a break from daily practicing. It’s been enriching in different ways.
PV: I saw that your Sofar Sounds tour was postponed. What are you missing about performing live?
Natie: I miss the audience’s energy! I always plan for audience participation during my set and I love exchanging with people after the show. It feels a bit abstract to release music online but not get to feel how people respond to it.
PV: Congrats on your new EP! For me, your music gave me a very sensual and playful vibe (loved the add of Reggae on Hkht); and also the sense that you are someone who loves deeply. What was your creative process for creating it? What did you want to say in this EP?
Natie: Thank you so much! Releasing my own music is still fairly new for me so hearing people talk about it always puts the biggest smile on my face. This EP is about healing from a rough break up on an emotional level and trusting what feels good and fun on a musical standpoint. I started compiling voice memos, lyric notes, and garage band demos, and worked pretty much weekly with 2 producers/friends (Edson Sean and Kins).
PV: I’m pretty sure people have asked you a lot about being part of Beyonce’s team. What was playing alongside her? Also, what have you taken/learned from those experiences?
Natie: Working for Beyoncé and Jay-Z was a kid’s dream come true. It’s given me more confidence and insight on the music industry, as well as expanded my definition of an artist. Beyoncé is without a doubt a Boss. She manages everything from music, dance, to costume, lighting and visuals, all that while staying humble, down to earth and generous. She taught me that it takes a village and endless hours for an authentic and powerful vision to come to life.
PV: You have been through different projects, such as Sketchy Orkestra, Orchestra Holistic, and more… is there anything in particular you miss from those times? How do you think your musical perspective has changed since then?
Natie: I miss the energy of a large band on stage and the hangs afterward. I still would be happy to play for some of these projects. I think what has evolved for me the most is my relationship with the stage and the audience. Being a performer can seem a bit egocentric at times, but once we can perceive any show as an opportunity to connect and heal, the tensions or stress leading up to it aren’t the same and it’s easier to fill fueled after it’s all over.
PV: I saw that you are from Réunion Island. What would you like people to understand about your home and what are the things you enjoy/miss the most of being there?
Natie: I miss watching the sunset into the ocean every day… Reunion is a beautiful example of mixed cultures and traditions. That’s what I’m the mostly proud of there, and I try to infuse it into my art.
PV: Having your father, who is a Jazz musician, as an introduction to music, what has been the best advice he has given you or something that has stuck with you since the beginning of your musical career?
Natie: Growing up, I always heard my dad practicing, so he certainly taught me about consistency and discipline. Throughout his musical career, he was very innovative, which doesn’t always lead to popularity, but I think it inspires me to search for the most sincere and authentic version of myself when I create.
PV: Also, as you mentioned in one of your Instagram posts, “Half Spanish, a French passport, a little Indian and a little African, living in NYC”, how does your background/identity influence and projects your music?
Natie: Showing the diversity of my roots is very important to me. I do it through the use of traditional instruments and rhythms from Reunion or using different costumes on stage. I love the idea of sparking conversations on identity and race through music. It’s a medium that brings people together despite their culture, gender, or religion so it seems like a great place to start.
PV: I understand you are part Spanish because of your mother; I saw you made a cover of a song by Rosalia and you sound great in Spanish! Are you fluent in the language? Have you considered making more music in Spanish?
Natie: I’m seriously thinking of writing in Spanish and Creole (from Reunion). I love languages and their unique way of expressing a perspective on reality. The tricky part is to make it sound good and meaningful at the same time… we’ll see what comes out next, but yes hopefully I’ll have lyrics in all 4 languages (counting English and French already).
PV: Not only has your musical career evolved, but also you fashion; where do you like to shop and how would you define your aesthetic?
Natie: Ha! Yes, well noted! I love experimenting with different looks and collaborating with up and coming designers. In the end, it’s all part of the show/persona, and outfits can help set those “sensual, dreamy, exotic vibes.”
PV: What advice would you give to all small-town/island women who are starting their musical/artistic career? What is something you would tell yourself back then if you could?
Natie: Start your vision board now and love yourself. I truly believe in visualization. When I moved to NYC five years ago, I wrote down my biggest dreams on a board and came up with a daily plan to make it all happen. And it worked! Lately I’ve been refocusing on self-love. In such a competitive industry, it’s important to remember that no one can do
and say what you have to share, and that alone makes it special.
PV: Thank you so much for your time, is there anything you would like to add or let people know for upcoming projects?
Natie: It’s very likely that any upcoming performance will take place online so if you’d like to tune in you can always find all the info on my IG @natiemusic. Thank you again for your interest in my music, it was fun answering your questions! Take care.
By Paulette Villa