Music Interviews
4:05 pm
Sat February 9, 2013

A New Day For Singer Nataly Dawn

Originally published on Sat February 9, 2013 5:51 pm

The video for "Single Ladies" has been viewed nearly 10 million times — not Beyonce's original, but a quirky revamp by Pomplamoose, a couple from California known for their lighthearted cover songs. Nataly Dawn is the voice of the duo, and she's about to release her first solo album.

How I Knew Her retains a lot of that whimsy and charm, but the music reveals a side of the singer that Pomplamoose fans might not have known was there. Dawn covers some heady topics on the record, including many references to faith — and her struggles with it after growing up with parents who served as missionaries.

Here, she speaks with NPR's Jacki Lyden about investigating religion and relationships.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINGLE LADIES")

POMPLAMOOSE: (Singing) If you like it then you should've put a ring on it. If you like it then you should've put a ring on it...

LYDEN: The video for this version of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" has been viewed more than nine million times. The band is Pomplamoose, a couple from Northern California known for lighthearted cover songs, and they do a bunch of them. Check them out on YouTube. Now, the woman singing is Nataly Dawn, and she's about to release a solo album on Tuesday called "How I Knew Her."

While she retains a lot of the whimsy and charm of Pomplamoose, the music here reveals a whole different side of Nataly Dawn that Pomplamoose fans might not have known was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NATALY DAWN: (Singing) You put on your suits and your round toe boots but who cares? Silent prayers won't keep you from going insane.

LYDEN: Nataly Dawn is taking on some pretty heady topics on the record, including many references to faith and her struggles with it, despite growing up with parents who served as missionaries.

DAWN: My father was a pastor and later on a theology professor, and my mother was always in charge of the music at church. And my parents were very much into a lot of gospel music. My mom was just a huge fan of the great old hymns. And I have to say they're still deeply ingrained in my subconscious. It's very hard for me to write things that don't sound just a little bit like a hymn.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAWN: (Singing) Maybe they will because you know what they say when there's a gun to your head, is there nobody praying (unintelligible) because we're all just the same, we're all just the same. La di da.

LYDEN: There are a lot of references to faith on "How I Knew Her." Was that intentional?

DAWN: It was intentional in that it's what I've been thinking a lot about. The album is about relationships, and particularly about relationships with the women in my life who've mattered the most to me. And all of those women have had deep faith as a big part of their identity. And I definitely have ended up struggling with a lot of what I believe and what I was brought up with through the investigation of these relationships with the women who are closest to me in my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL A BELIEVER")

DAWN: (Singing) Grandma says I'm going to hell 'cause I met a boy and we make rock music. And the trouble is I know she means well. If I'm misbehaving, it's (unintelligible) and she says life is a test...

LYDEN: Your grandmother, I have to ask you about her, here in this song, "Still a Believer," sounds a little strict. Grandma says I'm going to hell because I met a boy and we make rock music and the trouble is I know she means well. She was probably quite accustomed to you singing church music. Maybe this was too difficult to stretch.

DAWN: I think a lot of people in my family have trouble with the fact that I have strayed from my beliefs, and in particular with the fact that I'm not married and I've been living with my boyfriend, you know, who I've been in a relationship with for the past six and a half years. And I think it's quite difficult for them to deal with the fact that I still claim to have some sort of faith, but that it's not really in line with my very strict Christian heritage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL A BELIEVER")

DAWN: (Singing) And I said I'm still a believer...

LYDEN: Since this is a solo album, did it feel - I'm not suggesting that each song is a chapter in your own autobiography - but did it feel more autobiographical than previous work? Did you feel more that you were writing for your own voice?

DAWN: Definitely. I mean, Pomplamoose's songs lyrically are pretty light. They don't really delve into issues of, you know, death, family, things like that. We stay pretty light. And there's a place for that, an important place for that, in music. And I'm really glad that we make those songs. But I've been going through a darker period in my life and trying to process a lot of that. And I knew that Pomplamoose was not the right outlet for the lyrics that I had written. So definitely, there's a lot more of my story and a lot more of - stories of people in my life who've meant a lot to me.

LYDEN: Well, can I ask then what's behind the song "Why Did You Marry?"

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHY DID YOU MARRY?")

DAWN: (Singing) Why did you marry, oh, why did you marry? You could've been an actress. You could've been a doctor. You could've been somebody people wish they knew...

Part of growing up in a religious family is seeing everyone get married when they're babies. It's always been very scary to me. Even as a young girl, I was never the type to fall in love with someone and think, oh, we're going to get married. I've always been very resistant to the whole idea just because I've seen so many people in the church get married really, really young. And I wish that there were more strong voices in the church and in the world who told girls that they didn't have to get married.

LYDEN: Well, that is an option in this country, at least. As you're speaking, I'm thinking of places where, you know, that might not be, which is its own kind of poignance.

DAWN: Right. Oh, of course. And honestly, growing up in very strict, religious family, it doesn't feel like an option to not get married. I mean, either you lie to your parents and tell them that you're, you know, not living with your boyfriend, or you tell them and you risk the consequences of being cut off or judged or, you know, there are a lot of really bad things that still happen in America to girls who admit that they're not living a life of chastity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHY DID YOU MARRY?")

DAWN: (Singing) And I think that I know, yes, I know why you marry. It's just like in the movie and all those plays where no one ever says, thanks, Cary Grant, but I think I'll just get my own place.

LYDEN: So a record that's almost like a journal. It shares a lot of different facets to your character - really a lot. It's funny, and it's challenging. It's poignant, spiritual. Sometimes here and there, it's snarky. You know, does that sum it up all the different aspects of you?

DAWN: I think you did a beautiful job setting it up, yes.

LYDEN: We'll set it to music.

DAWN: All right.

LYDEN: That's Nataly Dawn. She's one-half of the band Pomplamoose, and her new solo CD is called "How I Knew Her." And you can check out a few tracks on our website, nprmusic.org. A very great pleasure, Nataly. Thank you.

DAWN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASE DON'T SCREAM")

DAWN: (Singing) I remember quite well, the first time I took you home. We were so young. I didn't think much of you. So you were cute and full of tricks and a whole lot brighter than a guinea pig. But I didn't...

LYDEN: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes and on the NPR smartphone app. Click on programs, scroll down. We're back on the radio tomorrow. Thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.