What would happen if the Obamas split up? Would Barack have to move out of the White House, into a one-bedroom with 27 Secret Service men? If my wife and I ever split up, I would be dead. Have you heard about Mel Gibson’s new movie? It is about a man who is so emotionally damaged that he can only communicate through hand puppets. It’s called The Jason Peverett Story. CBS has offered Charlie Sheen’s role on “Two and a Half Men” to Hugh Grant. I wonder what the thought process was there: “Where can we find another actor who has been busted with hookers?” There’s a company in Los Angeles that’s selling a bottle of water for $2,600. You know what’s just as ridiculous? A $2 bottle of water. A Dairy Queen in Canada broke a world record this week by creating a 10-ton ice cream dessert. Or as we call that in America, “a medium.” Well, it's Friday, or as I like to call it Phriday, and I was thinking, did you guys see the ad for the new Ice Cube and Rebecca Black movie? Here it is in case you didn't.
Wait a minute, not only is it Friday, it's Friday the 13th! Did you see this poster?
Thor is all self-congratulatory thunderclapping, strutting around his space kingdom of Asgard like a pretty boy badass pro wrestler before the match has even begun. Then he pisses off his dad Odin and both he and his mighty Mjolnir (that's the hammer) are banished to Earth, where he has to learn all that stuff about honor and worthiness and humility and respect in order to regain his strength and hammering abilities. He also has to hang around some Earth humans and repeatedly freak them out until they get that he's THE Thor. Once that's established he can go back to taking care of smashing-everything business and battling his evil brother, the smaller, un-blond, non-hammering, duplicitous Loki, who's trying to take over Asgard. It's nothing close to a spoiler to tell you that that wicked sibling is going down.
What's The Deal: When you tell a child the same bedtime story over and over (or let them watch The Lion King DVD a hundred times in a row) the story becomes a template for how they'll see the world later in life. There aren't really any surprises to be had on that 87th trip down the same road, but you still get satisfaction from taking the journey. So yeah, nothing in this movie is going to shake your expectations. In fact, even though everything I knew of Thor before seeing it involved his Elizabeth Shue-saving abilities in Adventures in Babysitting , I already understood that these two hours of origin story were going to be about how this one obnoxious musclehead who grows up and becomes destructive to all wrongdoers. And that's what I got, with some cool robot-fighting, freeze-rays, floating space bridges and neck-kicking thrown into the very loud mix. I can't honestly say I'm overwhelmed by his magnificence but I'm still pleased to meet the next Avenger tag-team partner. It was a very cool move to get Kenneth Branagh to direct this. He's best known for Shakespeare, not superheroes, so he gives the Asgard scenes a kind of regal, stately feel that other filmmakers wouldn't bother dealing with. And best of all he's not afraid to streamline, simplify, and take his time. That probably sacrifices some of the thunder you might be hoping to witness, but he still succeeds in turning it all into a huge, glittering, digital entertainment machine, one that needs the biggest screen you can find to watch it on. Sorry purists, the dialogue is straightforward English with the Asgardians sporting Brit accents and there's not a "thee" or "doth" in the entire film. But that's American culture right now, nothing but people who didn't bother to read "Romeo & Juliet" in ninth grade. Getting angry about it will only give you a headache. From 1 to 10, it gets an 8, and yes, I will get it on Blu-ray when it comes out.
Today's guest is a singer and songwriter who is quickly gaining acclaim and recognition for her music. Her passionate songs and voice have brought comparisons to Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell and Jewel. Upon releasing her self-titled debut album which is available on iTunes, she rollerbladed 1500 miles up the East coast from Miami, FL to NYC raising money for charity in concerts along the way. Shit, I get tired just sitting here doing this blog. Anyway, please welcome to the Phile... Natalie Gelman.
Me: Hello, Natalie, welcome to the Phile. How are you? Are you in New York City right now?
Natalie: Thanks! It's great to find new blogs and be interviewed! I'm doing pretty well. Just had a show this weekend in northwest Mass., it was in a really artsy town called North-Adams. Right now I am heading back to New York City on a train.
Me: I just finished watching your video for the song "Never Had You." Nice song, and beautiful video. Was it fun to make, and are you doing any others?
Natalie: Thank you, I got really lucky with the video - I saw an add on Craigslist that a film student was looking for some music to make a music video for someone. He chose my music and we met a few times to go over ideas. I had done one music video before that one also for a film student (he found me playing on the subway) but the director of "Never Had You" and I spent some time looking around possible locations and working through ideas together. He also had a team working on it, everyone was so professional and creative it was a great experience and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. The scenes at the piano and in the window are all at the first music school I ever went to: Greenwich House. We filmed during the winter and there was icy snow on the roof and freezing temperatures. You can actually see my breath in some of the shots! There was a lot of discussion and testing stuff before we actually shot it because they were using actual 16mm film which gets pretty expensive, I work well in an environment like that where you feel like you can make some mistakes on your journey to find what works and your in good hands but then you just have to make it happen. I will be making more in the future when I put out my next CD. They are a ton of fun to make and I think the visuals can make a song even better for your listeners.
Me: Okay, I have to put this on record... you are nuts. What were you thinking inline skating 1500 miles? What kinda skates did you use?
Natalie: I got the idea almost two years before I actually set off from Miami. I never liked college and every summer I would search for things I could do so that I didn’t have to go back. I decided after my sophomore year that I should rollerblade to every state in the continental US and play a show for charity. I was in Austria at the time studying opera and I had really decided classical music wasn't for me anymore. I got back home and explained this tour idea to my family, which of course didn’t go very well. But, it actually looked like I wouldn’t be going to back to school. After a few weeks and about 5 days before I was supposed to start classes I either got cold feet or got tired of being told it couldn’t be done and just went back to college at U. Miami. I didn’t let the idea go though, it morphed into why don’t I do it as the culmination of me graduating and moving back home to NYC. The next summer I was working on the streets of NYC getting children sponsored through Children International. I started sponsoring a child at that time and became really passionate about the charity. That’s when I added in the charity element and got even more serious about it. I went back to school for my senior year, a friend I
had told about the tour decided to help me for her internship. She was going to help set up tour dates, press and be my tour manager and some other friends who had been recording demo's for me wanted to record a full album. In the end it was a LOT to take on. You have to realize that while I was doing all of this I was still working part time, in a church choir, taking about 22 credits (but probably in classes or the practice room for about 50 hours a week like a lot of music students) and memorizing an hours worth of classical opera music for my senior recital (I had decided before I went back for my junior year that I was already mostly done with it and would just finish it up). The tour was successful in that I finished it but there were so many things that could have gone better if I had the right kind of support and if I had some financial
backing. In the end I finished it with the help of extended family and without my tour manager who got stressed and bailed on me half way through. I was in a lot of debt on top or my student loans and I was a little depressed that it was over even though it hadn’t gone so well towards the end. I have read about other artists having a hard time coming home after being on the road for so long and that was my longest tour so far so that’s probably a lot of what I was experiencing. You are so used to being in a new place everyday that suddenly staying put feels very sad. The skates I used were AWESOME they are called Landrollers. The wheels are a lot larger and have a very unique design compared to other inline skates. Check out their website www.Landroller.com.
Me: Where exactly in Miami did you start from and where did you end up in New York? How long did it take?
Natalie: I left from my tour managers apartment in Coral Gables, which is its own little city within Miami. She lived just outside of campus on US1 and I had been staying there for a few days while I moved out of my apt. I ended at my home in the West Village, NYC. It took 48 days from June 1st through July 17th, which was also my birthday. I probably could have done it a lot faster if I had been just rollerblading but I was doing shows, press and we had scheduled all of this before we even left. I had also worked in a lot of rest days which was necessary incase any major things happened.
Me: Please tell me you didn't get hurt, and was Children International aware of this?
Natalie: They were really difficult to get a hold of and to get them on board with the idea. I wish I could say they were a better partner but the truth is that they weren't. I was happy with how individuals were moved though to action. I think its so important to give back even in a small way to your community and I met a lot of people who came out to shows who were moved by what I was doing and seemed enough so that they were going to take up volunteering or sponsoring a child themselves. I didn’t get hurt, it was really just a daily wear and tear on my body which I probably will feel as I get older. I was hit by a car the first day I went out in Miami and again in Virginia.
Me: Would you ever do that kind of thing again? How about swim up the East Coast
Natalie: I have thought about doing something like it again, I was thinking about a bike
tour of the perimeter of the U.S. or something similar to the Rollerblading tour on the West coast. These are just ideas though. I'm not sure how much I am willing to put my own self at risk physically like that again. I think it was awesome and even knowing how it turned out and what I know now I would do it all over again when I did but I'm not sure I would do it again at this point in my life.
Me: Speaking of you being nuts, Natalie, you play a lot in the New York subway. Have you ever been in danger with that?
Natalie: Yea, I love playing on the subway and street performing in general, it's always
an adventure and you never can really predict how a night will go. I haven’t ever been in real danger I am pretty smart and though I look small people don’t realize that I am all muscle. If I did feel a sign of danger I would pack up and go home but if someone were to start to fight with me I can stand up for myself. I also really believe in the people that are there listening to me. I think people respect that someone is making their commute a little easier and they would stick up for me. I also think it just takes one brave soul to reach out and you see everyone around them become a little more fearless and brave in a good way.
Me: What do your parents think? You are so lucky I am not your dad, my dear. Do you get good tips?
Natalie: My mom is a bit worried for me sometimes but in general she knows that I have to
do what I need to so I get my music out there. My dad is really supportive and has asked if he can come hear me down there, I constantly run into people I know but I don’t want him down there it would be too distracting. I am so appreciative of the tips I get - they helped put my CD together in the first place. I also think I get the most interesting tips. This past year has brought in a crazy assortment of weird things being put in my case, from drugs to phone numbers to underwear - none of which I have kept! You can read about it on my website in the subway section.
Me: Have you ever had a creepy dude come up and bother you?
Natalie: Of course, but I usually find that if I don’t back down and show that I am annoyed or a little scared of them if I instead get closer to them and act a little creepy myself they usually back off. It can also be kinda hard to differentiate between someone who is creepy and someone who is just standing there because they really love the music or my voice. I have had both men and women skip trains for almost an hour never having heard me before. My favorite are the drunks. They are usually really bold and dorky at the same time. Lots of times coming out of a Knicks or Rangers game they are drunk and excited from the game. If they ask me to sing for them specifically I will always play a song I wrote in college called "Blues No. 2," Its basically about a girl who is breaking up with the guy because he doesn't do it for her in bed - I wrote it for a class! It’s so funny to see them excited that I am singing for them while everyone else (including their friends) realizes what the song it about and is hysterical.
Me: So, is it safe calling you a busker or is that a bad word? Where do you normally perform?
Natalie: Yea, I generally call myself a street performer. But I'm fine with any terminology. I take it really seriously though. I have to warm up and prepare like I am going to perform at a venue. That’s partially because I have noticed people respond to me better but also because I just feel better about myself and put on a better show. In New York and anywhere your street performing you have to be totally on, giving 150% or people won't give a damn. I call it street performing because I am performing. I'm always out there trying to give out a certain amount of cards to a show or get a certain amount of people on my mailing list. It’s very much just another stage for me. I normally perform underneath Madison Square Garden at 34th street Penn Station on the 2/3 express platform. Sometimes I'm at 42nd street Times Square on the uptown 1, 2, 3 line or at 14th street Union Square on the uptown 4, 5, 6 line.
Me: Have you heard of a singer named Patti Rothberg? She was a busker as well.
Natalie: I haven’t heard of her but there are so many famous and professional musicians
and performers who used to be buskers. I think it really helps you get your chops down.
Me: Okay, I won't give you a hard time anymore. I always support the people I interview and I purchased your CD off iTunes. It's very good, and reminds me a lot of Jewel's first album. Did you write all the songs on it?
Natalie: Thank you, it’s funny you say that because Jewel was my main influence as I started playing guitar and writing. I listened to "Pieces of You" way more than normal. I wrote all the songs except the first one, which I co-wrote. My co-writer Allan Douglas is the best, I played the first song I ever wrote at a contest U. Miami had called UM Idol. I made it to the top 10 and played my song during sound check and it sounded great. When I played it that night it was the
first time I had played one my songs in front of an audience. I don’t know what my voice was doing but it was horrible. He came up to me afterwards and introduced himself and told me the song was great. We started writing together and still do till this day. We also wrote "Run Away" together which is on my Myspace and Website pages and will probably end up on my next CD.
Me: Are you currently working on a follow-up CD? If so, how is it gonna compare to the first
Natalie: I am working on my next CD. I really want to take my time and put out something
I am incredibly proud of. I think it’s going to be a lot more focused than my last album was. I actually had some bluesy and basso nova stuff that didn’t make it to the mastering that I may one day put out on an EP but I think the next CD is going to be a bit more acoustic and definitive. I am also going to have a few happier songs on there!
Me: Tell me about the CD "Tracks For Change". One of your songs is on that CD as well,
Natalie: A friend of mine who is a painter started a fundraising group called Art for Fire after one of the devastating wildfires in California. She has a lot of interest from musicians to help out and after a trip to Louisiana to volunteer she decided to put together the CD to benefit New Orleans musicians that have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina through Sweet Home New Orleans. The CD features some incredible talent and all proceeds go to the charity. I hope to make it down to New Orleans one day soon and it’s just a small way to make sure that the core of its culture stays intact for future generations. If anyone wants to pick up the CD it’s at www.cdbaby.com/cd/tracksforchange and on iTunes.
Me: You played Austria and the Caribbean, Natalie. How did you get those gigs? That's more like it after playing the subway. Where did you like playing better?
Natalie: In Austria I played at a pub down the block from the university I was studying
opera at. I think I was just walking in there a lot with my guitar and I noticed they had a stage so I asked if I could play there. It was a lot of fun and all the people who heard me in the program singing opera could see why I wanted to do my own music. I was a bit tipsy on stage though, I had a glass of hard cider and it was really strong… you don’t taste the alcohol in that and ever since then I rarely will have any alcohol before I perform. The Caribbean was earlier that year, I was on a cruise and spent every night in the karaoke lounge. The host asked me if I would perform in the talent show the next day, I said yes but asked if I could play my own music and guitar. He was reluctant but agreed and I played my song “Take Me Home” to almost all the people on the cruise a bit over 1,200. I got a standing ovation and then in my interview they asked me to sing opera and I got another standing ovation. It was a ton of fun! I woke up the next morning and turned on the TV in my room to see myself on it! They had the show replaying for the last two days of the cruise. I had lots of folks asking me for my autograph and telling me they loved the song, it was really special. I also just recently had a great gig at Bally’s Casino in Vegas, I performed for the New Media Expo as part of the Coverville 500 concert. They are a podcast and put on the show as part of the convention. It was a great size crowd and it’s always nice to be taken care of and be able to prepare to go on stage. All of that said, I think I like the subway the best. It’s just unpredictable and fun and I’m an explorer. I like adventure and the journey of all of this. The subway and street performing is where you really get that and you get those stories. I think I may have to find a way to incorporate the subway stuff into a
live show. I do a bit because in most of the venues I sing people can still hear me singing when I step away from the mic but I have to figure in some more stuff like that.
Me: Tell me about Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art... man, that's a long name. How long did you go there? Was that like the school in Fame?
Natalie: I LOVED that school, I actually wanted to go there when I was about 5 or 6, my
mom was an art teacher in another High School across the street and one day after going to work with her she told me the students there got to sing all day, that’s all I needed to hear! It wasn’t quite singing all day but it was such a creative and incredible 4 years of my life. You are around so many other people who are excited and fearless about music, dance, acting or their visual art. I was almost always involved in something after school that was rehearing or practicing so quite often I would be there, along with a lot of other students, from 8am till 8, 9
or event 10pm. I personally never got up on a table in the lunch room dancing like they do in
the movie but there def were some students on special occasions who did. I did sing, and dance in the hallway and our huge stairwells, which always had a nice echo. It was just such a spirited school, in the sense that there is something larger than you that you’re a part of and that you or the person next to you could be one of the next great actors, dancers or singers of our time. I think that’s what the movie based on LaGuardia represented too. It wasn’t about the individual but about how the whole body of students were connected through their artist mediums.
Me: Ever think of doing "American Idol"?
Natalie: I have thought about it, I tried out a few years ago and didn’t even make it past the first round. Just that process alone took 3-4 days of waiting around, that’s a lot of time to give up. I saw them pass through so many people that were just there to get on TV and it was really frustrating for me. For every 20 over the top TV personalities that goes through only 2-5 real singers were put through. I might audition in the future for the show but only if I have nothing
else going on. Also, the contract you sign is really limiting even if you don’t go through to Hollywood they still own you if you make it because of the show. I think watching show is fun and I actually was just in a commercial for Garnier/"American Idol" that they are going to use at the season progresses. It’s just my silhouette so it will be hard to tell it's me.
Me: What about Carnegie Hall? Is that a dream of yours to play there? Wait a minute, did you play there already?
Natalie: I have been so lucky that before I even went to college I performed in Carnegie Hall twice as a soloist. Both times were with a choir I was in at the time. The first was in 7th grade so I was pretty young, its interesting to think that about 6 years before that was the first time I ever sang and I was crying that day to my choir teacher because I was so scared just to sing in front of our church. The second time I sang at Carnegie Hall my name was in the program as a soloist and it was even more exciting because the music was so timeless. Even though I don’t want to pursue a career as an opera/classical singer I still have a real passion for some composers music. We sang Leonard Bernstein’s "Chichester Psalms" and I still love that piece.
I do hope to make it up there again with my own music. You know, most of the concerts at Carnegie are actually put on by people renting the hall so the phrase: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.” isn’t quite true… at least not always. It should be “Practice, Get Famous or Pay.”
Me: You lived in Miami for a few years, right? Are you from New York originally though?
Natalie: I lived in Miami during college but I mostly lived on campus and didn’t venture
off of it much because I was so busy. I am from New York originally. I’ve always lived in the West Village and enjoyed getting out into the city to see something new everyday. My parents are artists and so are a lot of my friend’s parents so it’s a little sad to see what it’s becoming.
Me: Are you planning a tour anytime soon? I am sorry, but Orlando doesn't have a subway system. We do have a lot of Subway restaurants you can play at though. And go ahead and plug your websites if you want.
Natalie: Sure, you can find my CD at itunes, CDBaby and at NatalieGelman.com, I’m
also on Myspace.com/NatalieGelman of course and regularly update
Youtube.com/NatalieGelman and Twitter.com/NatalieGelman. At the moment I am just getting started in the college market so I will be touring more and more as I schedule dates around the college dates. I will be touring into the mid-west this Spring but the path is still not set just yet. I love eating at Subway, it’s the healthiest option for fast food! And, I wouldn’t be opposed to a tour to them. Maybe they will sponsor a tour to their shops - that would be funny! I would do it and hopefully people will come out to the “Take the Subway to Subway to see Natalie…”
Me: Natalie, I hope this was fun for you. Be safe, okay. All the best, and I wish
you continued luck.
Natalie: Thank you! It’s always fun and I appreciate the opportunity!
There you go, that's about it for another entry. Thanks to Natalie for a great interview and to you the reader. The Phile will be back next Sunday... which means there won't be an entry posted next week thanks to my job scheduling me seven days. Thanks a lot, Disney. The guest on Sunday will be Shirli McAllen, the lead singer for the very cool band The Leftover Cuties. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.