Interview: Natalie Fideler
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Music was a crucial point in my upbringing! Both my parents came from musical lineage, and their participation in the local music scene is how they met. My parents had accrued quite a gear collection by the time they had my sister and I, so we grew up singing, dancing, and trying to play any instrument we could get our hands on.
Music really became my passion at age 11 when I started writing songs with my sister and cousin in a garage band project we called Sterio Sunrise. Once I got a taste of making my own music, performing it on stage, and being able to dance to a recording of my own song, I never looked back.
It’s hard to picture what I’d be doing if not music because it has been my hobby and joy since I was 3 years old in Suzuki violin! But I think in some alternate timeline I’d be a chef and open a restaurant.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
As a hobbyist AND professional musician, the time I’m not playing music is very limited! I teach private lessons for most of my work which keeps me sharp with my technique and sight-reading capabilities, and allows me to continue to be studious about music and make new personal musical discoveries.
I love to cook, which I’ve always said is like composing for your mouth! Making food from scratch is a blank canvas, and I think understanding a different side of creativity where your palette is “ingredients” and you only have so many choices to get to your end goal really shows that creativity comes from limits. Giving yourself a directive to abide by while creating activates that creative problem solving process, and suddenly you end up with a product you never would have made without the initial limitation!
I also just adore spending time with my loved ones, especially my fiancé and our puppy. Having rich, adventurous life experiences gives me more songwriting fuel! I gotta have something to write about!
How long has your band been around?
The advent of Natalie Fideler as a musical act began when I was in college around 2017. I had been in a few projects and a bunch of curricular ensembles in my adolescence, but when I got to college I left my collaborators in my hometown. I performed an original song at an open mic on campus as a freshman, and eventually was asked to do a full student spotlight set which spawned other gig opportunities as just me, Natalie Fideler.
During this time I was yearning to be in a band again. I was just dying to have an established project with an ever-growing catalog of original works, but couldn’t find the people to level with me or commit in the same all-or-nothing way I wanted to. I was getting really tired of starting projects, giving my original songs to the group, and then inevitably breaking up and retiring my songs. I was also in this weird zone where I was primarily a drummer who wrote songs on a guitar or piano, so I butted heads with some collaborators too. It wasn’t too long before I said screw it and decided to try a solo project.
My first record, Steak & Eggs, is a compilation of all the songs I wrote in 2017 when first writing with the intent of being a soloist. I played and sang everything you hear on the record (drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals, and back ups!) and fell in love. I vowed before that record even dropped that I would be releasing solo original music for the rest of my life.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based in Minneapolis, MN, which has a smaller but deeply saturated local music scene. This city is wrought with music lovers, and our community offers countless opportunities for budding artists to cut their teeth. So many amazing musicians from Minneapolis have used this city as their launching pad to something bigger, while others have stuck around to build the self-sufficient industry ecosystem we have in the twin cities. I think being based here and growing up here has fostered my tenacity and drive to pursue music. I’ve never felt shame or judgment for being a career musician in this town. Living here has helped me dream big and not be afraid to just go for it.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
I chose to name my project my legitimate legal name, Natalie Fideler, after much mental deliberation. I thought for a while of coming up with a stage name or an alias, but inevitably just wanted to be known as myself. My name is also pretty unique. Any ideas I came up with were already in use, but there’s only one Natalie Fideler.
Going by just my name seems to really confuse people sometimes. I think it’s funny, because people releasing full band music under just one name is not unheard of! When puzzled people ask me why and how I go by my name when I perform with a full band, I always take the opportunity to remind people of other solo artists who collaborate but still operate as themselves. I consider it an homage to my biggest influences. Liz Phair, Regina Spektor, Courtney Barnett, Emily King, Carole King, Janelle Monae, all just amazing people making fully orchestrated music under their first and last name. I want to be one of them, so I’m doing what they did.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
My absolute most memorable show was July 13, 2021. It was our first show after covid ruined everything, and we were doing a free show in Mears Park in downtown St. Paul. We were all so hyped for our first show back, little did I know my drummer/girlfriend, Leigh, planned to PROPOSE TO ME BEFORE THE LAST SONG! Pretty much everyone else but me was in on it, bandmates and audience members alike. Before the last tune my bassist, Hailey, pulled a slick maneuver to get Leigh on a microphone and suddenly she was down on one knee, and then I was playing the closer with a RING on my finger?!?! I pretty much went into shock.
My two album release parties are the other most memorable shows that come to mind. The Steak & Eggs release show was Oct. 13, 2018 at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor in Fargo, ND. I was joined by my fellow artists Cadence & the Wolf, Free Truman, and Mikayla Jackson. We oversold the event capacity and the whole time people were dancing and singing along. When we played Honeybee just about everyone in the room cried. I’ll never forget watching everyone’s faces and hearing their cheers for me. It was an amazing way to enter performing as a soloist with a backing band.
The Three Man Army release party was very recent, May 14, 2022 at 7th St Entry of First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN, supported by my pals in Zaq Baker and M.A.Y. This event ticked just about every box to be deemed a success for me whether it be performance quality, attendance, crowd engagement, venue, time frame, anything! And just to look back on the growth between both release parties, it felt so fulfilling to quantify my growth.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I love playing at the 7th St Entry. It’s just such an amazing room to perform in AND see other acts perform. I’ve seen some of my favorite bands there, and to then take the stage myself?! It’s legendary to say the least.
As a Minneapolis local, playing the First Avenue main room is a bucket list goal. I’d love to tour through Chicago some day and hit the Subterranean and Audiotree. I’d also love to play Red Rocks in CO someday, that would just be ridiculously cool!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I wish I could make a whole festival lineup for this question! But for just a traditional show, I would hands down want to play with Liz Phair. She’s my absolute favorite artist and idol. I’d also add Nat & Alex Wolff to the bill for a night of indie rock madness. I’ve been following their music since I was a kid (and they were kids too), so it would feel like a full-circle right of passage to take the stage with them.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Life in the music industry is cutthroat. When we mix art with business, we end up in a very tense environment. It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of your artistic motivators if you place too much emphasis on things like stats, streams, follower count, etc. Of course playing both sides of the field is necessary to a degree, but it is imperative that you ground yourself to remember why you started creating in the first place. Whatever sparked your desire to write your first song, take your first lesson, learn your first cover, carry that with you in every endeavor you seek. Remember that at the end of the day, no matter how far you’ve come, you owe everything to that spark. Let it light a fire within you and protect it at all costs.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
If I could go back in time, I would just want to show my younger self all I have accomplished so far. I wish I could show 10 year old Natalie who thought she could never play guitar all the solos I’ve recorded. I wish I could tell myself to be more confident and own how much awesome stuff I have done and will do. I’d take pictures of all the important moments in my career as a fly on the wall. I’d tell myself to cherish every compliment and kind word I receive about my work. And I’d tell myself to not waste time trying to fit a mold that I’m not. Your “target audience” are the people who identify with you and your art. You won’t find them if you aren’t being YOU.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
This is a wildly difficult question. As of late it has been my new song, Judas. While all my songs mean so much to me, releasing Judas felt especially vulnerable given the “controversial” subject matter. It’s about my upbringing in the Christian faith, the indoctrination and religious abuse I faced, and the release of the anger I feel from being subject to those things as a child. I genuinely felt scared to release the song, and I was sick to my stomach all day when it dropped on 4/29/22.
The lyrics make some very bold statements, but I believe in every word 1,000%. I chose to release an official lyric video for this single purely because of their meaning and the weight they carry. You can check it out here:
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Judas is kind of our band favorite to play. It’s so groovy and the dynamic changes tell a raucous story. I love playing “When the Evening Comes” because it has my favorite guitar part I’ve written to date. “Kirkland’s Signature Light Suffering” is another one; I am super proud of the keyboard part and it’s a fan favorite from my first record. I think the most requested song I get is “Abe Lincoln (La Di Da).” It’s just catchy and fun, and the listeners love it!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I write every song by myself. They always start with me and one instrument, guitar or keys. I often start writing by improvising, or I will write lyrics to a melody in my head and harmonize around that starting point. It depends on what’s inspiring me to write, whether it be a musical idea that I want to use or something I want to write lyrics about. I like to let my songs sit for a while before I consider them “done.” Usually at least a month if not several before I really feel like I’ve nailed down the road map, transitions, phrasing, etc. So when I release “new” material it probably hasn’t been new to me for at least a year!
From there it’s on to building other instrument parts around the song and framework I’ve composed. For my first record I wrote and played all the parts. Since 2019, the bass and drum parts have been created by my colleagues Hailey Jacobsen and Leigh Underwood under my direction. I’ll give them some expressive words or riffs/feels to start with, and give them guidance along the way with their creative voice at the forefront.
I think part of the beauty of this idiom is that while all songs are mine at their core, I can take them any direction. Just know that no matter what the end product sounds like, it starts with me, alone in my room, just trying to make sense of my life.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
My music is about my experiences and my processing of those things. I always want my honesty and vulnerability to come through. For some reason I’ve always felt more comfortable belting my truth in the abstract to a room full of people than I do speaking it plainly to a loved one.
I write songs about the horrid things in life. Even when I write happy songs it feels more like writing away the bad, or manifesting positivity by writing it into existence. I want to write songs that make other people feel less alone in the bad things in life. Anxiety, depression, abuse, addiction, self actualization, break ups, lost friends, insults, rumination, anger, self deprecation, hatred - these are all things I have released songs about and all things we go through. I hope that at least one of my songs can touch everyone’s heart and give them a space to move through their emotions instead of around them.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Everyone has disagreements! I see myself as the “artistic manager” of my project, but I highly value the opinions of my collaborators, especially Leigh and Hailey. In the end the decisions are up to me, but I always take into account what my colleagues have to add. It comes down to what’s the best for the people involved and what’s best for the music.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
2022 is all about promoting my new record, Three Man Army! It’s available to stream wherever you get music worldwide.
To stay updated on gigs and new music, click my linktree to follow me on the platform of your choice: https://linktr.ee/nataliefideler