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Folk-pop singer/songwriter Natalie Gelmen says that she has a California heart and an NYC soul, and both coasts come across in her sharp, poignant tunes. She plays the Andaz Hyatt in West Hollywood this week, so we chatted…
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you start singing, writing and performing, and when did you realize it could be serious?
NATALIE GELMAN: I started singing when I was just 4 years old. I would watch Disney films, learn the songs and then sing them for my family at dinnertime — which wasn’t always well received! As I got older, I studied classical violin and piano, eventually picking up the guitar when I was 15. Songwriting came right away after that and I started playing in the subway in NYC once I had written a few songs. I always knew that I wanted to sing and play music professionally so I kind of took it seriously from the beginning. I would listen to music a lot and watch all the award shows on TV with live performances.

Writing music was also something I was always kind of doing as I grew up. I wrote little instrumental songs on piano but it was when I started playing guitar that I got more serious about songwriting and wanted to play my songs for people outside my family. The cool thing about being a musician and songwriter is that you’re always learning. I always feel like I’m getting deeper into this and finding ways to get “serious’ about making music. I’m always trying to be a better musician and to write better songs.

Describe your style…
Simply put, my style is folk-pop. I put a ton of heart into my songs and lyrics and my performances so that’s a big aspect of my music as well… there’s a lot of grit and soul. A lot of people tell me that my music is authentic and honest. I have been through the wringer a bit in my childhood and with my family and I put it all back into the songs. Some of my biggest influences are Jewel, Patty Griffin and Sheryl Crow and that gives you a good idea of what my vibe is.
What recorded output (albums, singles, etc.) do you have out so far?
I’ve released two EPs and two singles and have a full-length album I’m finishing up. My most recent single, ‘The Lights Upstairs,’ came out in June for Alzheimer’s Awareness month. I wrote it for my mom as she started to show signs of Alzheimer’s. After losing her to the disease last year I realized I had to release it. It’s uplifting and hopeful in the face of one of the hardest things to go through with a loved one and it’s been incredibly moving to hear peoples stories and how it’s helping them through Alzheimer’s with a loved one.
What can we expect from this set?

I love long sets like this because I really get to dig in and play all my favorite songs. I will be performing solo acoustic, with my uke and guitar so it’s going to be a raw and vulnerable show which I think can be refreshing when so much of what we hear is over produced, edited and filtered. There’s always a fair amount of laughter and storytelling in my show as well because I love talking to the audience and sharing what’s going on in my life at the moment as well.

What else do you have planned this year?

I’ll be touring more this fall including throughout California and a run of dates coming up in the south. I’m getting the new full-length ready to release so there’s a lot that’s going into that. I’m also going back into the studio to record a couple singles, both originals and covers that I’m loving these days including a Radiohead cover. Fingers crossed for a movie being developed now by filmmakers Clayton Jacobson and Brent Florence. It’s a really exciting dark comedy/horror that will be using my music and is inspired by my story as an indie musician.

Natalie Gelmen is playing a Friday residency at 6 p.m. at the Andaz, West Hollywood.

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