Born in Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, fast-rising soulful singer-songwriter Natalia left home for London in her teens. ?It?s right by the sea, and I miss it,? she says. ?I?m a home girl at heart.?
At 3 years old her Greek-Welsh mother and Lebanese/Jordanian father separated. ?I went to live in Jordan for a little while before coming back to Wales. My stepfather is Italian, so I?ve been exposed to so much diverse music in my life, from R?n?B, Soul, and Jazz to my big love ? pop.?
At 15, Natalia won a place to become a professional ballerina at the esteemed Elmhurst Ballet School in Surrey. ?I was interested in learning as much as possible, so I soon switched to modern jazz and singing. After my first lesson I never looked back.? Its regime wasn?t for the faint hearted, however. ?Discipline was tough there but it helped me become independent and organised,? she says, ?although it was sad what some girls put themselves through to look like the stars you see in magazines.?
Sadly, Natalia?s strengths meant she has also been the victim of bullying: ?When I was younger I remember being scared of leaving school as there?d be a group of girls waiting for me. But I realized bullies are just jealous. It?s important not to let them make you feel insecure.? Now Natalia uses her experience to work with the charity Beat Bullying, which regularly holds workshops in schools.
Towards the end of her studies at Elmhurst, Natalia had begun to attract attention from the music industry. After a spell in girl band Pussy Katz, she teamed up with producer K Warren, a creative union which spawned a handful of experimental tracks that by December 2006 were dominating the top of the myspace unsigned artists chart ? including the single ?Thanx 4 Nothin??, which hit the No.1 spot. In that same month, US-based label Upper 11 Records, overwhelmed by Natalia?s talent and burgeoning fan base, snapped her up. Under the aegis of Mark Shimmel ? formerly Senior Vice President of Marketing and Artist Relations at Arista and CEO of La Face Records ? she has spent the last 12 months working with some of the finest producers and writers in both the UK and US, the first fruits of which were the acclaimed debut single ?Pretty Like Me? released earlier this year.
Collaborators include Peter Zizzo (Avril Lavigne, J-Lo), Jimmy Bralower (R Kelly, Madonna, Britney Spears), Lil Eddie (P Diddy, LL Cool J) Mike Mangini (Joss Stone, Run DMC) and J-Remy (Kelly Rowland, Fatman Scoop), who have created a world-class album with Natalia, entitled ?All Of Me.? ?I?ve been so lucky with the people I?ve worked with. Here I am in the studio with fantastic producers, like Jimmy Bralower who did Girls Just Want to Have Fun with Cyndi Lauper. What an honour.?
2008 got off to a flying start when Natalia supported pop icons Girls Aloud on their national tour. ?I respect them so much for what they?ve achieved,? she says, ?and so meeting them was exciting.? Acoustic gigs have been even more rewarding: ?I love the intimacy of smaller venues where everyone is watching how you sing every word.?
In spring she returned to the states to shoot the video for her new single ?Perfect Day? (released Sept 1), penned by Frankie Storm (Rhianna), J-Remy and Bobby Bass. Its hook-filled dreamy vocals pack a punch. ?It?s about perspective,? she says, ?and positivity. The video was shot in LA and fits the magical elements of the song perfectly.?
Natalia is currently on tour with Girls Aloud (9 dates till Sept 14) and supports Sugababes on August 9. Look out too for a customised ?Perfect Day? blouse in Strawberry Kats concession in flagship Topshop store, Oxford Circus this summer.
Perfect Day is just the start. Watch Natalia rise to the ranks of fellow Brits Estelle, Leona, Amy and Duffy ? both here and over the pond.