Natalie Weiss’s vocal talents enthrall both the musical theater and pop world.
She tours internationally with her solo stage show, treads the boards of Broadway and is the creator of the unique YouTube series, Breaking Down the Riffs.
For this special VoiceCouncil interview Natalie defines success for the working singer and tells us how to stage a magical show.
What advice to you have for people trying to ‘make it’ in the industry?
‘Making it’ has so many different meanings. Some people try and try for 10 years and give up. Some say they’ve made it because they’ve had a family. Some people make it on Broadway then they’re over it and want to quit. Normal folks are like “have you ever tried being on Broadway?” They don’t understand that you can have success in other ways. Broadway is often looked at as the ultimate dream, but it is not the be all end all. Perhaps having a family and doing local theatre is good enough for you.
What attributes does a successful singer have?
It’s not all about talent, you have to work hard and have a thick skin. My favorite vocalists tend to have a soothing tone and use a lot of dynamics.
How do you choose your repertoire?
My repertoire changes at every venue and caters to different audiences. I would normally add the song ‘Quiet’ written by Jonathan Reid Gealt to my sets because it is my most recognisable song, but on a cruise ship nobody would know it so I just do all the big hits. Also, if I go abroad I take out American songs with inside jokes. I did a song about a New Jersey toll booth in Scotland and it didn’t go down well! Know your audience!
How can you keep a set list fresh?
It’s important to drop the ones you’re bored of. Sometimes I’m in the middle of a song and I think “I am never doing this song ever again! I am boring myself!” I also try to stay on top of the charts. For instance, if a song is very popular at that moment, I might add it in my set and put my own spin on it.
How did you develop your stage banter?
It can’t really be taught, you have to practice it yourself. You have to say things off the cuff and roll with the punches. I don’t encourage ‘corny’. I like to make the audience feel like they are hanging out with me…that’s my vibe.
Do you ever get nervous?
All the time! I still get really nervous when I visit universities and I know that behind the door all the students are waiting for me. It’s intimidating because you put this pressure on yourself to be perfect at all times. I have to remember that I am only human.
What is your remedy for nerves?
I give myself a big shake down. Also, my big mantra is “Who cares?” I say it all the time even if I don’t believe it. It helps to convince myself that if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone is there to support you!
Tell us about your live show backing vocalists…
I have held contests in the past where I have asked singers to submit videos of themselves singing harmony. For my most recent NYC show in July, I actually held an appointment only audition at a studio in New York. I auditioned over 200 singers and had a panel of friends help me decide on my 3 backup vocalists. We called back around 18 singers, paired them with different people, and ended up picking 3 fierce singers! I LOVED being behind the table. Maybe I found my new calling…
Do you record much?
I released a solo EP in 2010. One song was written for me by Jason Robert Brown and the others were covers. Often times, I record songs for new composers in New York. It’s pretty cool to think that you are the voice originating a song!
What other singers do you admire?
People I love to listen to are those where you forget to breathe when you are listening to them. I realised this recently when I did a concert with my bud, Loren Allred and I literally didn’t take a breath for 4 minutes! That tone and vibrato! Katie Thompson is another favorite. Jessie J inspires me to be a better performer too…and obviously I love Beyonce…
Read previous article: Addicted to Riffing – Tales of a Riffer Revealed
Natalie Weiss just completed a run as Candy in the U.S. premiere of the new version of Saturday Night Fever. Last fall, she went on a European solo concert & teaching tour. In August 2013, she completed a 2 1/2 year run with the national tour of Les Misérables. Back In 2010, she made her Broadway debut in Everyday Rapture. She also performed in the national tour of Wicked. Natalie was an American Idol season 4 semi-finalist and performed the National Anthem at Cowboys & Shea Stadium. She has gained an international following from her web series, “Breaking Down The Riffs”.