GOLDMINE: Don't Look Too Close is filled with great songs, showcasing your beautiful voice and new inspiration as you and your husband begin a family. Congratulations on the album and the birth of your son.
NATALIE SCHLABS: Oh, thank you so much.
GM: This year I have interviewed a few performers with new songs that have made my top songs of 2020 list, which we will publish on December 31, that remind me of Fleetwood Mac. The acts are Mustangs of The West, Lisa Lambe, and now you. Let’s begin by talking about Fleetwood Mac. When Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the group in the mid-1970s, the first album with that lineup was a phenominal success and their next album, Rumours, was even more successful, with all four singles from the album reaching the Top 10. The fourth single was Christine McVie’s “You Make Loving Fun,” with Stevie Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman” as its flip side. Just like with Mustangs of The West and Lisa Lambe, I think your sound is more Stevie than Christine.
NS: That is probably true. I think their overall sound and the songwriting that Christine and Stevie create do not fit in a single category. Sometimes it is more energetic and pop, like “You Make Loving Fun,” with a Stevie Wonder-type energy. Stevie Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman” feels more folky, dark, swampy, while still being rock and roll. I just love that Fleetwood Mac has that contrast in their sound, as I haven’t pinned my sound down to just one thing. It definitely showcases a couple of their styles on this same single. Both Christine and Stevie have rich voices which are so different from each other. I love these iconic women with voices that are so big, which is really inspiring to me.
Flip side: Gold Dust Woman
A side: You Make Loving Fun
Top 100 debut: October 15, 1977
Peak position: 9
Warner Bros. WBS 8483
GM: Now let’s talk about a couple of songs from your album that remind me of Fleetwood Mac, beginning with my favorite, “Home is You.” It is steady and the band does a wonderful job carrying the song, especially Juan Solorzano’s guitar.
NS: One of the reasons why I wanted Juan to co-produce this album, which he did with Zachary Dyke, is that I desired strong guitars and a variety of background vocalists. Writing “Home is You” was different for me, as I have been more in the folk and Americana world, and I wanted this one to feel very energetic. The second chord was changed from major to minor as I was experimenting with it. I wanted to write a fast song with a chorus that would get stuck in people’s heads. It was one of the first songs that I wrote for this album and after writing it, I knew that I wanted to build more songs around it. It was also the first song we recorded, and it set the pace for something outside of my prior bubble. I co-wrote it with Bekah Ham, who I have known for a while now. We played a show together in Texas, when I lived there, and then I found out that she moved to Nashville, like me, and I scheduled a co-writing session and we wrote “Home is You” and “Don’t Look Too Close” together. She is extremely talented, can play several instruments, and has a unique approach with melody.
GM: The other song that reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, especially their sole No. 1 single “Dreams,” which I have seen you perform a cover of, is “Eye of the Storm.”
NS: Yes. I have covered “Dreams” a lot. I love the feeling of that song. When I was writing “Eye of the Storm” I was thinking about Stevie and her steady energy that can be a little dark and a little rock and roll. I wanted to be unafraid to let my voice take a path like hers, where she can achieve a vibrato on quieter moments.
GM: I enjoy your video for your tender song “That Early Love.” How did being an expectant mother impact your writing?
NS: I think that I was so enraptured with my pregnancy. There were so many things to do and so many appointments. I was feeling the weight of that and it impacted my thinking of how I wanted to raise my son Desmond and how I was raised. I was doing a lot of reflecting and imagining how we would want to be as a family.
GM: “Don’t Look too Close” is another family song. I can identify with the content. I remember when my wife Donna and I were a young couple with our daughter Brianna, our money was tight, and I bought blank cassettes from the dollar store to record Christmas songs off of the radio. You open with, “Christmas Day ’94, money is short. Mom and Dad, they’re trying not to let it show. Candy canes from the dollar store. Stockings half full but the way they’re arranged it all seems magical.” I love the Christmas imagery, the rolling tempo and Caleb Hickman’s saxophone.
NS: Thanks. I started writing the song with Bekah and then I took it to Joseph LeMay and he really helped me fine tune it. Being pregnant influenced this song in a lot of ways and the overall album, too. Having a baby and coming into my thirties at the same time made me think about the lessons I learned in my twenties and I felt more certain of who I am, going into motherhood.
GM: “Endless Love” is a gentle song with a video that includes Desmond.
NS: We wanted the song, about my feelings for my son, to be very simple, without a lot of instruments, just piano and acoustic guitar.
GM: The string arrangement on “Go Outside” is so beautiful.
NS: We were so fortunate to have Ben Kauffman create that arrangement for us.
GM: Speaking of Ben, you co-wrote “See What I See” with another Ben, Ben Glover.
NS: Yes and he co-wrote “Endless Love” with me, too. Ben is such a great writing companion. I never feel nervous working with him because he is very nonjudgmental. Prior to this album, we co-wrote the songs “Fall Apart” and “What Will Christmas Be?”
GM: On “What Will Christmas Be?” you remind me of Sarah McLachlan.
NS: That is such a great compliment. Danny Mitchell was on piano, who is stellar, and my friend Chelsea McGough played cello on the recording.
GM: Who is playing cello on these older videos of yours?
NS: That is Kaitlyn Raitz. She is a dear friend of mine and has a band with her husband called Oliver the Crow. With my live performances, sometimes she plays cello, or video records the show, or does both. Kaitlyn also does videography and put together my “Home is You” video. She also plays with Brandy Clark and around town here in Nashville.
GM: I met Brandy Clark here in Daytona Beach at a country music festival called Country 500 when her song “Girl Next Store” was on the radio in 2016. Now let’s go back to 1989, the year you were born. That is when the self-titled Indigo Girls album was released. It was in an era of new female artists at the end of the 1980s which included them, Melissa Etheridge, and others. Side two of the Indigo Girls’ album, includes “Love’s Recovery,” which you, Robby Hecht, and Kaitlin did such a nice cover of in 2017.
NS: That is actually how Kaitlin and Robby met and became good friends. Kelly McCartney, who has written for different folks, wanted to do a celebration of Indigo Girls music and she emailed a bunch of us to choose a song that we connected with and cover it.
GM: Robby told me that he loved making that video and has loved that Indigo Girls record for decades, which is how I feel about it too. They are another act in my top songs of 2020 along with you.
NS: Aw, that is so sweet and awesome. I was raised in a house where my parents loved rock and roll and had all their favorite bands but at some point, they had cut out all secular music, so I was raised with a lot of Christian music. I am now just catching up on a lot of what came out when I was growing up. When I heard “Love’s Recovery,” I was just blown away by how much content was packed into that song. There was so much to sing that I ran out of breath a few times. It is such a gorgeous song. I am planning on doing another cover with Robby soon and more recording. Thank you so much for our interview. I really enjoyed our conversation.