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“The singer explores unique and captivating use of space as it relates to weaving her singing and music together.” – American Songwriter
“…explores taking the high road instead of succumbing to the low.” – The Bluegrass Situation
“Royal experiments with reshaping the sounds of live instruments and vocal harmonies, concocting a grand outpour of multi-layered sensations in her music.” – Elmore Magazine
Harbinger: One that presages or foreshadows what is to come
On January 4, 2011, Natalie Royal watched as her father died of a heart attack at home. “Joy and sorrow will always be a pair, and with sorrow, you’re able to appreciate the joy that much more,” Royal says, recalling inspiration from The Prophet by Kahili Gibran. The joy came as quickly as the sorrow when her boyfriend (now husband) drove through the night to tell her he loved her for the first time.
The sudden life alterations inspired the vignette “Supernova.” “Band fired up as the hammer came down / Fell in love as his breath began the final round,” Royal writes, “With each joy a sorrow’s gonna come and try to knock my legs right out / That’s how it goes and I’m gonna stand forever / Only have gold when there’s a supernova.”
Pensive songs poured out of her. She distanced herself from her religion as she struggled to understand the purpose of death when, she sat to write (what could be) her final appeal in “Last Prayer.”
Rumination and furtherance sow this record. “These tracks are just a bolder version of who I used to be,” Royal explains, “and the album is a representation of what is to come.”
In the fall of 2012, her Belmont University studies took her to New York City’s Brooklyn Heights, a foreshadow of her harbinger, precursed by self-actualization of feeling stagnant artistically. She began to find freedom in introspection and observations of her surroundings.
“Pockets” formed out of autonomous day-to-day life. “I’ve got my hands in my pockets, “ she writes, “I’m waitin for my own ride.” She bids nevermore to toxic, empty energies on “Let Me Let You Go” and “Misery.” The song “It’s Funny How” came to her in an observation of how true love can appear completely unannounced while “Colors and Such” explains how she’s found “it takes a lifetime to learn someone.”
In the spring of 2014, the foundational tracks of Harbinger were recorded to tape in ten days at The Bomb Shelter (Alabama Shakes, Hurray For The Riff Raff) in East Nashville with producer Ryan McFadden (Torres). The two agreed sonically on space, depth and D’Angelo. In the studio, Royal’s harmonies unified with experimental tones created from live instruments. The remainder of the album was produced at McFadden’s home studio, The Nest.
On the album opener, Royal sings, “1200 weeks on the jetty / 23 years, feet stay dry / Out of the bay rolls the harbinger wave / What may come in the sweet by and by / What may come
in the sweet by and by.”
Harbinger is a perfect artistic statement of a young, modern Nashville songwriter at the inception of her career.