Tone Talk with Natalie Joy

Natalie Joly - Photo by Rebecca Carr for Music Drives Us
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 9 – Autumn 2019 – Ladies of Metal

My name is Natalie Joly and I’m a full-time singer-songwriter from Boston, Mass. I have been playing out at bars and private events since I was 14 and released my first solo album the same year. I now have an all-original band, Natalie Joly & the Reckless Hearts, who plays around Boston and the New England area. We are currently in the studio working on more original music. In the last year, we have released two singles, “Irresistible” and “You Oughta Know,” which can be found online on YouTube, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, etc.

I was raised on rock ‘n’ roll and am determined to bring that style back to the forefront of current mainstream music. My original music is a blend of ‘70s rock with current pop elements and production techniques to allow for my raw style to shine while staying in line with current radio play. I write all of my own material, and the band and I produce all of the music ourselves out of our home studios.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

My definition of tone is the quality of a musical signal, and what feeling that quality translates into. For me, guitar tones are one of the most important aspects of recording. I really think the guitar tone is what leaves people walking away from a song with the most distinct impression of the vision and genre. As a songwriter, it’s a really interesting process for me to choose what my guitar tones will sound like because I write everything on acoustic guitar and then bring it to my band where we decide the direction of the song. It’s really fun to have a song go from acoustic to being a hard rock song overnight just due to the part-writing.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

I’m very simple when it comes to my personal guitar tones because I strictly play rhythm. For live, I use my Gretsch Electromatic because it’s my easiest guitar to play, plus it’s bright red and looks beautiful on stage … but I rarely use it for recording. In the studio, I mainly use a Gretsch White Falcon full hollow-body, or if I need a grittier tone, I always go with a Les Paul. For amps, I have a Fender Supersonic 2×12 and a VOX AC-15, and between those two amps, I can always get a tone I’m happy with, especially for live performances. For recordings, I get a little pickier and sometimes borrow or rent other amps.  

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

My biggest priority in the studio is to never cut corners. My band and I track, engineer, produce, and mix everything ourselves. Sometimes we can get fed up with something and want to go the easy way out, but it’s really important to us that we never do. None of us are professionally trained in the studio; basically, everything we know we’ve either taught ourselves or learned from watching friends, so given that we don’t know the technical knowledge, it can be tempting to cut corners. Experimenting with tracking techniques as well as mixing plugins is the most important thing we can do to make sure we always make decisions based on well thought out options, rather than just going with the first decent sound we get.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

It’s important to me that our songs sound similar to the recordings when we play them live, except kicked up a notch. So, for the sake of consistency, we take note of which tones are being used on which songs and make sure to do the same thing every time. All of my original songs have lots of backing vocals, and unfortunately, I’m not at the point yet to hire back-up singers, so we play to a click and backing track, with the harmonies on them, which really helps us stay tight and on the same page from performance to performance.

What does your practice consist of?

My practice personally consists of vocal exercises, challenging myself to learn songs outside my comfort zone, and breaking down guitar or piano sections that I don’t think are tight enough on my end. I like going into my band practices knowing I myself am up to speed. As for band practices, we run through the set of the next upcoming show, and I take note of any mistakes or things I think need work, and we then go back and work through any issues.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

My biggest piece of advice is not to be afraid of hard work. This industry is really hard, but it’s also extremely rewarding. The hard work is worth it, and you WILL see results if you are doing what feels right to you and putting all your heart into it.

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