G-7L1BQ01JC4 google-site-verification=FcHx71H1bjVosBa3N5PbNSP0lPlz9dKW5Fnb3zbHVBI A-Natural is In the Key of Q - Gay Music: In the Key of Q

Episode 4

full
Published on:

5th Apr 2022

A-Natural: Homelessness, Rape and Conversations with God

Welcome to In the Key of Q the weekly podcast where I chat with inspiring Queer musicians from around the world as they share stories, inspirations and of course their music.

A-Natural founded Natural City Music recording label and has himself won two international independent music awards. He's opened for T-Pain and has written and produced for multiple major artists. In 2020 he released the album, 'Kwame', a seminal autobiographical piece in 12 tracks.

Gospel church music has been hugely influential on A-Natural with the church being very present throughout his upbringing. B Slade (formerly Tonex) is mentioned as a particular inspiration - a "gospel Prince"!

Coming into college A-Natural discovered new kinds of music and went into writing and performing his own material. But the task is not easy, and as a friend of his said, musicians sacrificed their lives so that everyone can have a soundtrack to theirs.

He faces the challenges of being Black, American, Queer and Christian helped particularly by the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. He tells us, Faith doesn't just have to be about God. Faith is about understanding that the things that you want for your life can come to pass. If you just believe.

After a period of homelessness he gets onto his feet, but is raped on the night he loses his virginity. It's a traumatic memory that has laid dormant until viewing the BBC show 'I May Destroy You' by Michaela Coel in which the character Kwame experiences a similar experience.

He goes on to plea for musicians to give themselves time and space to be creative; to allow themselves to make their art and not just 'content'. He says with sadness, We're demanded to be these caricatures of ourselves. And we get exhausted and burnt out trying to please an algorithm that really doesn't know who we are.

Additional Material

If you enjoyed this episode why not take a listen to Wuhryn Dumas.

In the Key of Q is a weekly 30-40 minute podcast publishing every Tuesday. I’m your host Dan Hall, and in each episode, I chat candidly with a gay/bi musician about their life and music. 

Access exclusive interview content and support the production of this podcast by heading over to Petreon and making a small donation.

Enjoy the music of previous guests by listening to these playlists with tracks selected by the artists themselves.

Credits

  • The podcast can be reached on email and on social media at Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The podcast’s forever home can be found here.
  • Theme tune is by Paul Leonidou.
  • Press & PR by Paul Smith.
  • Many thanks to Kaj and Moray for their continued support.
  • In the Key of Q is presented and produced by Dan Hall and made at Pup Media. Dan has recently produced the landmark BBC film, "Freddie Mercury: The Final Act" (dir. James Rogan) and is the producer of the podcast series Been There Done That. For audio or video production inquiries Dan can be reached here or at Talent Manager.

Would you like to appear on the show? Or have an artist you'd like to recommend, please tell them to get in touch via email.

Transcript

^p

Dan

This episode contains language that some people may find offensive and includes discussion on sexual violence. Listener discretion is advised.

A-Natural

When I first decided to do music full time, I was living with my dad and we got evicted. So I would take my stuff to the local train station and sleep on a bench. That time period made me the artist and producer that I am today.

Dan

This is In the Key of Q featuring musicians from around the world who inspire my queer identity. Everybody is welcomed to the conversation, whatever beautiful identity pleases you. Music helps us feel connected and know that we are not alone.

This program is made possible thanks to the financial support of listeners like you over at patreon.com/inthekeyofq. And remember to subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

I'm Dan Hall. Tune in. And be heard.

om multiple major artists. In:

A-Natural

Hello. Hello everyone. Hello, Dan .

I've been singing since I can remember. So I am a singer first of course, but I'm also a songwriter producer, vocal arrangers studio engineer. Um, I wear a lot of hats I will say. Yeah.

Dan

How'd you make all of them fit?

A-Natural

Oh, my God. It's, it's been, it's been a tough juggle for the last, I'll say 15 years, but, um, I've I think I've come out okay.

Dan

So then I suppose the million dollar question - why music?

A-Natural

Oh, wow. Um, I mean, I come from a musical family and my mom is a jazz singer. She started off doing gospel and my father was her producer. They wrote songs together. They met in a band at church. So it was only natural that I guess, you know, that it came to me. Hence the name A-Natural.

Um, but music, it was, it was a no-brainer, uh, everything about my life is music. Around it, love it. It's just who I am.

Dan

But why music, when you have all of the art forms you could do writing, you could do running, you could do sports. What is it about music that really, really, really speaks to you?

A-Natural

I mean, for me, you know, coming from the church, music is literally next to God. So it was almost like, you know, I had no choice, but to be influenced by what I was around every day, which was music and church. And, you know, my parents were both on the praise and worship team or in the choir and you know, it just, it seeped into me. But I don't think that I really fell in love with it until way later on like in college, you know, late high school into college, where I started to see things outside of myself and my own environment and see how people use music for different ways and, uh, created music in different ways. And it, it became my friend in a sense.

Dan

The reason I do this podcast is music somehow connects with me. I, I find it out of all the art forms, the one that reduces me to tears that makes me feel like I belong. That makes me feel like I'm allowed to feel alone in the world. It just always seems to have an answer and you've grown up- why, why do you think music does that?

A-Natural

Beacuase when you're, when you're creating music um, and I'll speak from the creative side first, when you're creating music, you are pulling from the depths of your soul. You are pulling from an intangible place to create something tangible for people. And that's the connection.

One of my old, uh, artists I used to work with, he always said that musicians sacrificed their lives so that everyone can have a soundtrack to theirs. And to me, that's the real connection. People, they, they feel like their lives or a TV show or a movie. So why not have a soundtrack that you can connect to?

Um, it's almost like this episode of Family Guy where Peter made a wish and, and he got background music to walk around.

And I mean, that's what people inherently, but yeah, that's, that's the connection is just that people want something intangible that they can escape to escape with or even escape from.

Dan

So when did you go from no longer just listening to music to actually going, I'm not quite getting what I want by listening to it. I need to start making.

A-Natural

It was, it was probably, this is going to sound crazy. It was probably when I was in second grade and we had.

Dan

How old is that for for our British listeners?

A-Natural

Yes. I was about eight years old. Yes. And we had a concert at school that I was supposed to sing in and I had just gotten the chicken pox and I was not able to go and do the concert.

And I remember being so upset. So devastated. I think I might've had a solo if I'm not mistaken and I couldn't do it. And I think that was the moment where I was like, I'm not going to let anybody tell me that I can't create. So I would start writing songs or I would start doing little shows in my house, or, you know, making sure that at church, in our children's ministry, that I was singing or had a solo or something like that. My mom started putting me in plays and, uh, performing arts schools and things of that nature. So that was kind of like the moment where I was like, no, this is what I to do.

My professional journey started after my first semester of college. Um, I had joined a gospel choir when I was there. All through high school and even middle school and the first part of college, I thought I was a bass. You know, I was singing all the low notes and then I auditioned for a choir when I was in college. And they said, no, you're a tenor. And I said, no, I'm not. They said, no, no, no, you are, you can do this.

And I started to practice and the gospel choir started to train me. And that's literally where I found out how to sing.

Dan

At what point and how did you start to crystallize this into your own messaging, your own style, your own voice?

A-Natural

Well, I started off doing gospel because again, coming from the church, that was the natural progression for me. Um, But my gospel was always different. You know, I, like I said, I've been, been influenced by so many different things. I listened to everything. So it, wasn't your typical gospel music. It wasn't your typical contemporary Christian music either.

It was literally a smorgasbord of, uh, Kirk Franklin meets Bjork meets as events, sevenfold meet. Celine Dion meets Whitney Houston-

Dan

You are ticking so many Mary boxes there! I think there's little bit of sugar in this guy!

A-Natural

Just a tad bit. I mean, just a tad. And we'll get to that. I mean like, so one of my biggest influences of vocalist by the name of, uh, B Slade, he previously went by the name, Tonex. He was the first time that I'd ever witnessed a gospel artist literally be themselves in that world, but in a way that was super shocking to everyone.

He would wear a big wide leg pants, a top hat makeup. Uh, he would look like basically a gospel Prince but he could sing his entire face off. And the music was like, so forward-thinking, it was like nothing that I'd ever heard before. And hearing him made me know that I could do gospel music in a different way.

My parents both were very instrumental in making sure that me and my sister knew that we were Black and for all positive reasons and some of the negative reasons so that we could prepare ourselves for the world. Um, but I knew at a very young age that I was different. And then even growing up in as I was getting older, uh, one of my late friends, uh, he used to always say, oh, Natty likes pretty things.

It didn't matter what it was. And. I do if it's pretty, I like it. And, um, you know, I just kind of knew that about myself, but I never had an issue where it was like, I'm unsure of who I am. Um, it was just a matter of whether or not I felt comfortable being that person around people because a lot of my life was spent making sure that people were okay with me.

And, you know, it took a while for me to be okay with myself and not care about that.

Dan

I think a lot of us can identify with that. I think a lot of people listening can identify with what you said there.

A-Natural

As a, as a Black man, as a Black gay man, as a Black gay Christian man, that's already a lot of things to wear and have to address before anyone even gets to know you.

And I think, you know, coming from my parents because of how they raised me in the Black school system, I always got, oh, he speaks so well for, or, you know, he's acting this way and it's intimidating people. And then I would go to the white schools and get the same thing and it's like, oh, okay. So it's just ignorance all around. It's not necessarily me. It's just that people are just not prepared for someone different.

My parents always raised me to speak up for myself and to be assertive. But when you're a young Black man in America, that's threatening to most people.

People don't like to listen. They don't like to come out of their comfortable bubble of ignorance or the privilege of having not to address their biases. You know? And I'm talking about between Black and white, between gay and straight between rich and poor, you know, between old and young, no one likes to really confront their biases and how they see and view other people. And yet they expect the same in return.

Dan

We have a situation where it's always people who are not in the circle, telling people who are in the circle to stop talking about it. It's like stop making a thing about it. It's not a thing anymore. And it's like, well, who are you to say it's not a thing anymore? Just cause you've been talking about it for 18 months.

A-Natural

I mean, I mean, we're only what 60 years removed from Jim Crow and maybe only a few years after that removed from slavery.

So there are other countries where their civilizations are thousands of years old. And our history in America is only a few hundred, so no, we're not done talking about it we haven't even stopped living it yet. So of course, we're going to keep talking.

We have to listen, we have to hear each other. And then after we do that, we then need to shut up and really comprehend what was said. 'cause I think that's another mistake that a lot of people make when they're trying to be allies is they feel like, oh, I've had one discussion. Now let me immediately go out into the streets. No, you don't even understand what we talked about. Let's really comprehend this thing and then devise an informed plan of how we can combat this racism or how we can combat this misogyny or, or, uh, homophobia.

My my assurance in myself and who I am. It literally came from my best friend giving me a book called Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. And this book it just to give us a quick overview overview. It's about a guy who literally was like at his lowest point and he had just literally asked God to just give him all the answers and the way he describes it, God came to him and just had a conversation.

And he goes on to talk about a lot of things like, you know, uh, the history of the Bible and, you know, uh, our assumptions about what God wants for our lives and what the true meaning of life is. And that's where I got the concept of, you know, the things between fear and love and how that's the true dichotomy instead of right and wrong.

Dan

So would you say that faith is an important part of your psyche?

A-Natural

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean to stop working a day job and do music full-time for seven years being homeless, living in my studio, wondering where I was going to shower, eat, you know, not having a social life or a dating life and just doing musical full-time was literally me walking out on faith and hoping that something good would come out of it.

Dan

You talked there about homelessness. Can you tell us about that?

A-Natural

When I first decided to do music full-time I was living with my dad and we got evicted from our place and I wound up, I had a studio, um, in this little strip mall. Um, And I couldn't afford it anymore. I was, it was just, uh, it was bad. It was a bad situation.

I was living there. Uh, and sometimes when I couldn't stay there because the person who owned the strip mall didn't want anybody there after dark. So I would take my stuff to the local train station and sleep on a bench. Um, did that for a few weeks, uh, slept at friend's houses, you know, back and forth with my parents, my parents house.

And then, you know, I got with a team that decided to invest in me and we got a new studio and I wound up living there, still sleeping on a couch. Uh, no real home life. Um, did that for seven years. And while it was definitely a struggle, I would not exchange that for the world. It was, it was definitely a rough time. But to me, that time period made me the artist and producer that I am today. And if I hadn't experienced it, I don't know where I'd be.

Dan

You speak there about homelessness from a very practical perspective, but what does it feel like from an emotional perspective to be without that sense of continuity without that sense of a safety net? Even if that safety net is something as simple as just having a place to go back to, to recharge.

My family

A-Natural

had been homeless before. So it wasn't something that was new to me. But I think the difference between then in this instance was that I was by myself. And so the safety net that I was used to having with my parents told me that it would be okay and we would survive because we always did, it was lost on me at that point, because I didn't know what was going to happen.

Um, and. Um, like I said, I'm a very sure confident person. And for the first time in my life, I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. The minute that you give whatever you're going through over to God or give it over to the universe. That's when things can happen.

Dan

Faith is a subject which has a complex history on this podcast because generally it's spoken of in a negative space with regards to the queer context. It has been toxic for a lot of my guests. I've had people like Blake Mundell come on here who've spoken about from his perception that led him to attempt suicide.

So how do you reconcile the complexity of faith and religion with your queer identity?

A-Natural

Anyone who's been hurt by the church. I get it. I've been hurt by the church. That's why I don't go anymore because to me, church is a construct. Church is a business. It is not what it's supposed to be right now. And you know, I don't knock anybody who still goes to church that's your decision.

But for me, my relationship is with God. That's where my faith kicks into play. I just told my friend the other day that faith is a substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Faith doesn't just have to be about God. Faith is about understanding that the things that you want for your life can come to pass. If you just believe.

I mean, church in and of itself has forgotten what it's supposed to be anyway. And we need to get back to that, you know, and that's all churches. I have a friend in Texas who goes to a Unitarian church and she goes there because they're all inclusive. They have no qualms about sexuality. Uh, I think the, the pastor there she's a lesbian and she loves it. And I think that's amazing. But every sermon that I've ever heard from them has been about political issues and organizing and marching. And while that's wonderful what about the love of Christ that we're supposed to be sharing? What about love and acceptance? What about that? Can we talk about that before I give money to your collection plate?

Dan

Could you tell us a bit about your journey with your queer identity?

A-Natural

It sucked, like, you know, being young and being into music was not the most masculine thing. I did play baseball. I was very good at it. Um, my mother wouldn't allow me to play football, you know, so that was fine, but it was, it was more so like, I was cool. Like I could hang with anybody

I rarely ever did get called a faggot. You know, I, I hate to say that word out loud. I know that's, that's very offensive to some people, but I, I didn't have to worry about anyone caring that I was gay. The people that I cared about that, you know, I guess where I did care about their opinion were other gay people.

Dan

I've always cared more about what other gay people think of me than what straight people think of me. You're the first person to have ever said that. And I've not realized that, but you're absolutely spot on.

A-Natural

Growing up and trying to date and, and especially in the Black gay world, like there's such a hierarchy system. They're such a class system that exists where it's like, okay, do I even want to be involved in this? You know, um, you have to have the right job. You have to have the right body. You have to have the right home and the right amount of money. And, and you've got to have the right dick size and all this. And it's like, oh my God, like, why can't I just be myself?

And why can't you just love me for me? Dealing with not being able to have anyone love me for me, led me down to entertaining the wrong people.

When I did lose my virginity, um, I actually didn't realize this until I watched um, I May Destroy You uh, Michaela Coel's show on HBO. And the character Kwame, uh, hooked up with a guy and it kind of went left and then the guy was like, no, we're going to do this again. And Kwame said no, and the guy raped him.

And it triggered the memory of my losing my virginity through the night that had happened. The first time we did it, it was cool. I was good. The second time he wanted to do it. I said, no. He pressured me into doing it. I kept saying no. And then he literally held me down and proceeded to rape me.

And I remember that night because before we even got into it, I prayed and I asked God, I was like, if this is the one for me to let this night go amazingly, well, like, let this be beautiful.

And it started off that way and turned left very quickly. And that kind of set up the, the atmosphere for my dating life, which was always dealing with someone who didn't really want me for me, but just wanted something. And I still deal with the residue of that because, you know, dating, uh, me and my friends, we say that the dating pool has pee in it. And it just really does because you know, we're a lot of broken people trying to find broken people. And while healing is a consistent thing. It's, it's something that you have to constantly work on I'm at a place where I know that I'm healed, but then trying to find another healed person has been the bane of my existence.

And I mean, we're in the age of social media, we're in the age of porn being so accessible and everybody having this fantasy of what relationships or sex is supposed to be like, and yet they don't understand that it's all smoke and mirrors, you know, so we're trained to not have real human experiences with people.

Dan

And when we have sex, we literally find ourselves quoting lines from porn movies. I mean like literally before. If we didn't have porn would be really be having sex and go "fuck that ass! Fuck that ass! I'm gonna fuck that ass!" You're thinking, why am I speaking with an American accent? I'm British!

A-Natural

I mean, sometimes it can work like me and my best friend. I hate the word cock it is the most disgusting word to me. It is a form of chicken or rooster. I don't like when people use it. I don't like it in porn. But I also know that point is fantasy. And, you know, sometimes the fantasy is cool, but when people live by it and even not just porn, but just the unrealistic body expectations that we see on social media, you know, they always talk about, oh, obesity is running rampant in the United States. If that's the case, then why on every time I hit my discover page on Instagram, am I seeing six packs and muscles and all this kind of stuff and things that don't look like me. And you know, where is the reality of the situation?

Dan

How did you manage to go about healing from such a, such an incredibly aggressive incident against you?

A-Natural

I have to give a lot of credit to Michaela Coel and, and I May Destroy You because when that story happened for Kwame in the show, it literally brought back the memory for me, like a wave. And I had never heard anybody talk about it that way, because I'm thinking, oh, well we had sex twice the first time it was cool. The second time he just wanted to do it again and I didn't want to do it. So I guess that happens.

Not understanding that no, still means no, even if you said yes the first time, you know, and it was so funny because the healing came through writing the songs and telling him a story about, about, you know, the situation and calling the album Kwame to tribute the show that way.

Um, But what was interesting for me is the responses that I got from the album, you know, as a, as a musician and as someone in the industry, I'm always looking to get numbers and make sure that it gets heard by the most people. And I had a conversation with a friend about why it wasn't being listened to as much. And they told me, oh, well, assault, isn't sexy. And I was like, oh, okay. That's a very interesting concept. And they were like, yeah, because nobody wants to hear the bad parts about you being gay. They want to know who you were fucking. They want to know how good it was. They want to know that everything turned out okay at the end and that's all they care about.

And I was like, oh, so they wanted me to write the normal shit that I'd been writing over the last several years. They didn't want to hear the truth. And he was like, that's basically it because it's too much for them. And for me, I'm thinking, well, this is cathartic for me. This is what's saving my life. Could this save somebody else's?

And at that point, that's when I started getting the DMs and the messages of people saying, okay, I went through this, thank you for writing this song. Or thank you for telling this story and putting this out now. Because you, truth is saving my life.

Dan

A-Natural, when we finish this conversation, I take this recording and pull it into the edit and chop all sorts of bits and bobs of both of us out to turn it into a honed piece of fascinating broadcasting.

However, for the next two minutes, I can promise you that I won't pull out my edit pencil and do anything. That you literally have a platform now without anybody shaping what you're saying or altering what you're saying. The next two minutes is all yours.

A-Natural

Something that I have noticed over the last few years is that there is a heightened sense of desperation running rampant, across many different communities in many different facets of life. And I want to speak specifically to my artist community, and that is gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, anyone who fits in the community.

Make your move out of an informed decision. Making moves out of desperation will never get you the desired result. You know, I get that. We have, we all have dreams. We all have aspirations. We all have things that we want to attain and achieve, and they may look like they're impossible, but that doesn't mean that we have to move frivolously.

There are various time, you know, there is. Uh, a wealth of resources if you look, if you search hard enough, you will find something or someone, you know, I'm doing what I have to do as a creative and as a business person to create those opportunities of information to be found, or, you know, I just, I just want us to do better as creatives, because we are in this world where we're, we're demanded to be on social media. We're demanded to create content and not music. We're demanded to be these characatures of ourselves. And we get exhausted and burnt out trying to please an algorithm that really doesn't know who we are. It thinks it knows who we are because of the things that we click on, but they don't know us as people.

And you know, that that type of life is literally killing us. So. I'm using this two minutes to just literally say, move forward in faith and having wisdom and move forward in love and not desperation. And you will see things change drastically for you.

Dan

So when you're taking about a time off from creating music, what queer artists are you listening to in your, in your time out?

A-Natural

Bry'Nt is an amazing rapper, uh, out of the New York and Connecticut area. Um, I've had the pleasure of working with an artist by the name of Jay Saint uh, he is an amazing writer. Uh, he and I have created some really, really dope stuff together. Um, Wuhryn Dumas, I know he's been on the show. He's an amazing artist as well.

Dan

He is fantastic! I love his energy and his music and his promos, are wonderful.

A-Natural

He is an artist to me that gets it, like totally takes the time to perfect the gift and the presentation.

I'm going to say this, and I'm probably going to get a lot of hate for it. But this has just been my experience, especially someone who runs a studio and y'all call me to come and record. A lot of y'all think you're Beyonce and you're not, you are not Beyonce you like her, you might dance like her. You might wave your hair around with a fan like her, but you are not her. And it's okay to not be her.

But Wuhryn gets it. He, he reads what we call the book of Beyonce and he studied it and he knows how to make it work for him without looking like he's an impersonator, like he's really doing the job.

Dan

Three chairs for Wuhryn!

A-Natural

Yes.

Dan

Darling, make some new records and come back on the show.

What do you think the 15 year old you would think of the man that you are now?

A-Natural

15 year old me would probably think that I have it altogether. And I would just have to tell him that I'm getting there. Um, he would probably be floored by just the music, not what I've accomplished, but just from what the music sounds like from when I was 15, up until this point, um, He would be super proud of me, I think. Yeah.

Dan

For those of us listening to this show who want to know a lot more about you, where can we find you online?

Please go to my website, a anatural4ever.com. Uh, that is a natural, the number four ever.com. The way that I've set up the website is that it is divided by eras. So if you want to know my entire musical history, all you have to do is click on an album cover, and it will take you to every era.

And if you want to know about the business side of me, go to naturalcitymusic.com. That's my label. That is where, you know, I do my good business. But those are the two websites and all the music is there. All the videos are there, everything is there that you need to find out.

A-Natural, we've been listening to your music all the way through this episode, gorgeous little snippets, but we have kept the best tool last. Oh yes. If there was going to be one song, those of us who have never heard your material, the drew us into your catalog, both past, present and future. What would that one song be? And we can use that for our playout

A-Natural

That would be the song called 'Better; from my EP COAOAFB2.

It is literally the song that describes my entire career and my entire life as an adult. Um, it also got me an award, so that, that would, uh, that would be.

Dan

And what award was that?

A-Natural

independent music awards from:

Dan

Oh, so, so nothing, nothing small then?!

A-Natural

I mean, it surprised me cause it was an EP and you know, I didn't even know if anybody was listening, but apparently they were so.

Dan

Thank you so much for coming onto In the Key of Q and sharing your music and your story with us. You are an absolutely fantastic man. It's been wonderful to have you as a guest. Thank you.

A-Natural

Thank you, Dan. This has been the interview of all interviews. I'm so happy to do this. Thank you for having me.

Dan

Thanks for listening to this episode, you can support In the Key of Q via Patreon. The link is in the shownotes.

Theme music is by Paul Leonidou at unstoppablemonsters.com. With press and PR by Paul Smith.

Help others discover new queer musicians by rating and reviewing In the Key of Q, wherever you find podcasts.

Thanks to Kaj and Moray for their continued support and to you for subscribing.

The show was made at Pup Media. I'm Dan Hall. Go listen to some music and I'll see you next Quesday!

^p

Dan

This episode contains language that some people may find offensive and includes discussion on sexual violence. Listener discretion is advised.

A-Natural

When I first decided to do music full time, I was living with my dad and we got evicted. So I would take my stuff to the local train station and sleep on a bench. That time period made me the artist and producer that I am today.

Dan

This is In the Key of Q featuring musicians from around the world who inspire my queer identity. Everybody is welcomed to the conversation, whatever beautiful identity pleases you. Music helps us feel connected and know that we are not alone.

This program is made possible thanks to the financial support of listeners like you over at patreon.com/inthekeyofq. And remember to subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

I'm Dan Hall. Tune in. And be heard.

om multiple major artists. In:

A-Natural

Hello. Hello everyone. Hello, Dan .

I've been singing since I can remember. So I am a singer first of course, but I'm also a songwriter producer, vocal arrangers studio engineer. Um, I wear a lot of hats I will say. Yeah.

Dan

How'd you make all of them fit?

A-Natural

Oh, my God. It's, it's been, it's been a tough juggle for the last, I'll say 15 years, but, um, I've I think I've come out okay.

Dan

So then I suppose the million dollar question - why music?

A-Natural

Oh, wow. Um, I mean, I come from a musical family and my mom is a jazz singer. She started off doing gospel and my father was her producer. They wrote songs together. They met in a band at church. So it was only natural that I guess, you know, that it came to me. Hence the name A-Natural.

Um, but music, it was, it was a no-brainer, uh, everything about my life is music. Around it, love it. It's just who I am.

Dan

But why music, when you have all of the art forms you could do writing, you could do running, you could do sports. What is it about music that really, really, really speaks to you?

A-Natural

I mean, for me, you know, coming from the church, music is literally next to God. So it was almost like, you know, I had no choice, but to be influenced by what I was around every day, which was music and church. And, you know, my parents were both on the praise and worship team or in the choir and you know, it just, it seeped into me. But I don't think that I really fell in love with it until way later on like in college, you know, late high school into college, where I started to see things outside of myself and my own environment and see how people use music for different ways and, uh, created music in different ways. And it, it became my friend in a sense.

Dan

The reason I do this podcast is music somehow connects with me. I, I find it out of all the art forms, the one that reduces me to tears that makes me feel like I belong. That makes me feel like I'm allowed to feel alone in the world. It just always seems to have an answer and you've grown up- why, why do you think music does that?

A-Natural

Beacuase when you're, when you're creating music um, and I'll speak from the creative side first, when you're creating music, you are pulling from the depths of your soul. You are pulling from an intangible place to create something tangible for people. And that's the connection.

One of my old, uh, artists I used to work with, he always said that musicians sacrificed their lives so that everyone can have a soundtrack to theirs. And to me, that's the real connection. People, they, they feel like their lives or a TV show or a movie. So why not have a soundtrack that you can connect to?

Um, it's almost like this episode of Family Guy where Peter made a wish and, and he got background music to walk around.

And I mean, that's what people inherently, but yeah, that's, that's the connection is just that people want something intangible that they can escape to escape with or even escape from.

Dan

So when did you go from no longer just listening to music to actually going, I'm not quite getting what I want by listening to it. I need to start making.

A-Natural

It was, it was probably, this is going to sound crazy. It was probably when I was in second grade and we had.

Dan

How old is that for for our British listeners?

A-Natural

Yes. I was about eight years old. Yes. And we had a concert at school that I was supposed to sing in and I had just gotten the chicken pox and I was not able to go and do the concert.

And I remember being so upset. So devastated. I think I might've had a solo if I'm not mistaken and I couldn't do it. And I think that was the moment where I was like, I'm not going to let anybody tell me that I can't create. So I would start writing songs or I would start doing little shows in my house, or, you know, making sure that at church, in our children's ministry, that I was singing or had a solo or something like that. My mom started putting me in plays and, uh, performing arts schools and things of that nature. So that was kind of like the moment where I was like, no, this is what I to do.

My professional journey started after my first semester of college. Um, I had joined a gospel choir when I was there. All through high school and even middle school and the first part of college, I thought I was a bass. You know, I was singing all the low notes and then I auditioned for a choir when I was in college. And they said, no, you're a tenor. And I said, no, I'm not. They said, no, no, no, you are, you can do this.

And I started to practice and the gospel choir started to train me. And that's literally where I found out how to sing.

Dan

At what point and how did you start to crystallize this into your own messaging, your own style, your own voice?

A-Natural

Well, I started off doing gospel because again, coming from the church, that was the natural progression for me. Um, But my gospel was always different. You know, I, like I said, I've been, been influenced by so many different things. I listened to everything. So it, wasn't your typical gospel music. It wasn't your typical contemporary Christian music either.

It was literally a smorgasbord of, uh, Kirk Franklin meets Bjork meets as events, sevenfold meet. Celine Dion meets Whitney Houston-

Dan

You are ticking so many Mary boxes there! I think there's little bit of sugar in this guy!

A-Natural

Just a tad bit. I mean, just a tad. And we'll get to that. I mean like, so one of my biggest influences of vocalist by the name of, uh, B Slade, he previously went by the name, Tonex. He was the first time that I'd ever witnessed a gospel artist literally be themselves in that world, but in a way that was super shocking to everyone.

He would wear a big wide leg pants, a top hat makeup. Uh, he would look like basically a gospel Prince but he could sing his entire face off. And the music was like, so forward-thinking, it was like nothing that I'd ever heard before. And hearing him made me know that I could do gospel music in a different way.

My parents both were very instrumental in making sure that me and my sister knew that we were Black and for all positive reasons and some of the negative reasons so that we could prepare ourselves for the world. Um, but I knew at a very young age that I was different. And then even growing up in as I was getting older, uh, one of my late friends, uh, he used to always say, oh, Natty likes pretty things.

It didn't matter what it was. And. I do if it's pretty, I like it. And, um, you know, I just kind of knew that about myself, but I never had an issue where it was like, I'm unsure of who I am. Um, it was just a matter of whether or not I felt comfortable being that person around people because a lot of my life was spent making sure that people were okay with me.

And, you know, it took a while for me to be okay with myself and not care about that.

Dan

I think a lot of us can identify with that. I think a lot of people listening can identify with what you said there.

A-Natural

As a, as a Black man, as a Black gay man, as a Black gay Christian man, that's already a lot of things to wear and have to address before anyone even gets to know you.

And I think, you know, coming from my parents because of how they raised me in the Black school system, I always got, oh, he speaks so well for, or, you know, he's acting this way and it's intimidating people. And then I would go to the white schools and get the same thing and it's like, oh, okay. So it's just ignorance all around. It's not necessarily me. It's just that people are just not prepared for someone different.

My parents always raised me to speak up for myself and to be assertive. But when you're a young Black man in America, that's threatening to most people.

People don't like to listen. They don't like to come out of their comfortable bubble of ignorance or the privilege of having not to address their biases. You know? And I'm talking about between Black and white, between gay and straight between rich and poor, you know, between old and young, no one likes to really confront their biases and how they see and view other people. And yet they expect the same in return.

Dan

We have a situation where it's always people who are not in the circle, telling people who are in the circle to stop talking about it. It's like stop making a thing about it. It's not a thing anymore. And it's like, well, who are you to say it's not a thing anymore? Just cause you've been talking about it for 18 months.

A-Natural

I mean, I mean, we're only what 60 years removed from Jim Crow and maybe only a few years after that removed from slavery.

So there are other countries where their civilizations are thousands of years old. And our history in America is only a few hundred, so no, we're not done talking about it we haven't even stopped living it yet. So of course, we're going to keep talking.

We have to listen, we have to hear each other. And then after we do that, we then need to shut up and really comprehend what was said. 'cause I think that's another mistake that a lot of people make when they're trying to be allies is they feel like, oh, I've had one discussion. Now let me immediately go out into the streets. No, you don't even understand what we talked about. Let's really comprehend this thing and then devise an informed plan of how we can combat this racism or how we can combat this misogyny or, or, uh, homophobia.

My my assurance in myself and who I am. It literally came from my best friend giving me a book called Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. And this book it just to give us a quick overview overview. It's about a guy who literally was like at his lowest point and he had just literally asked God to just give him all the answers and the way he describes it, God came to him and just had a conversation.

And he goes on to talk about a lot of things like, you know, uh, the history of the Bible and, you know, uh, our assumptions about what God wants for our lives and what the true meaning of life is. And that's where I got the concept of, you know, the things between fear and love and how that's the true dichotomy instead of right and wrong.

Dan

So would you say that faith is an important part of your psyche?

A-Natural

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean to stop working a day job and do music full-time for seven years being homeless, living in my studio, wondering where I was going to shower, eat, you know, not having a social life or a dating life and just doing musical full-time was literally me walking out on faith and hoping that something good would come out of it.

Dan

You talked there about homelessness. Can you tell us about that?

A-Natural

When I first decided to do music full-time I was living with my dad and we got evicted from our place and I wound up, I had a studio, um, in this little strip mall. Um, And I couldn't afford it anymore. I was, it was just, uh, it was bad. It was a bad situation.

I was living there. Uh, and sometimes when I couldn't stay there because the person who owned the strip mall didn't want anybody there after dark. So I would take my stuff to the local train station and sleep on a bench. Um, did that for a few weeks, uh, slept at friend's houses, you know, back and forth with my parents, my parents house.

And then, you know, I got with a team that decided to invest in me and we got a new studio and I wound up living there, still sleeping on a couch. Uh, no real home life. Um, did that for seven years. And while it was definitely a struggle, I would not exchange that for the world. It was, it was definitely a rough time. But to me, that time period made me the artist and producer that I am today. And if I hadn't experienced it, I don't know where I'd be.

Dan

You speak there about homelessness from a very practical perspective, but what does it feel like from an emotional perspective to be without that sense of continuity without that sense of a safety net? Even if that safety net is something as simple as just having a place to go back to, to recharge.

My family

A-Natural

had been homeless before. So it wasn't something that was new to me. But I think the difference between then in this instance was that I was by myself. And so the safety net that I was used to having with my parents told me that it would be okay and we would survive because we always did, it was lost on me at that point, because I didn't know what was going to happen.

Um, and. Um, like I said, I'm a very sure confident person. And for the first time in my life, I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. The minute that you give whatever you're going through over to God or give it over to the universe. That's when things can happen.

Dan

Faith is a subject which has a complex history on this podcast because generally it's spoken of in a negative space with regards to the queer context. It has been toxic for a lot of my guests. I've had people like Blake Mundell come on here who've spoken about from his perception that led him to attempt suicide.

So how do you reconcile the complexity of faith and religion with your queer identity?

A-Natural

Anyone who's been hurt by the church. I get it. I've been hurt by the church. That's why I don't go anymore because to me, church is a construct. Church is a business. It is not what it's supposed to be right now. And you know, I don't knock anybody who still goes to church that's your decision.

But for me, my relationship is with God. That's where my faith kicks into play. I just told my friend the other day that faith is a substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Faith doesn't just have to be about God. Faith is about understanding that the things that you want for your life can come to pass. If you just believe.

I mean, church in and of itself has forgotten what it's supposed to be anyway. And we need to get back to that, you know, and that's all churches. I have a friend in Texas who goes to a Unitarian church and she goes there because they're all inclusive. They have no qualms about sexuality. Uh, I think the, the pastor there she's a lesbian and she loves it. And I think that's amazing. But every sermon that I've ever heard from them has been about political issues and organizing and marching. And while that's wonderful what about the love of Christ that we're supposed to be sharing? What about love and acceptance? What about that? Can we talk about that before I give money to your collection plate?

Dan

Could you tell us a bit about your journey with your queer identity?

A-Natural

It sucked, like, you know, being young and being into music was not the most masculine thing. I did play baseball. I was very good at it. Um, my mother wouldn't allow me to play football, you know, so that was fine, but it was, it was more so like, I was cool. Like I could hang with anybody

I rarely ever did get called a faggot. You know, I, I hate to say that word out loud. I know that's, that's very offensive to some people, but I, I didn't have to worry about anyone caring that I was gay. The people that I cared about that, you know, I guess where I did care about their opinion were other gay people.

Dan

I've always cared more about what other gay people think of me than what straight people think of me. You're the first person to have ever said that. And I've not realized that, but you're absolutely spot on.

A-Natural

Growing up and trying to date and, and especially in the Black gay world, like there's such a hierarchy system. They're such a class system that exists where it's like, okay, do I even want to be involved in this? You know, um, you have to have the right job. You have to have the right body. You have to have the right home and the right amount of money. And, and you've got to have the right dick size and all this. And it's like, oh my God, like, why can't I just be myself?

And why can't you just love me for me? Dealing with not being able to have anyone love me for me, led me down to entertaining the wrong people.

When I did lose my virginity, um, I actually didn't realize this until I watched um, I May Destroy You uh, Michaela Coel's show on HBO. And the character Kwame, uh, hooked up with a guy and it kind of went left and then the guy was like, no, we're going to do this again. And Kwame said no, and the guy raped him.

And it triggered the memory of my losing my virginity through the night that had happened. The first time we did it, it was cool. I was good. The second time he wanted to do it. I said, no. He pressured me into doing it. I kept saying no. And then he literally held me down and proceeded to rape me.

And I remember that night because before we even got into it, I prayed and I asked God, I was like, if this is the one for me to let this night go amazingly, well, like, let this be beautiful.

And it started off that way and turned left very quickly. And that kind of set up the, the atmosphere for my dating life, which was always dealing with someone who didn't really want me for me, but just wanted something. And I still deal with the residue of that because, you know, dating, uh, me and my friends, we say that the dating pool has pee in it. And it just really does because you know, we're a lot of broken people trying to find broken people. And while healing is a consistent thing. It's, it's something that you have to constantly work on I'm at a place where I know that I'm healed, but then trying to find another healed person has been the bane of my existence.

And I mean, we're in the age of social media, we're in the age of porn being so accessible and everybody having this fantasy of what relationships or sex is supposed to be like, and yet they don't understand that it's all smoke and mirrors, you know, so we're trained to not have real human experiences with people.

Dan

And when we have sex, we literally find ourselves quoting lines from porn movies. I mean like literally before. If we didn't have porn would be really be having sex and go "fuck that ass! Fuck that ass! I'm gonna fuck that ass!" You're thinking, why am I speaking with an American accent? I'm British!

A-Natural

I mean, sometimes it can work like me and my best friend. I hate the word cock it is the most disgusting word to me. It is a form of chicken or rooster. I don't like when people use it. I don't like it in porn. But I also know that point is fantasy. And, you know, sometimes the fantasy is cool, but when people live by it and even not just porn, but just the unrealistic body expectations that we see on social media, you know, they always talk about, oh, obesity is running rampant in the United States. If that's the case, then why on every time I hit my discover page on Instagram, am I seeing six packs and muscles and all this kind of stuff and things that don't look like me. And you know, where is the reality of the situation?

Dan

How did you manage to go about healing from such a, such an incredibly aggressive incident against you?

A-Natural

I have to give a lot of credit to Michaela Coel and, and I May Destroy You because when that story happened for Kwame in the show, it literally brought back the memory for me, like a wave. And I had never heard anybody talk about it that way, because I'm thinking, oh, well we had sex twice the first time it was cool. The second time he just wanted to do it again and I didn't want to do it. So I guess that happens.

Not understanding that no, still means no, even if you said yes the first time, you know, and it was so funny because the healing came through writing the songs and telling him a story about, about, you know, the situation and calling the album Kwame to tribute the show that way.

Um, But what was interesting for me is the responses that I got from the album, you know, as a, as a musician and as someone in the industry, I'm always looking to get numbers and make sure that it gets heard by the most people. And I had a conversation with a friend about why it wasn't being listened to as much. And they told me, oh, well, assault, isn't sexy. And I was like, oh, okay. That's a very interesting concept. And they were like, yeah, because nobody wants to hear the bad parts about you being gay. They want to know who you were fucking. They want to know how good it was. They want to know that everything turned out okay at the end and that's all they care about.

And I was like, oh, so they wanted me to write the normal shit that I'd been writing over the last several years. They didn't want to hear the truth. And he was like, that's basically it because it's too much for them. And for me, I'm thinking, well, this is cathartic for me. This is what's saving my life. Could this save somebody else's?

And at that point, that's when I started getting the DMs and the messages of people saying, okay, I went through this, thank you for writing this song. Or thank you for telling this story and putting this out now. Because you, truth is saving my life.

Dan

A-Natural, when we finish this conversation, I take this recording and pull it into the edit and chop all sorts of bits and bobs of both of us out to turn it into a honed piece of fascinating broadcasting.

However, for the next two minutes, I can promise you that I won't pull out my edit pencil and do anything. That you literally have a platform now without anybody shaping what you're saying or altering what you're saying. The next two minutes is all yours.

A-Natural

Something that I have noticed over the last few years is that there is a heightened sense of desperation running rampant, across many different communities in many different facets of life. And I want to speak specifically to my artist community, and that is gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, anyone who fits in the community.

Make your move out of an informed decision. Making moves out of desperation will never get you the desired result. You know, I get that. We have, we all have dreams. We all have aspirations. We all have things that we want to attain and achieve, and they may look like they're impossible, but that doesn't mean that we have to move frivolously.

There are various time, you know, there is. Uh, a wealth of resources if you look, if you search hard enough, you will find something or someone, you know, I'm doing what I have to do as a creative and as a business person to create those opportunities of information to be found, or, you know, I just, I just want us to do better as creatives, because we are in this world where we're, we're demanded to be on social media. We're demanded to create content and not music. We're demanded to be these characatures of ourselves. And we get exhausted and burnt out trying to please an algorithm that really doesn't know who we are. It thinks it knows who we are because of the things that we click on, but they don't know us as people.

And you know, that that type of life is literally killing us. So. I'm using this two minutes to just literally say, move forward in faith and having wisdom and move forward in love and not desperation. And you will see things change drastically for you.

Dan

So when you're taking about a time off from creating music, what queer artists are you listening to in your, in your time out?

A-Natural

Bry'Nt is an amazing rapper, uh, out of the New York and Connecticut area. Um, I've had the pleasure of working with an artist by the name of Jay Saint uh, he is an amazing writer. Uh, he and I have created some really, really dope stuff together. Um, Wuhryn Dumas, I know he's been on the show. He's an amazing artist as well.

Dan

He is fantastic! I love his energy and his music and his promos, are wonderful.

A-Natural

He is an artist to me that gets it, like totally takes the time to perfect the gift and the presentation.

I'm going to say this, and I'm probably going to get a lot of hate for it. But this has just been my experience, especially someone who runs a studio and y'all call me to come and record. A lot of y'all think you're Beyonce and you're not, you are not Beyonce you like her, you might dance like her. You might wave your hair around with a fan like her, but you are not her. And it's okay to not be her.

But Wuhryn gets it. He, he reads what we call the book of Beyonce and he studied it and he knows how to make it work for him without looking like he's an impersonator, like he's really doing the job.

Dan

Three chairs for Wuhryn!

A-Natural

Yes.

Dan

Darling, make some new records and come back on the show.

What do you think the 15 year old you would think of the man that you are now?

A-Natural

15 year old me would probably think that I have it altogether. And I would just have to tell him that I'm getting there. Um, he would probably be floored by just the music, not what I've accomplished, but just from what the music sounds like from when I was 15, up until this point, um, He would be super proud of me, I think. Yeah.

Dan

For those of us listening to this show who want to know a lot more about you, where can we find you online?

Please go to my website, a anatural4ever.com. Uh, that is a natural, the number four ever.com. The way that I've set up the website is that it is divided by eras. So if you want to know my entire musical history, all you have to do is click on an album cover, and it will take you to every era.

And if you want to know about the business side of me, go to naturalcitymusic.com. That's my label. That is where, you know, I do my good business. But those are the two websites and all the music is there. All the videos are there, everything is there that you need to find out.

A-Natural, we've been listening to your music all the way through this episode, gorgeous little snippets, but we have kept the best tool last. Oh yes. If there was going to be one song, those of us who have never heard your material, the drew us into your catalog, both past, present and future. What would that one song be? And we can use that for our playout

A-Natural

That would be the song called 'Better; from my EP COAOAFB2.

It is literally the song that describes my entire career and my entire life as an adult. Um, it also got me an award, so that, that would, uh, that would be.

Dan

And what award was that?

A-Natural

independent music awards from:

Dan

Oh, so, so nothing, nothing small then?!

A-Natural

I mean, it surprised me cause it was an EP and you know, I didn't even know if anybody was listening, but apparently they were so.

Dan

Thank you so much for coming onto In the Key of Q and sharing your music and your story with us. You are an absolutely fantastic man. It's been wonderful to have you as a guest. Thank you.

A-Natural

Thank you, Dan. This has been the interview of all interviews. I'm so happy to do this. Thank you for having me.

Dan

Thanks for listening to this episode, you can support In the Key of Q via Patreon. The link is in the shownotes.

Theme music is by Paul Leonidou at unstoppablemonsters.com. With press and PR by Paul Smith.

Help others discover new queer musicians by rating and reviewing In the Key of Q, wherever you find podcasts.

Thanks to Kaj and Moray for their continued support and to you for subscribing.

The show was made at Pup Media. I'm Dan Hall. Go listen to some music and I'll see you next Quesday!

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About the Podcast

Gay Music: In the Key of Q
Queer chat. Queer music.
Music-loving gay podcast. The best bi and gay music from around the world featuring insightful and inspiring conversations with Queer musicians.

Episodes drop weekly and are 30-40 minutes in length, celebrating LGBTQ identity, tunes and stories.

Presented by Dan Hall (producer, BBC’s Freddie Mercury: The Final Act) and produced by Pup Media.
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