A hero in the making - Melbourne based rock artist, Nat Allison, talks music, working with Suzi Quatro and finding inspiration in dark places. 


It is a late Friday morning in November and with the sun shining, heat warming up and musicians slowly inching out of lockdown so they can do what they do best - gigging and releasing music, there is definite cause for celebration. 


Nat Allison is one of many Melbourne based artists who has done it tough while in lockdown, however the pandemic has not slowed her one bit. Instead the Rock/Pop singer/songwriter (who also plays lead guitar) has managed to put her skills to use by releasing her latest single “We are the heroes” which was launched in early October. Nat talked about her inspiration behind the song that was written during lockdown a year ago. 


“I just felt the pandemic affected everyone and that everyone had to sacrifice something. We are all heroes,” she stated while chatting over the phone. "I also wanted this song to be relatable for years to come. One day the pandemic will behind us and I want people to be able to hear this song and for it to be relatable in any heroic situation."


Nat is no stranger to adversity. Despite working alongside some of the great rock artists ever to reach our shores (she is currently Suzi Quatro's designated guitarist whenever she comes to Australia who Nat describes working with as “fun”, and has also toured with her in Japan, Germany and Canada), Nat’s musical journey has not been easy. 


When Nat was 18, she was fortunate to land a record deal at Standard Records which had her working alongside renowned producer and songwriter, Mike Chapman (who has collaborated with legendary artists such as Pat Benetar, Joan Jett and Blondie); the stuff that most aspiring musicians would only dream of. “I learnt a lot working with him.” 


Through this experience, Nat was able to collaborate with Chapman resulting in writing over 30 songs, which they  would pick the 10 best songs for an album, however little did she realise what was to come. “Once you write and deliver an album, there’s a clause in the deal that the label has to then release the album within a certain time frame (I can’t remember exactly how long)." However, because they weren’t getting enough excitement from other people in the business, they quickly downgraded the album to demos. Which was a clever way to get out of their end of the deal. It was very difficult because I was signed for 5 albums, which meant I couldn’t even go to another label because I was already owned by another.”



After seeking legal advice, Nat had no choice but to walk away, knowing that that label had owned all of her masters and spent the next few years just gigging while trying to renew her vision as an artist, however Nat has learnt a lot from the experience. “My advice would be to just have confidence in yourself, when something's not right, or unjust, stand up for yourself. Unfortunately I didn’t really have that confidence. Also, I didn’t have anyone to turn to for support that knew what steps to take in these situations.” 


Despite her challenges, Nat has not let that experience deter her from making music. She records all of her demos from home, putting together drums, bass, keys, guitar and vocals by herself, then hires an external recording studio and a sound engineer to re-record everything for release. “I find it’s better to nut out all of the parts and get a clear picture of how I want it to sound sonically in my own studio. I can take my time with it and I’m not getting charged by the hour."


Nat’s recordings include her EP “This one’s for you” (released in 2016), a single titled “Anyone for Tennis” that was selected by channel 7 Australia and Eurosport in the U.K as the theme song for their 2010 & 2012 Australian Open advertising campaigns, and has just co-written a song titled “Killing Time” with Suzi Quatro which will be released on all streaming platforms in a month’s time. 


Nat has fond memories of her ongoing working relationship with Quatro. “She jokes around a lot and is a lot of fun but she’s also very professional and serious about how she wants everything and is really good at directing her band. It’s been great watching her work. It’s hard to believe that she’s 71, and she still runs around like a 16 year old on stage. It’s great to see someone at that age who still has that energy and wants to make sure that the audience leaves happy.”


To be a female rock musician who can play lead guitar is a rarity in the Melbourne music scene, so it was interesting hearing her response in regards to what sort of advice she would give to a young girl wanting to learn and play the guitar. “You just gotta find good local musicians. Good teachers are also so important. I had a good male guitar teacher (she started learning at the age of 8) who introduced me to other bands and I also watched him in his own band. It’s important to go and see as much live music as you can, it really is one of the best ways to learn! And get to know the staff at your music store, as they can often put you in contact with other musicians that are at your level to form bands with etc. The more connections you make in different places, the better."


As the live music scene slowly opens up, Nat has grand plans for the future. “I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve written last year, so I plan on recording and releasing one song at a time (due to the instability of COVID). I plan on getting back to regular gigs now that it seems lockdown is behind us. I do what I call my “day job” gig which is playing covers 3-5 times a week, and an original gig once a month or so.” 


With the number of hits under Nat’s belt, I’m sure we’ll be hearing her originals on the main waves soon. 


Nat’s latest single “We are the heroes” is now available on all streaming services. 


For more information visit www.natallison.com

Is the music industry ageist? 


I am a woman in my early 40s who has been making music since my late 20s. Now you are probably thinking, “boy, she started making music quite late!” And I totally agree, and I have asked countless established musicians time and time again whether I am too old to make it into the music industry, and often I hear the same answer: no.


I guess this response can be backed up the evidence that since the introduction to the internet, making and releasing music has never been so accessible. You can release music on social media (ie: facebook, youtube, instragram, Soundcloud, the list goes on), you can release your music onto digital streaming services such as Spotify and Googleplay, however the problem with this feature is that now that the floodgates have opened, you are a tiny speck of sand compared to millions of musicians online, and I’m not just talking about the independent artists. In a recent report, the most streamed artists on Spotify is Justin Bieber, followed by The Weeknd and Ed Sherrin. And what these 3 artists all have in common is that they are all male and most predominately under 40. 

If you look at the top 100 Billboard chart, you will notice that all of the artists represent that magic elixir of youth, most of the break out stars ever since pop began started out when they were in the teens or early 20s, and if you try to make it outside of that ballpark age, you are considered geriatric by the time you’re in your 30s. In a recent interview, Pop/Rock/blues artist, Anastasia said that as a 29 year old, she had to lie about her age in order to be signed to a record label, because lets face it: the music industry to some extent, is ageist. 

I’m not saying that you can’t still release music when you’re over the age of 40. At 53, Australian Pop Princess, Kylie Minogue has just released her latest single, however people of her age can only achieve that sort of attention if they have a track record of commercial (and platinum) success of past work; work that began when they were very young. So what about the over 30s or 40s who are just starting out? Do we have any hope? 


People may say that like the movie industry and the introduction to the “me too” and “black lives matter” movement, society has become more accepting of people of different genders and races, including age. When Nicole Kidman won the Golden Globe for best actress for her role in “Big Little Lies”, she said that 20 years ago, people of her age (she was in her late 40s at the time) wouldn’t have got considered for these awards, so come on you music trend setters! When will our time come? Yes, artists like Sia may have achieved global success in their late 30s or early 40s, but Sia has managed to find a loophole for staying in the game by concealing her appearance and proclaim that due to her social anxiety, she doesn’t like being treated like a celebrity by having her appearance known to the whole world. I’m not trying to dismiss the issue of mental illness, however in an industry that is fixated on appearance and youth, the issue of ageism must be taken into consideration. Music not only celebrates youth, but it also brings nostalgia, connection, public awareness, and bridging divide. 

I will keep making music, regardless of who notices me or not, or how many followers I get on Spotify, however if we want society to be a better place in all aspects not just in sport, film and politics, then we need to keep looking past the status quo and ask ourselves, how can we become more inclusive, not just in race, gender and appearance, but in age as well, because with age, comes wisdom.