Natalie Prass’ Sophomore Album Changed after the 2016 Election

Tonje Thilesen
Natalie Prass plays Club Dada this weekend.

After three years of touring, writing and rewriting, singer-songwriter Natalie Prass released her second full-length album, The Future and the Past, in June. Her fall North American tour supporting the album will have her making a stop Oct. 6 in Dallas at Club Dada.

The Future and the Past has received national attention and praise for its melodious nature, being called by Entertainment Weekly, “One of 2018’s catchiest records.” But as appealing as the album may be, it didn’t quite originate from a happy place.

Prass spent all of 2016 writing the album’s songs following her 2015 album debut and tour. She originally planned to record The Future and the Past in December 2016, but after the U.S. presidential election, she decided to rewrite everything. As a result, the record got pushed, Prass’s then-label Spacebomb wasn’t receptive of the last-minute changes and both parted ways.

The album was reworked to embody a somber reaction calling for optimism. Prass explains that the political topics she touched on were adjusting to her transitioning musical direction.

“It changed subject matter, for sure,” she says over the phone. “But I was already moving in to a more groovy kind of world. I just kind of delved even further into that direction because I was just so confused and dark. I needed something to lift my spirits and break me out of that.”

While using the album as a tool to express these feelings, Prass also thought about the album’s overall presentation and wanted to offer not only talking subjects but danceable qualities as well.

“I was trying my best to be positive, but it was a bit tricky to write political material in an accessible kind of way,” she continues. “I wanted it to be catchy music. I wanted it to be music that people could dance to and find joy in, as well as talk about important things that aren’t very easy to talk about.”

“I wanted it to be catchy music. I wanted it to be music that people could dance to and find joy in, as well as talk about important things that aren’t very easy to talk about.” – Natalie Prass

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Prass grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where she took an interest in music at an early age. She confesses that, initially, she wrote songs rooted in impulse and only developed the artistry to identify and create desired sounds later on. Now, Prass writes most songs based on ‘classic’ verse-chorus elements, with melody being the most important aspect of a song to her — and her most favorite part of songwriting.

“I am kind of an old soul,” she says. “I like to write a full story. I like melodies and harmonies — just putting together more classic sounds in music. I try to write music that I would want to listen to. It took me a while to figure out how to do that. When I was first writing songs and experimenting when I was younger — writing based off of feeling and figuring out how to do it — I was just writing whatever was coming out. Now, I just think I have more control over what I want to hear and what I want to make now.”

On Sept. 12, NPR revealed the official music video for “The Fire,” a single off Prass’s new album. To use the song’s power struggle theme in a political sense, the video shows her roaming through a field of large president busts, which are located in Croaker, Virginia, just outside of Williamsburg. Prass and her band were surprised to be allowed to use the private property because, according to Prass, the owner had a reputation of being inhospitable. The owner turned out to be cordial, however, and even invited her to come back to perform for any of the many parties he hosts at the location.

“[The busts] come from a failed park that was called ‘Walk of the Presidents,’ I believe,” she says. “It was only open for a few years. Then the land got sold, and they were going to destroy the president heads. This man that lived nearby, who is in the mulch business and has a ton of property, he said ‘No, I will take them and move them.’ So he spent a ton of money to move them onto his private property, and they’ve just been sitting there ever since. The land around them is super overgrown. They’re crumbling and sun-bleached, and there are bugs and wasps living in their noses. It’s totally surreal. You feel like you’re in Jurassic Park or the apocalypse.”

It’s been three years since Prass last visited Dallas. Although she can’t remember the venue she played in (Sons of Hermann Hall), she recalls how she enjoyed performing there at the time and looks forward to doing it again at a different venue.

“There were only probably 60 people there, but everybody was so cool," she says. "We had a blast.”

Natalie Prass plays Saturday, Oct. 6 at Club Dada. Tickets are $15, $17 at door.