Alt-pop singer/songwriter Natalie McCool has just embarked on her biggest tour yet, kicking off in Bristol to a flying start. The 15-date tour will see her travelling all the way around the UK and finish on a hometown show in Liverpool. In this feature, Natalie documents what life on the road is really like, from the long drives and the sing-a-long’s, to late night food runs and amusing tour antics. It’s all in here.
So over to Natalie…
I can’t believe this tour is finally upon us – I have just released my second album ‘The Great Unknown’ through PledgeMusic and it feels so crazy to jump headfirst into a 15 date headline tour – I can barely get my head around it. Luckily I am quite organised so I have sorted most things out – the only thing left to do is have the best.time.ever. on the road. Which we have no problem doing…
PRE DAY 1 – The dreaded van pick up
Today I have an appointment at the infamous Europcar to pick up the tour van which I will be driving. I am naturally crapping myself. I have only ever driven a tiny tiny toylike car all my life so the thought of driving a medium sized splitter van 1000+ miles up and down the UK scares the bejeesus out of me. This thing has a £1000 excess which if you are a grown up you will know that means double-trouble. Luckily I have my dad accompanying (who is somewhat an ex mechanic) to show me the ropes/calm me down. At the counter we go through the basic Ts&Cs and what really amuses me is the counter girl keeps trying to sell me extra insurance cover for like £££ and I keep saying no to which she keeps counteracting with ‘just to remind you it’s a £1000 excess’. I’m like YES I KNOW YOU HAVE MENTIONED IT ABOUT A THOUSAND TIMES ALREADY. Jesus.
Outside we give the van a once over and then I am actually getting in the driving seat. The service man shows me where everything is including the cruise control (YES YOU READ CORRECTLY) and all too suddenly I have to drive it home through the traffic jungle that is Warrington. Oh God. The van is so LONG – I am literally swinging into oncoming traffic trying to get round corners. After a hair-raising twenty minutes I am home and it was…ok. Now for last minute tour preps and tomorrow we are ON!
DAY 1 – BRISTOL
Today we are in the AMAZING city of Bristol playing The Gallimaufry tonight (or the Galli as the locals call it). First day of the tour and I’m trying to get to grips with the van and concentrate on driving over the Michael Jackson tunes that Laura & James (my band) have blasting out the speakers. Guys turn it down! After 3 hours we arrive in Bristol to soundcheck and it sounds sweet!! We have some food and…oh no….I’ve ordered a Korean dish. We played in South Korea last year which was absolutely incredible…but we couldn’t eat any of the traditional food. It really did not sit well with our stomachs. Now what’s coming out of the Galli kitchen looks suspiciously like a kimchi dish which was the dish we we most at odds with.
Oh God it’s only day one, I don’t want to be sick!! I try a bit….it’s ok. It’s like British does Korean so the flavours are toned down a lot. Laura’s having none of it though. As the drummer she probably does have the most physical exertion so I don’t blame her. After eating we go for a looksee around Bristol and we do a surprising amount in 20 minutes. We crash an arts exhibition, sh*t ourselves walking around a dark graveyard, play on the most grown up kids swing I’ve ever seen in a city playground. This thing was like a seesaw swing. I mean it was high for an adult. I was amazing at the monkey bars when I was little so naturally I was sooooo good at it. Then we go back to the venue to play our first ever headline tour set!!! We rocked it. It sounded so so good. Crowd were very very appreciative. I will say that was a pretty good first tour date!!
DAY 2 – CARDIFF
So after getting back to my friend Lauren’s (whose place we were staying at in Bristol) and eating pizza at 3am last night (yeah it was a good night), today we have to drag ourselves out of bed and drive to Cardiff, where we are playing The Moon Club. We are EXCITED and on the way there we do a little Facebook vid of us doing CARAOKE to MJ which you can watch here.
We rock up in Cardiff on the hottest day ever and man…this place is so nice! We <3 Cardiff! After soundcheck we went into the bar to try and use the Wifi and someone had put out little plates of crisp snacks on the tables, which Laura and James just took as something the bar do every night, so they start eating them and making a hefty dent too. Well NO it wasn’t something the bar do every night. Those snacks were for a private party which arrived as we were walking out. Laura and James look at each other and I can just see the realisation. I am laughing so hard while they are feeling so, so bad. Like bad humans. We go into the venue and amuse ourselves until it’s showtime and seriously we <3 Cardiff!! It was such a great show. We had the crowd singing along unprompted – it was SO epic!!! Thank you Wales!
DAY 3 – NOTTINGHAM
We had the luxury of waking up in a Travelodge this morning….I even had a double bed(!!) so that was nice. After eating a breakfast of last night’s rider (standard), we get on our way to Nottingham Bodega. I love this venue and am psyched to have my mate VERA GULL supporting – she is epic!
After soundcheck we go down to the dressing room and despite it being about 3pm, Laura and James crack open their first beer. Jeez guys, its only day three!! Pace yourselves!! The funny thing is I am not allowed to drink because I am driving…which sucks…but then I am pretty sensible and don’t drink before performing usually anyway. That will alllll change later on tonight. Today we have our first TOUR CHALLENGE – who can drink their beer the fastest. You can watch that here.
Before we play we watch VERA GULL, who was boss <3 and then we’re up! This is seriously the best date of the tour so far – the crowd were AMAZING!! We played my single Fortress and people were not just singing along…but singing their own harmonies. I mean WOW. It was perfect! After doing the merch and saying hello to everyone / getting photos / signing stuff, we head out to see the sights of Nottingham with the VERA GULL crew (not really we just stayed in the venue’s beer garden). I got surprisingly and unexpectedly drunk, it was good to let off some steam after having all the responsibility! But then we had to make our way back to the worst hotel ever – which I will not name. But it was bad. I mean we felt UNSAFE. It was like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining but crap. It came with breakfast which was the selling point, but then we missed that cos we were very very hungover. Despite that because we were so drunk it was pretty comical. It’s all in the name of music!!
DAY 4 – SHEFFIELD
Today we are in SHEFFIELD which is such a brill city! We had quite a late load-in and soundcheck which was nice as it meant we could chill* for a bit beforehand. There had been a venue change due to the original venue The Rocking Chair double booking itself, and the show was now at the Frog & Parrot and was free entry. After eating some much needed nachos and chicken wings (healthy eating going great yeah) we are up to play. Being a free entry show and in Sheffield, the crowd were gonna be tough to warm up. But fair do’s – WE DID IT!
It was a great show. It was very busy but I’m thanking my lucky stars that all my Sheffield fans were there and at the front – sometimes it’s hard to warm up a crowd that aren’t there especially for you (I’m such a princess) and even more so on a Friday night – but I can safely say we rocked the joint. It was BRILL!! Thank you Sheffield!
*nurse our terrible hangovers
DAY 5 – LEEDS
LEEDS! Been looking forward to this one so much as I’ve always had a brilliant time in this city and Laura & James’ families are very very close and it will be nice to see some familiar faces! The Brudenell in Leeds is a social club, it’s like a very very cool old mans club. We were playing in the games room where they normally have pool tables, and our dressing room had a huge snooker table in it.
When we were loading in, there were a few typical Yorkshire men playing a game in there. Oh how they laughed when I walked in wearing sunglasses in the dimmest venue ever. I nearly fell over and took my merch with me. Instead of saying “are you ok love?” they just cracked up in typical Yorkshire man humour fashion. Yeah THANKS GUYS.
We soundchecked in the games room (coolest venue ever) and people from the club kept on walking in going “Where’s the pool tables gone?! What’s going on?! Oooo who’s this Natalie McCool?”, I was laughing so hard. We kept telling them there was a gig on and that they should deffo come. They were very interested and looked me up on Spotify. Nice one lads! Fast forward to show time and we’ve just eaten the biggest curry ever so we’re feeling a bit bloated to say the least. But the crowd were awesome and really loved it. I always think I sound like a nerd when I explain the themes behind the album and the meaning behind the songs…as I like to do at shows – and I don’t know why I feel this way because people respond so, so well to it. It was a great night – very busy – THANK YOU LEEDS!!
DAY 6 – NEWCASTLE
IN GEORDIELAND! Sorry just had to do that. Today we woke up on a farm (James’ dad is a farmer and lives close to Newcastle) so we saw the sheep and chickens as we left to go to Newcastle. Now we love this city, and we love the accent even more, and apologies for offending ANYONE when trying to do the accent. I think everyone took it quite well actually, we didn’t get any beef, just laughs. We had a walk around the city before soundcheck (I needed some batteries, Laura wanted to go to Primark) and after trying to find the poundshop for about 20 minutes, which turned out to be nonexistent, I finally bought my batts. My reverb pedal input has been playing up and I really wanted it to be a-ok for this show. Fingers crossed! At soundcheck it’s all running smoothly and as Laura is soundchecking drums & tracks, there is a bottle of water on the stage floor jamming so hard to the sub on my track Feel Good which made me LAUGH – you can watch that here.
We are on quite early – 8:45pm – due to a club night on downstairs but the crowd were all present and ready to rock before we go on – a great sign!!! The banter at this show was easily the best – you Geordies know how to laugh! Laura tried to do the accent on stage (well I made her) and she just sounded Jamaican, “THE NATION’S SWEETHEART CHERYL COLE” cue so, so many laughs. We had such a good time. Genuinely the best show banter all tour – you guys made me feel so relaxed!! THANK YOU NEWCASTLE!
Stay tuned for part two of Natalie’s tour diary.
Natalie McCool’s ‘The Great Unknown’ tour continues through to 1st October, culminating in a hometown show at Liverpool’s Buyers Club. For more information and for tickets head here.