Floating on something special – Jaron Natoli
It’s almost 25 years since the world lost one of its most blessed musicians in Jeff Buckley, having drowned under tragic circumstances in the Mississippi River back in 1997. He was born into music and began playing guitar from the age of five, turing his focus to becoming a musician from the age of 12, paving the way for his tenure in a few High School bands a couple of years later.
His debut album, Grace, was released only two years prior to his death, and had gained a fairly modest reception. However over the years Jeff’s music and legend has continued to gather attention and admiration from devout fans, many of whom weren’t even born until many years later.
Now, this isn’t an article about Jeff Buckley though the background is absolutley relevant; it was a cover of one of Jeff’s tracks that led me to the artist we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to recently; 21 year old Australian composer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jaron Natoli. There are some striking similarities between the two, as we’ll discover.
Jaron, too, has been soaked in music from an early age. His father Chris Natoli, an incredibly acomplished guitarist with decades of experience, has been a source of inspiration and guidance for Jaron throughout his career.
The father and son duo have the good fortune of being able to play together, whilst also pursuing their own solo careers in music.
Jaron had already bagged plenty of experience in the music industry whilst most kids his age were likely playing with LEGO; he’d been been cast in an award winning short film, Speaking Daggers at the age of 16; scooped up numerous International awards for his songwriting skills and; head hunted by legendary British producer, Stuart Epps – the same Stuart Epps that has the likes of Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Bill Wyman, George Harrison, Paul Weller, Cliff Richard, Barry White and Chris Rea (to name just a few) on his resume!
Discovering Jaron Natoli and his cover of Buckley’s Grace was eerie and beautiful in equal measure on account of his incredible guitar playing, outstanding vocal performance and there being more than a passing resemblance to the late legend. I felt somewhat late to the party as over 30k people had already viewed his video on YouTube by the time I got there. His Buckley covers are likely amongst the finest you’re ever going to have seen, but he’s certainly no ‘tribute artist’ or ‘sound-alike’ act. As I scrambled to learn more about him, what I found whilst looking through the ‘Jaron/ Buckley’ telescope, was an incredibly gifted songwriter with extraordinary diversity and one who seems completley grounded in reality. That was almost a year ago, and today we are very excited to be speaking with Jaron and hearing more about his life and work.
How’s life been treating you as a young musician in Australia?
I’ve been really fortunate growing up here in Melbourne, not only because its a special place, but particularly because of the music scene. I’ve never once had a problem getting work as a musician, and I’m very grateful for that. Everyone has always been so supportive of my music, both friends/family and the general public. My life has been very normal, and I like it that way. I started my music career when I was 10 years old, and from a young age I had multiple opportunities to go on talent shows like The X Factor and The Voice, but I’m really glad I chose not to. Instead I spent time working on my skills and developing myself as an artist. I think growing naturally as an artist and as a person is the best route, and I’ve always stood by that.
Having released your first album at the age of ten and the second album a couple of years later – how would you describe those early experiences and what valuable lessons did you take from them?
Starting out my career at a young age wouldn’t have been nearly as possible without the help of my dad. Dad has been a guitarist his whole life, so he knew all the ins and outs of the music industry. He really helped me get started from a young age (finding me gigs, funding projects, inspiring me, teaching me things, and pushing me in a good way). I’m really grateful for everything he did to help me get started. It was really fun when I was only 11 /12 years old making my first and second album. My first album was done at home with my dad, and the help of our good friend Robert John Sedky. There was no pressure, it was very relaxed, and I just remember how cool it was hearing my first original song come together. I learnt a lot working with Peter Reggie Bowman (guitarist of Southern Sons) on my second album. It was my first time in a full on studio environment, and I loved it. Reggie really looked after me, and helped me move forward as an artist. I made my third album with him too. All those early experiences played a big role in my development as an artist.
“It’s hard to name my greatest achievement, because I don’t really think in terms of greatest achievements to least greatest achievements. If anything, it would be the sense of achievement I feel when completing a project.”
You’ve had some great success in a short space of time, and picked up some awards for your songwriting abilities and, you were headhunted by Stuart Epps?
Yeah I did. When I won the UK Songwriting Competition at around age of 12/13, I was really lucky to be featured on Today Tonight. The show doesn’t exist anymore, but its quite similar to another Australian show called A Current Affair. They put together a full on 2-3 minute story on me, and parts of it featured an interview with Stuart Epps which they filmed in the UK. Nothing ended up happening with Stuart, but nevertheless it was great to win the song comp and get some exposure on mainstream TV.
Your Youtube posts have received quite a lot of attention, notably the Jeff Buckley covers. Aside from Buckley, which other artists have influenced your work over the years?
Aside from Jeff, some other artists that have really influenced my work over the years would be Coldplay, Damien Rice, Keaton Henson and Fleet Foxes. I listen to all different types of music, and I really just love listening to music in general.
What is it that motivates you to create, and if you’ve experienced a ‘creative block’, how do you typically combat that?
Often throughout my creative process I have creative blocks, and they can lead to bouts of procrastination. Sometimes it can seem like there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel, but for me it can be the simplest things in life that keep me pushing on to complete a project. Whether that’s listening to a song by an artist I look up to, or hearing some wisdom from a family member or a friend (sometimes even a complete stranger), or going to a place I love and soaking up the environment. These are things that always help me.
When did you start learning to play the guitar, and if you could master any other instrument, what would you choose?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10 years old. If I could play another instrument at the same level, I’d definitely choose piano. I’m actually starting to work on my piano playing again at the time of writing this, and a few tracks on my upcoming album will feature piano.
Is there a particular track from your back catalogue that you’re proud of, or has special meaning for you?
One of my favourites from my back catalog would have to be Carrot-Top. I wrote that song for my partner, and we’ve been together for just over 3 years now. It’s special for both of us, particularly because of the way it came about. It was on our second date when Chels jokingly said to me that I should write a song for her and call it Carrot-Top… and so I did. We were only young and just getting to know each other back then, so listening to it now that we’re older is really special for both of us.
Can you describe your creative process; do you have any processes or customs that you apply to each project?
I feel like I have a few different creative processes depending on the way each song comes about. Most of my ideas pop up subconsciously and they usually start with a melody or a few lyrics, and they develop from there. Other times I might be experiencing something in the present moment that sparks an idea, and then I’ll think of what I’m experiencing from a creative perspective, and it’ll develop from there. I’ve also written a few songs before where the topic/vibe of the song is already established, and in that case I’ll write purely with that in mind.
“I think the best advice I’ve been given is that there’s absolutely no rush to be discovered. It’s easy to get caught up in the thought that there’s so much other music out there, and sometimes it seems like it’ll be impossible to ever get discovered. But I think if you do the work and develop yourself as a artist/person, then it’ll happen when its meant to happen.”
You can be found across all the usual social media platforms. Which have been the most effective means of promoting yourself as an artist, in your experience?
YouTube was the very first platform I started using for my music, and its been the best by far. I started uploading on YouTube with the help of my dad when I was 10 years old, and I’ve continued to release covers and original content on my channel over the past 10 years. I currently have close to 3,000 subscribers, and over a quarter of a million views on all of my videos combined.
The Seasons They Change
I actually wrote this song in 2016 when I was 16 years old. It’s about a girl I really liked in high school. It talks about us getting to know each other, and having mutual feelings for one another. We grew closer over time, but it didn’t end up going anywhere. I was really hurt, and it took me a while to get over it, but putting my feelings into songs helped. When I recorded it in 2019 I didn’t have any of those feelings from when I initially wrote it, so I had to travel back in time to spark those emotions again. All in all we were just young, and I’m not one to hold a grudge. I really hope she’s doing well.
I wrote Somehow towards the end of 2020 at 20 years of age, and it came together really quickly. I think 2020 was such a reflective year for many of us, with everything that was going on. By the end of the year I had accumulated so many thoughts and emotions, so I naturally felt like I needed to put them into a song. It’s quite different to anything I’ve ever released before, both lyrically and musically. It’s probably the most personal song I’ve ever written about myself.
Are you working on anything new at the moment that you’d like to mention?
I’m currently working on a new album, which will consist of 10 tracks. It’ll be the first full-length album I’ve made since 2014 when I was 14 years old. I don’t want to say too much about it just yet, apart from I’m really excited for everyone to hear it. It’ll be a big milestone in my music career for me personally.
You can find Jaron on Youtube, Spotify and all the usual places, so head over and subscribe in order to keep up with his progress. We’re really grateful to Jaron for his time and looking forward to hearing the new album once it’s released.