If your life feels like an endless struggle right now, folk singer-songwriter Natalie Schlabs has a message of hope for you. Her latest single, “See What I See,” reassures people in various difficult situations that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if they can’t see it at the moment.
“Are you lost in the dark?/Look again, you might see a shooting star/Honey, you are the sky/you hold the sun /you hold the shadow-side,” Schlabs’ sweet, clear voice sings in a verse aimed at someone with depression. Another verse of the song speaks to someone dealing with a chronic illness.
“I think we can all offer our eyes to someone when they’re having a hard time, imagining they will be OK again,” says Schlabs.
The song is on her sophomore album, Don’t Look Too Close, which comes out in October. Written during Schlabs’ pregnancy with her first child, the album addresses family relationships, friendship, romantic love, vulnerability, and death, as well as “the hope that can still be girded underneath despair” and “the pain of letting someone go and allowing them to make their own decisions, even when you feel it is harming them,” as she puts it. “Basically, a lot of life lessons that come up when you enter your 30s.”
Parenting is a central theme throughout the album: “Ophelia” was written for a friend who lost her daughter, “Endless Love” is a love song to Schlabs’ own son, and “Don’t Look Too Close” is about not wanting your children to see your dark or dysfunctional side.
“Being pregnant, I naturally did a lot more reflection, as well as thinking of the future and what I wanted to pass down. I think that probably led to more honest songwriting,” she says. “I’m exploring the tension of being the best you can for your kid or loved one and knowing you’re a flawed human who is going to fuck up. You realize it was the same with your own parents and loved ones. There is a parallel line there that is interesting to me.”
The album features slow, gentle melodies, layered vocals and guitars, and indie and pop sensibilities combined with Schlabs’ usual Americana style; she says that bands like Big Thief and The War on Drugs influenced the sound. The instrumentals include Caleb Hickman on saxophone and Joshua Rogers, Schlabs’ husband, on bass.
“This time, I was able to see the studio as an instrument to experiment with,” she adds. “I wasn’t afraid to try things like running my vocal mic through a guitar amp.”
The Nashville-based artist’s other passion is cooking; she used to have her own catering business and wrote songs between food prep. Nowadays, her Patreon is dedicated to music, recipes, and even music-recipe pairings.
Schlabs is currently working on creating a home studio as she writes more songs. In the meantime, her music serves as a reminder for those of us stuck at home to believe in better days ahead, and to cherish the people we’re stuck with.
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