Chattin' Up Natalie London
Photo: Neil Visel
Natalie London is that rare musician who can do it all—sing, write, play a symphony of instruments and compose multi-dimensional pieces. And she’s currently doing it all from the confines of her bed. As a talented New York musician and Columbia University senior, London’s life was on the fast track to fame. But a tick bite while scoping out New England music venues changed it all. Today she lives in California with her mother and spends what little energy she has composing music. London talks with Curve about her art, her illness and how her desire to perform on the Ellen DeGeneres show motivates her to get well.
Natalie, you rock. Seriously, you totally tear it up. I feel like if PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke stayed together long enough to have a kid, you’d be the kid. Where’d you learn to play like that?
That’s so sweet. Wow, that’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. Someone once said I was like Gwen Stefani, but that wasn’t as exciting. This comparison is awesome. Well, I pretty much taught myself everything. I’ve been playing since I was 4. I play everything in the band, except for the drums and the viola. And I arrange everything.
Getting on Ellen’s show seems to be your focus right now. Why is that so important to you?
I think for anyone trying to break into the business, it’s extremely difficult to get out there. It’s a full-time job just trying to promote yourself and making all those connections. And I’m pretty much bed-ridden right now so it’s a lot harder. Plus Ellen gives people chances; she’s incredible that way. And it would be a way to get myself out there to a lot of people who I connect with.
You’ve even made a video letter to Ellen to plead your case for getting on her show. In that video, you’re really sick. Can you talk a little about your illness?
Yeah, I was bit by a tick two years ago. Which seems silly because so many people get bit by ticks. I was at Columbia University at the time in my final semester, and I just couldn’t get out of bed anymore. I had fevers every single day. Nobody could figure out what it was. I couldn’t take care of myself anymore so I had to come back to California and move in with my mom. It took six or seven months to figure out what was wrong with me. I finally found a specialist who figured out I have advanced Lyme’s Disease. The treatment is really harsh. You get worse before you get better. I’m on about 40 pills per day of antibiotics and supplements and stuff like that.
Will it continue like that?
Well, I’ve been on this intense treatment since February and I’ve gotten better since then but I’m still not able to do too much. I’ve got a good hour or so in me a day to play some music.
So if Ellen called to say you made the show, would you be well enough to perform?
Oh God yeah! I’d pump myself full of painkillers and I’d make it there. I’d make it work for sure. That’s part of the thing, too. When you’re going through such a hard time it’s really great to have an incentive like that because there’s always a mental component to illness. Getting on the show would be a great incentive to feel better.
Have you heard back from Ellen?
I haven’t yet.
As someone who is going through an incredibly challenging time, do you have any words to impart to the rest of us? Any realizations or observations?
I guess just that life is crazy. I almost look at this experience as a story; all of these things are part of it. On the video I talk about my Grandpa. I lived with him for a long time and took care of him when my Grandma died. And he just passed away a few weeks ago. So I think there are crazy bad things in life but I believe crazy good things can happen as well.
Read more from this interview in an upcoming issue of Curve. And, catch London at Dinah Shore where she’ll be competing at Dinah Idol!