Towards the end of last year Queensland-based artist Natalie Pearson released a powerful version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the Rodgers & Hammerstein song made famous by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The song took on a separate meaning when Pearson released it, and that meaning still holds as we embark on 2021 with borders still closed and friends and families separated. But the song has an extra-special meaning for Pearson.
‘I was born in Liverpool in the UK, so my family are big Liverpool FC supporters,’ she explains. ‘I’ve always heard this song and been exposed to the song. It’s a favourite for all of my family. Then with what we went through during COVID with everybody being isolated and all my family in the UK were under strict lockdown and Western Australia [where Pearson’s parents live] closed their borders and I’m in Queensland now.
‘I came across this song, just falling down a rabbit hole on YouTube, and came across a cover of the song by someone else. And I thought, Oh, I forgot about this song. It’s so appropriate right now. The content behind the lyrics and what it means. And then with my family connection as well. I think I want to do my own version of the song. So I just booked it in and got it done. I sent it to Mum and Dad and my dad sent me back that he got tears in his eyes and had goosebumps on his arm. So it was the right thing to do.’
Part of the message of the song is that you don’t walk alone as long as you have hope, and, as Pearson says, ‘just believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that everything that we’re going through right now will come to an end. There will be light at the end of the tunnel because I think a lot of us didn’t know how long this was going to go for how much worse it was going to get.’
Pearson’s family moved to Australia from the UK when she was small, so she says the change didn’t affect her too much.
‘Obviously I didn’t get to grow up around my cousins and my grandparents and my aunties and uncles,’ she says. ‘When I see my cousins all hanging out together and posting things together on Facebook now, seeing how super-close they are, it’s a little bit sad because I was never around during those growin- up years with them. But obviously we’re all still family, so we still very much love each other and care for each other. But sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if we had stayed in the UK and been around family.
‘But then I also think there’s so much opportunity and the lifestyle in Australia – my parents made that move because they wanted a different life for us, and they’re happy with their decision. We’re still here! That was my parents’ decision when they got made redundant from their job … they took that as an opportunity to start fresh.’
For the video that accompanies the song, Pearson wanted to pay tribute to the Gerry and the Pacemakers video, which is a black-and-white montage of Liverpool supporters, so she decided to re-create the concept, but using shows of people she knew.
‘I specifically put it out to the people in my Nat Pack group, which is my private Facebook group,’ she says. ‘I said, “If you want to be in a music video, here’s the brief, here’s what I’m after. Here’s some instructions on how to film yourself and submit it to me.” I got heaps of great submissions. And then I also filmed myself, and I went out and filmed some people in Brisbane as well. I arranged to meet up with some people in the Nat Pack then I asked them to be in front of the camera and I was behind the camera, just to get the shots that I had envisioned.
‘Then I got a great editor to put it all together. I was planning to edit it myself, but I knew a lot of time would need to go into getting this to look as good as I wanted it to look. In my head I see it looking this way and I don’t know how my editing skills are,’ she says with a laugh. ‘So I outsourced that in the end. So it took a little bit longer because I put it off because I was going to do it myself. But by the time it came out I think it was worth the wait.’
It wasn’t Pearson’s first foray into video-making – she made the video for her single ‘Plan B’, and has filmed some videos for Brook Chivell, including the clip for ‘Fearless Rider’.
‘We try and keep the costs low,’ she explains. ‘I guess when you can do some stuff yourself [you do it], plus it’s a little bit more authentic too. I think when people see that you’re literally running your own business and your own record label and your own management team and your own production team, then I feel people can see how much we do work at what we do without breaking the bank.’
Making videos is, Pearson says, an extension of what she’s already doing as a singer and songwriter.
‘Well, we’re all creatives,’ she says. ‘We all have, you know, we have visions of what we want it to look like and who better figure out what’s in your head and to put it out there than yourself. It’s just about learning all the tech behind it, but, you know, YouTube is great for that! You can learn anything on YouTube.’
While Pearson was very busy performing in the last few weeks of 2020, due to the enforced lack of work during most of the year – with so many gigs cancelled or just not booked – Pearson says, ‘It was very up and down. So there were some days that I thought, all right, well, I’ll utilise this time to be better on guitar and to learn this on YouTube and to get my merch sorted. And then there were other days when I just was quite upset, [thinking] I don’t know what to do with my life. Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t be an artist. I don’t know how long this is going to go for. I was stressed about money. I was feeling unmotivated and then also really guilty for not doing anything. It was a really weird headspace to be in.
‘Then I actually got an opportunity to take on a casual job through a friend of mine. So I went and did that, which was actually really great for giving me some structure and giving me a bit of a sense of purpose and also help out with the money, because every hour that I was there, I knew that I was paying my rent. So that took a lot of pressure off andI got to meet new people as well, and having that social aspect was obviously something that got really taken away from us during COVID. So even just being in the same vicinity as other people was just a huge change to what I needed for my mental health.’
Once she was able to start playing shows again, she says that every single time she played, ‘people say, “Oh, it’s so good to have live music back”. Even the ticketed events – I think a lot of the time before people would [say], “Oh, I don’t know about $10 for tickets, it’s a bit pricey”, or, ‘I’ll see how I feel on the night.” And then they bail. And now I feel like everyone’s saying, “No, I’m getting my tickets. I don’t want to miss out. I don’t care what the price tag is because I want to have this experience. And I realise how much this actually was a big part of my life.”
‘So I think as horrible as  has been, I do think that it has had some positives in that we are now appreciating things in life. We are realising what is important to us and for a lot of people that is music and that is socialising and that is going out and seeing a show and being involved in all of the music community. So I think we’ve definitely had some positives out of a really horrible year.’
When asked what she’s looking forward to in 2021, she says, ‘Having some consistency and a bit more predictive predictability, I guess, and everything that I went through this year going, saying I’ve learnt from that and next year I’m just going to do things the way that I want to do things. And now we can kind of adapt as well.
‘This year, we all had to adapt to being online and to being digital and to do things ourselves. Even though for the most part independent artists do do that themselves, I think a lot more focus has now been placed on it and we all have a little bit of empowerment that we can actually do this ourselves. So I’ll take that with me to next year that I have more ability to do things myself than I thought.’
There’s something very specific she’s looking forward to as well: the Brisbane River cruise show that was meant to take place in September and which will now take place on Saturday 13 February. Pearson will appear on the bill with Brook Chivell, Hayley Marsten and Drew McAlister. It’s a superstar line-up – and no doubt worth waiting for. And there’s also no doubt that Pearson will already be on to creating her next great single.
Tickets to the cruise show: https://www.songkick.com/concerts/39564098-natalie-pearson-at-brisvegas-cruises