For Nataly Dawn, the future is now. As one half of the breakout indie pop act Pomplamoose, Dawn (born Natalie Knutsen) experienced the might of social media.
Eschewing live performances for what the band dubbed "VideoSongs" posted to YouTube and MySpace, Pomplamoose racked up millions of views (as of this week, the duo's YouTube channel has logged more than 87 million hits), released a handful of albums and EPs, and even wound up in ad campaigns for Hyundai and Toyota.
Yet instead of following the normal, rapid trajectory from upstart buzz band to major-label darling, Dawn and her longtime partner, Jack Conte, elected to step back, and put what she describes as "a side project" on hold in an effort to prevent burnout and preserve sanity.
Now, Dawn has embarked on a solo tour to support her new LP, How I Knew Her.
How I Knew Her - From Nataly Dawn's Album, "How I Knew Her"
Despite putting Pomplamoose on pause, Dawn doesn't feel as though she's starting all over.
"In terms of the fan base and in terms of promoting this album, it feels like a few steps down from where Pomplamoose was," says the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from a North Carolina tour stop. "It's very intimate [now]; that's been a change, but not a bad one. I'm actually very aware of how fortunate I am to be starting off on my first solo album having any fan base whatsoever."
Dawn utilized some of the skills acquired during Pomplamoose's rapid rise to create How I Knew Her, including launching a Kickstarter campaign that netted more than $100,000 to pay the musicians on the record, as well as film the recording of all 12 tracks. (The album was released in February by Nonesuch Records.)
ANGRY BIRDS theme!!! covered by Pomplamoose
"The song is really the most important thing," Dawn says. "I didn't start the Kickstarter project until I had already written all the songs I wanted to have on the album. As important as technology is, if you don't have anything to say and you don't have any art to believe in, it's going to be tough to get the word out."
That reality of being a (relatively) unknown artist in the 21st century factors into how Dawn spends her time off-stage. A steady tweeter (with more than 11,000 Twitter followers) and YouTube fixture, Dawn breezily rattles off the daily tasks that keep her occupied while driving from city to city.
"It's extremely daunting that there are so many artists out there who write amazing material and don't get recognized, and it's entirely to do with how hard they're working on a daily basis to get the word out," Dawn says. "I think a lot of artists, when they're on tour, they treat the work day like it starts when they go on stage. It's not how it it is when I'm on tour.
"I hardly ever look up during the drive -- I'm editing video, importing photos, tweeting, blogging ... and I don't know if it will get people to the show that day, but I know it's important for me to constantly be promoting the album in some way or you get drowned out."
Fortunately, How I Knew Her helps sell itself, a collection of potent pop-folk tunes with a quirky streak, and rich with what Dawn describes as "biographical" detail.
"The title of the album is How I Knew Her," Dawn says, "and it really is not just about how I know myself, but it's about how I know the women in my life who've influenced me. I feel like the stories on the album are ... about those strong female characters, and by rehashing their histories, I'm figuring out who I am and what I believe."
By blending the intensely personal with the deftly promotional, Nataly Dawn may have found a winning formula for the music industry's future.
"If you want to make a living off your music, it turns out being 90 percent business and 10 percent music, if you're lucky," she says. "[But] it almost makes sense, in a weird utopian way, that the person who has the most fulfilling career should have to work really hard at it."
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