Lori from JBO: Hi Natalie! Thank you so much for talking to us today. I’m really looking forward to learning about this great young trombonist for the Trey Anastasio Band, who I also recently noticed at Bear Creek Music Festival with her own set. I’m really excited for you and these opportunities you are getting and would love to know how they came about. Do you have a good amount of time?
JBO: Are you currently living in San Francisco?
Natalie: I actually live in Brooklyn. I grew up in San Francisco and I travel back a lot to visit with my family.
JBO: Excellent! So from the little bit I already know, your parents are both musicians and your father Jeff Cressman plays with Santana, so I am assuming these are your musical inspirations and why you became a musician, correct? And can you tell us more about your family and why you chose to play the trombone?
Natalie: Yes, my father is a trombonist for Santana and I grew up watching him play and kind of tagging along at their gigs. Even as a toddler I would toddle up to the trombone and try to make sounds. Then when I was about nine or ten, it was time to pick an instrument at school. We had an extra trombone lying around and I had a great private teacher, who was my dad. So I think my parents were down with that, because then they didn’t have to go out and try to find me a violin or something (laughs), so it worked. I also think that growing up listening to that sound my whole life made me more naturally drawn towards it.
JBO: So, like father like daughter, then? How cool!
Natalie: Yeah, he’s been such a great role model for me growing up and a great mentor and teacher. Not just showing me how to play, but also things that aren’t musical, like how to interact with people, how to be really professional and how to be respectful and easy to work with. As a whole, I think I was really lucky to be able to watch my parents work as musicians my whole life, because it gave me a concept of what it might be like if I were to make a career of it myself, which is now what I am doing.
Natalie: My little sister is very musical, but is a dancer and my mother is a singer who specializes in Brazilian music, which is where her heart really lies. She is also a really great vocal technique teacher, so she does a lot of instruction and goes to Europe once a year to teach. She is really awesome and when I started singing backup in Trey’s band, it had been a while since I really sang. She really helped me get in shape for it, so I have had her as a mentor on the singing side of things too. I guess I am kind of a little spoiled in that way (laughs).
JBO: Ha! Well, you still work hard to do what you do regardless and I think we all admire and respect you for that. The fact that you are only twenty-two blows my mind, but considering all you have told me so far, you have been at it for a long time learning what it takes to make it in the music business.
JBO: As you of course know, Jennifer Hartswick has been with T.A.B. pretty much from the beginning. When I saw the band play at the LockN’ Festival, I noticed you guys talking to each other a lot when you weren’t playing, like you’re great friends. Has she been a huge mentor to you as well?
Natalie: Totally…Yeah! She’s like a big sister. I think that having another woman to be on the road with is very awesome and rare. Having that close sisterly bond with someone makes making music together super easy, because it’s like we finish each other’s sentences.
JBO: So how did you end up getting hired to be in Trey’s band?
Natalie: Well, it was actually from my dad. He played with Trey during a 2005 tour, and when Trey was getting the band back together in 2009, he contacted my dad about touring again, but my dad was committed to doing something with Santana at the time. Trey explained to him that he was looking for a trombone player who could also sing. So my dad told Trey that if he was looking for a singing trombonist, that he knows this girl who is eighteen who lives in New York on a full ride at Manhattan School of Music, and I think she can do a good job. He then said, “And by the way…she just happens to be my daughter.”
Natalie: So Trey was awesome, because he actually followed through with that by having his manager get in touch with me. I sent him some of my music and then Trey ended up contacting me himself, telling me about the project and how he hoped this could work out. He then sent me to have a very informal audition sitting in with Jen. She was playing a gig in New York, so I came by and played a song with her, and hung out with her for a couple hours. We really hit it off right away.
JBO: Was Trey there?
Natalie: Trey wasn’t there. He and Jen are really close…and musically close too, so he trusted that she would know whether I would be a good fit or not. So Jen and I had such a great time playing and hanging out and she gave Trey the okay, and that’s how I got hired.
JBO: That is awesome! You got hired before even having met Trey in person? That is a great story.
JBO: Did you have to drop out of school?
Natalie: Nope. I managed to stay in school actually, which was incredible to me. So kind of by the skin of my teeth, I made it through four years of touring and being in school. But yeah, I was just sitting in my college dorm room one day when I got the call from Trey out of the blue that he wanted me to do the tour. It was crazy!
Natalie: Yeah, he’s incredible. He has so much energy and is just so enthusiastic about everything. You know, his positivity is just like medicine to me, and I get really inspired working with him. He has also been a great mentor for me, and has shown me a lot of cool new music, because he listens to so many kinds, including even pop music from my generation that I don’t even check out. He will be like, ‘This song….you gotta listen to this…this song is great!’ So yeah, he’s incredible and funny and goofy (laughs), but I feel really more like we’re a family. Having Trey and then Russ, Tony and Ray. They’re all around my parent’s age, so it feels like they are kind of like uncles.
JBO: Awesome! Now who wouldn’t want Trey Anastasio to be their cool uncle? So you have your own project too, I see?
JBO: Wow…You go!
Natalie: Yeah, so I have a lot of stuff I am working on. I am kind of all over the place and everything is very eclectic and different.
JBO: Just wondering if there are any other tricks up your sleeve that you are working on that I might have not asked you? We would love to promote anything.
Natalie: Well…we have a preorder on my website for the new CD that’s called Turn the Sea at http://nataliecressman.bandcamp.com/, we have a CD release tour coming up (dates at bottom of this page), and we just put out a music video too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMKhiIAdZN4.
Natalie: And believe it or not, I have a baking video blog on my YouTube channel where I invite musicians to come and bake something with me in the kitchen to help me make sweets…and while our stuff is baking in the oven, we play songs.
JBO: Oh wow! That’s an amazing idea!
Natalie: Yeah, we have a few episodes up including one with Jen, so would love you to mention that and share the link. It’s pretty goofy fun!
JBO: No problem at all:
Natalie: Well thank you! This was a fun interview and I appreciate it very much.
JBO: I have just one final question…Why do they call you, “Chainsaw?”
Natalie: Well, on my first tour, my friends from school came to a show on Valentine’s Day, and made me a card. They drew a stick figure of me with a trombone, but it was so poorly drawn that it looked more like a chainsaw. So then Trey and Chris Kuroda had the idea that it should be my new nickname and it just stuck!
JBO: LOVE IT!
For more information about Natalie, please visit her website: http://www.nataliecressman.com/
Her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/natcressmanmusic.
And here are her CD release date…
March 20th Boston, MA – Church
March 21st Burlington, VT – Nectar’s
March 22nd Lake Placid, NY – Smoke Signals
March 26th Plains, PA – River Street jazz Café
March 27th Portsmouth, NH – The Press Room
March 28th Manchester, CT – The Main Pub
March 30th New York, NY – Joe’s Pub