From New York to New Jersey to Tel Aviv, a short stint in England at Oxford University, off to University of Miami school of music, and back to New York. This Rock n' Roll Madame has racked up some serious miles while capturing new fans on a global level.
By Kreig Marks, April 2021
KM: Hi Natalie or should I call you “Madame?” Or Mahoma Madam?
MM: Ha! I haven't been called Natalie in so long I wouldn't know how to respond. No one really calls me by my birth name, not in a long time, not even my mom. She's actually the one who came up with the name Madame Mayhem.
KM: How's that?
MM: She used to say that no matter what I did or where I went, mayhem seemed to follow me. So, that's where the name came from. LOL. She was right. So, at the beginning of my career, I started to use that name and over the years, the name has really taken a new meaning. But, that's how it started.
KM: Cool. So we owe all this to your mom.
MM: LOL. There you go! But, you can call me whatever you like. LOL. Most people call me May.
KM: Fair enough. You're in New York?
MM: Yes sir! It's actually seasonably warm today. So, I'm enjoying it. About 63 degrees.
KM: Oh man. I'm jealous. It's been pretty hot here in South Florida the past week or so. I think our cold weather is long gone.
MM: Where are you in South Florida?
KM: Palm Beach County. Boynton Beach.
MM: I know the area well. I love South Florida.
KM: It has its moments when it's not 90 degrees and 90% humidity.
MM: I hear you.
KM: So May, let’s start off first with a congratulations on the new single, “Cruel Heart.”
MM: Thank you so much.
KM: You co-wrote that with Keith Wallen. (Love Breaking Benjamin.) I believe this is the second album you’ve worked on with Keith.
MM: I've actually written a lot of singles with him over the past 2 years or so. He's awesome. We get along so well. I'm very comfortable with him. This song in particular is one of the first songs I wrote with him. I couldn't wait to release it to the world and we decided to do it now, in the middle of the pandemic.
KM: This may end up being a great time for you to release it since the pandemic seems to be lessening and it will be fresh in people's minds and ears when you get out to do it live.
MM: That's true. It's strange how things sometimes work out, come together. So, yeah, the timing may be right.
KM: How did you meet Keith?
MM: I met him at Sunfest in Florida, in passing. Then, we ran into each other at Shiprock a couple years ago and we share the same management now. I was on tour with Sevendust I believe, 2018. We were in an area where he was and he came out to see the show and our management said, "You guys should do something together," and here you go. So now, we're good friends and I'm happy about that and it worked out very well.
KM: Back to "Cruel Heart." The video for the song. You’re running through the streets of New York and then along the Hudson. You’re obviously not dressed for that sprint. Who's idea is that?
MM: LOL. Oh my God! Yes. I'm not dressed appropriately for the weather, or for the run. But, it was awesome. We actually shot one scene in the studio and the rest, the production team said, "Why don't we just film the rest of you running around New York? You know, during the pandemic, I've been exercising, working out, doing my thing, so I thought I was kind of working out at home. But, with all the running and in those shoes, Oh my God! I was not in the shape I thought I was.
KM: That must have been tough but looked like a lot of fun.
MM: You have no idea. I'm pretty active and exercise a lot. But, running around NY City in those shoes was not my idea of fun! LOL.. Although, it was fun making the video.
KM: It’s New York. So, the people you’re running past, I’m sure no one even gave it a second thought.
MM: LOL. Exactly!
KM: In the video, when you're down by the river, there's this guy sitting on a bench as you run by and he looks completely oblivious to what's going on. Typical New York?
MM: LOL. Absolutely. They've seen it all in New York. So, me running around dressed like that in the middle of Winter, wearing those boots, this is like the everyday thing in New York. If you've ever been there, you know what I'm talking about. This is tame compared to some of the insanity that happens there every day. It was funny because on stage, I'm usually running around like a maniac in platform shoes or combat boots so I thought, this should be pretty easy. It's what I do anyway. That was like the most cardio I've done in a long time but it was so worth it. So much fun.
KM: This could lead to a new side hustle for you, Madame Mayhems Stage Performance Cardio Workout. BYOB, bring your own boots.
MM: LOL! Yess! It's gonna turn into that for sure.
KM: You have a very interesting background. Born in New York. Grew up in Jersey. Attended Tenafly as a kid, which, although it’s a “public school” has more of a reputation like a private school.
MM: Oh yeah, that's right.
KM: And, you basically started working toward your career while in High School and then moved on to Manhattan School of Music, then Oxford in England and finally, to the University of Miami.
MM: I actually started working toward my career before high school. I was about 9 or 10, got my first gig and was working in musical theater in the show, "Into the Woods." I was Little Red. That was like my first real professional gig. When your a kid and tell your parents you want to do this for a living, they send you to singing classes, dance classes, musical theater, because that's what's around here. But at the same time, I was listening to Rock and Metal. That was the music I liked, and I also knew I wanted to write my own music and rock out on stage. I never wanted to do anything else.
KM: You’re a classically trained vocalist. Is that why you ended up at UM?
MM: Yes. I went there to perfect my craft and while there, I decided I wanted to take my song writing more seriously. While in school, I went to Orlando, wrote some more,and I ended up graduating a semester early. I just wanted to get out on the road and that's what I did. I wanted to write and perform Rock because that's what I listened to and it was and is my passion. I decided that if I was going to follow this passion, I had to put myself into it a gazillion percent, and this is where I feel I'm supposed to be.
KM: You also attended Oxford in England.
MM: Mmhmm. Yep. I studied there for a summer. I studied Sociology and Shakespeare.
KM: No kidding.
MM: Yep. Shakespeare acting. That was fun but I was still listening to my Rock and Metal during rehearsal when I got a break. If I let the rest of the cast listen to that, they would have probably freaked out. Overall, most of the people were very cool but I'm sure some of them felt it was odd.
KM: In a blue room, you want to be green.
KM: Do you feel that as a classically trained vocalist, that has helped you maintain your voice? That's such a great thing.
MM: Oh, most definitely. 100%. I remember when I was in school and training, I was just ready to get out there. At the time, I didn't know or think that the training would help me. But, now, I'm so glad I did because it does really help you to retain and maintain your voice.
KM: Your debut album, “White Noise” was produced by Mark Hudson. What was it like working with Mark? Years ago, he was known more for his television variety show with his 2 brothers. Then, he was known as Kate Hudson’s dad. Most people aren’t aware that he’s a pretty damn good producer. He’s worked with some pretty big names; Ozzy, Cher, Aerosmith, Scorpions.
MM: I knew nothing about him when I first met him. As much as I love Rock and Metal, I never paid much attention to the individuals he worked with or people some other producers I've worked with have. I think they appreciated that I was just there to get to work and not talk about who they've worked with, the big names they've worked with.
KM: Your sound, in my opinion, has really evolved since your first single, “White Noise”. You can really hear it if you listen to White Noise, and then move forward to “Monster” and now to “Cruel Heart,” which really showcases your complete vocal range. What’s your thought there?
MM: With every release I've done, I'm proud of all of them. When you start out, and as you move forward, you want to evolve. These days, I'm really comfortable with the sound I have but I'm still very proud of all I've done.
KM: John Moyer of Disturbed, who plays bass on “Dead Will Rise,” calls you a Goth..Rocker..Princess.
Is that the right order?
MM: LOL. I don't know, maybe. Princess is definitely not first. LOL. Definitely not high maintenance over here. On tour, I'm in the tour bus with the guys and in the hotel, I'm there sleeping on the floor. I don't care. I just love to perform live but if I have to sleep on the floor, I'm fine with that. I just want to be out there performing in front of a lot of people.
KM: Let me ask you this. Do you find it easier to perform in front of a huge audience or in front of a few people, like in front of friends or family at a small get together?
MM: That's a great question. Most definitely I'm more comfortable on stage in front of a lot of people than in front of 20 or 30 people.
KM: What about at family get togethers? Did you get the, "Hey, Natalie, sing for us?"
MM: Oh man, always. When I was real little, I loved to do that in front of the family. No one was leaving until I did my thing. But now a-days, at one of those get togethers, if someone says, "Sing for us," now, to me," it's very awkward. It's like me going to my uncle at a dinner party and saying, "Hey, lawyer for us." Yeah, it's really awkward. Yet, the more people I perform with, the more comfortable I am.
KM: When you finish your shows, do you hang out with the fans?
MM: Always! I actually go to my merch station. I love meeting the fans and speaking with them. The first tour we did, we had someone doing the merch and I was just standing there. Now, I'm right there, sitting behind the table speaking with the fans. I love all aspects of a rock show and that's a big part of it. I genuinely want to meet the people and connect with them. I love it, it gets me excited. I love connecting with people.
KM: Your second album, “Now You Know,” you co-wrote most of the songs with Corey Lowery and with Billy Sheehan. I'm a huge fan of Billy's bass playing. Such a talented guy.
MM: Billy is great. I'm so close with him and his wife. I love them. He's like my mentor. He's taught me so much and is so supportive of me in my career. I appreciate him more than I can tell him but I tell him all the time.
KM: I’m gonna put you on the spot here. Who was easier to work with? Or, who did you enjoy working with more?
MM: That's a really hard question to answer and I'll tell you why. If you chose 2 other people instead of them, it would be easy to answer. I love working with both of them. I can't say who I enjoy working with more because they're both such great people and great musicians. Both of them I got to work with around the same time. They're both like big brothers to me so there's a big comfort level with both of them. So, I can be extremely honest when writing and recording and I spilled my guts out on those albums with them. They could both figure out what I wanted to do and gave their expertise. I owe them so much. I feel they both made me a better song writer and better artist.
KM: Going back to your High School and early College days, you did a lot of Musical Theater. Do you miss that?
MM: I LOVE musical theater. And yes, I do miss it. I'm very happy doing Rock, I would never change that. I have so many fond memories of musical theater.
KM: If the right opportunity came about, for you to do a very cool production on Broadway, would you do it?
MM: If it was the right production, absolutely. In a heartbeat. It's like second nature to me because it was a huge part of my childhood. I'd love to be a part of that if I had the time.
KM: What show would you love to be in?
MM: I loved American Idiot. I'd say, any Broadway show that has a Rock element. Not to say I couldn't pull of a more laid back or classic type show, which would probably confuse my fans, but, I'd say, give me a show with a Rock element and I'm there.
KM: Who was the most supportive, your mom or your dad?
MM: I have such a supportive family. Both of my parents have always been and continue to be so supportive of my career choice. They're my biggest supporters and my biggest fans. My brother, my entire family, my husband. I am just so fortunate. You have to surround yourself with those people and I'm so thankful. I can never thank them enough.
KM: Do your parents go to your concerts?
MM: When I was a kid, my mother came to every single show. Whenever they're in the area, they always come to my shows. One time my dad came to a Mushroom Head show and someone came up to him and said, "What are you doing here, sir?" He said, that's my daughter on stage. I just love that they've always been in my corner and I love them for that.
KM: Your husband you mentioned. How long have you two been married now?
MM: You know, I wasn't going to announce it. It's not like it's a big secret but I like to keep some things private. But, we actually got married during the pandemic. Our families are both very high risk, so it was a very small wedding, about 10 people. We did it during the summer.
MM: Thank you.
KM: What does your husband call you?
MM: LOL. He definitely doesn't call me Madame.
KM: That's hilarious! Out in public, can you imagine him calling your Madame?
MM: That would be hysterical! Oh my God.
KM: How did you both meet?
MM: Through a dating app. I had a very generic profile on there.
KM: How was he when he learned who you were and about your career?
MM: He was so cool with it. He's always been so supportive an encouraging. I'm sure my family loves him more than me. But, it's great.
KM: How have you been spending most of your time during the pandemic?
MM: Besides dealing with anxiety of all of it? Writing a lot, learning video editing. I learned how to do a lyric video. But, learning these things was really cool. But, really just writing and putting together plans for the release of "Cruel Heart" was a lot of hard work, but fun. I've also connected with fans a lot. If you reach out to me on social media, 99% of the time if there's a response its from me, not someone running my page(s). I love connecting with my fans and I try to answer their questions and really connect with them.
KM: Cruel Heart is the first release from what I’m going to assume is your next upcoming album. When can we look forward to hearing more?
MM: Yes, we're definitely working on new stuff and can't wait to get it out there. Hopefully before the end of the year. It's been over a year since I was out there. The last time performing was at the Cutting Room, I think it was the first week of March in 2020.
KM: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more new music from you. Anyone out there that you’d like to give a shout out to or thank?
MM: I would say my fans, all the co-writers I've worked with over the years, my family, friends, husband. But, the fans are the ones who are so important to me. They've been so great and I love performing for them and meeting as many of them as I can.
KM: Thanks for speaking with me today. Good luck with the rest of the album and we’ll do all we can on our end to throw it out there for all of our readers to check out.
MM: This has been a lot of fun. Thanks for the great talk and I'm sure we'll speak again soon.
Kreig Marks, Founder/Publisher, TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and to promote musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.