Natalie La Rose has yearned to be a performer since she could crawl. From mimicking her favorite Whitney and Mariah tunes to enrolling in an arts academy in her native Amsterdam (she performed in the Dutch version of High School Musical), the curly-haired singer has now become the voice behind the FM magnet “Somebody,” a collaboration with crooner, Jeremih and her mentor, Flo Rida.
While the Whitney Houston-inspired single is in constant rotation, don’t make assumptions about La Rose’s talents off one song. “I think people are trying to figure out what I’m going to come out with next,” she tells VIBE. “Based off of one song, you can’t really tell what an artist really is about. It’s after two or three songs, so I can’t wait to bring out the rest.”
Here, La Rose gets down with VIBE to talk about her big hit, the R&B jams that raised her and coming to America.—Krissy Lewis
VIBE: When did you first recognize your musical talents?
Natalie La Rose: I’ve always had a big, big love for music ever since my parents were playing jazz or old-school soul, R&B music in the house, and I figured out that I love to sing along. When I heard Mariah Carey, I would join her and bother everybody in the house by singing really loud and that’s what I like. I started to develop my love for music and now, I found out that I really love performing for whoever wanted to watch at home. My mom saw that so she decided to put me in an arts academy where I could just develop all my talents.
What pushed you to come to America?
I was really young. When I was about 10 years old, I saw all these music videos from American artists and I remember seeing J.Lo’s video “If You Had My Love” and she had this little dance break. I was like, ‘Man, I gotta learn that.’ I saw Michael Jackson’s video and I knew this was happening in the United States, so I basically set my mind to ‘I need to be there, where all that happens so I can do it too.’
Where did you first visit?
Los Angeles. I won a Nike dance contest and the prize was a five-day trip to L.A. I did all of these dance workshops, meeting choreographers, and I remember staying at the Standard hotel and everything was a little bit of a VIP treatment. They took us out to dinner and all those kinds of things and the energy of the city was so good that I was like I need to come back here, because I love it so much and you know, the pace is really fast. I loved it because it was kind of a challenge for me.
Were there any struggles?
Definitely. In the beginning, it was tough. I had to get used to everything really. I had to get a place, I didn’t know a lot of people, so I basically started from scratch and I started doing auditions for dancing to get money. It was hard to get booked for jobs because I’m very tall. The average dancer in the States is pretty short so I never fit in, unless they needed one person or specific tall dancers. It was really, really tough. I got denied a lot so money-wise, it was a little hard in the beginning. Eventually, it started getting better and better, and I got my shot.
Your latest hit “Somebody” takes cues from Whitney Houston. Did she have an influence on your career?
Definitely. I was inspired by her music a lot. My song is basically a tribute to Whitney Houston. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is one of my favorite songs of all time. I grew up listening to her and Mariah Carey, and listened closely to how they were singing and the runs they were doing. I tried to repeat it and copy it so she definitely influenced the kind of music I’m doing right now.
Who else were you constantly singing to when growing up?
I listen to a lot of artists: Alicia Keys, a lot of R&B artists [like] Musiq Soulchild, Mary J. Blige, Tyrese. I was huge ’90s R&B lover so my whole playlist is full of it. Destiny’s Child was absolutely one of my favorites.
You tag-teamed with Flo Rida and Jeremih for “Somebody.” What did their creative processes teach you?
Well, it was actually a collaboration, I had this beat I thought was great so I told Flo, ‘You want to help me write a hit to this?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. So we went to the studio, invited another writer and were just vibing in the studio. I gave directions like ‘I want to have a feel good song, I want a song that everybody can dance to. I want good vibes, a positive song.’ Along the way, we came up with ideas and eventually I recorded the whole song first. Afterwards, we said we need a feature on this and we asked Jeremih to do it. After he heard the song, he loved it and jumped right on it. I was actually there when he recorded his part. He’s a real pro and he has so much experience with recording so it was really, really quick for him.
Your first EP is coming in June. What sides of Natalie La Rose will you show?
Definitely songs I can build a performance with. Every time I create a song, I think about how would this look on stage? How would this sound on stage? What kind of show will I build around it? All my songs are definitely rhythmic, funky, groovy, or vibe-y. All with a good beat. I kind of want my first project to be uplifting, feel-good, and just fun. I love to see a smile on people’s faces when I perform for them. I definitely want it to be positive energy.
What can we expect as far as the EP title and collaborations?
I don’t know yet. I can’t tell yet. Nothing is official yet so I couldn’t [say] if I wanted or if I knew.
What has been the biggest challenge you faced as a new artist?
Well, the biggest challenge is “Somebody.” It’s doing really well right now and it’s still growing internationally. It’s spreading pretty fast, too. The big question is what [I’m] going to come with next and I absolutely have to deliver something that’s as good or better than “Somebody.”
What’s one rumor you’ve seen or heard about yourself that is flat out not true?
I don’t really hear a lot of lies about me yet.
You head on the road with Fifth Harmony this summer. Have you already planned a girls’ night out with them?
I bet we’d have a couple at least. The girls are very high energy and [have] very good energy so I’m definitely looking forward to hanging out with them before and after the show. It’s going to be my first tour as a solo artist, so I’m super excited about that.