Nathalie Shay, a talented singer and songwriter, winner of the youth category at Gigs 2014 - London’s Big Busking Competition, travels to Paris for the day to try her hand at busking Parisian style.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your music? How did you start busking?
I'm 16 years old and I attend the BRIT School (British Record Industry Trust). I live in north London, with my parents and three cats. I started learning classical guitar from the age of five and aged twelve I taught myself rhythm guitar and started writing my own songs. At thirteen I entered the Gigs competition and played at many iconic places around London including Hyde Park, Green Park and St Paul’s and went on to win the competition’s youth category in 2014. I continue to be part of Gigs which gives me many opportunities to busk in London and now Paris. I would describe my music as a mix of ballads, and indie upbeat contemporary.
I imagine a busker gets a unique perspective of the city. What do you think is different about experiencing a city as a busker?
Connecting in a different way with people who are normally hurrying past. I am bringing something surprising to people's daily lives.
What is London like to you as a busker?
It can be difficult to know where to busk. However, the Mayor of London’s new scheme Busk in London makes is it easier to busk not to mention making it bigger and better. London has so much musical talent it is great to see that talent performing in unusual spaces.
And what about Paris - what was the impression you got of the city today?
It was a beautiful day to be in Paris! The audiences were friendly and supportive when I busked in front of the Pompidou centre. I also got the opportunity to go to the Gibson guitar showroom, where I tried out their iconic guitar models.
Did your audience in Paris react differently to your music today? In what ways?
There was no real difference between London and Paris. The French, and in particular Parisians, are just like Londoners in their enjoyment of music. The only obvious difference was that Parisians were not afraid to ask for an “encore”!
I gather you also busked on the Eurostar, which is very unusual. How did your audience react to your performances?
Every year a Gigs performer wins the trip to Paris with Eurostar and always plays in the buffet car - this is unique to the Gigs competition. People loved it. It is a total surprise for them and an added extra enjoyment to their journey!
What do you think about having more buskers on the Eurostar?
I think it works better when it is a rare occurrence – it’s more of a surprise and people feel like they have happened across something special. Not everyone wants music where ever they go, but every so often for a short period of time seems to work really well! Performances in the departure lounge is a better idea - music can soothe and calm even the most frustrated passengers. Music changes the atmosphere and people appreciate the mood enhancement particularly if there is a delay!
You must have a unique integration with people when busking. Has your music prompted an engagement with people in Paris today? Tell us about one that made a particular impression on you.
One very enthusiastic girl demanded to know why I had stopped as she was enjoying the music and wanted more. In London, an audience member would not be quite so bold as to ask why and demand more!
Finally I would like to say that Busking is a wonderful opportunity to help launch a career in music. I now regularly perform at some of London's best known music venues. Playing to people on the street has giving me a great confidence and I always love to get back to it.