You’d be hard-pressed to find an up and coming artist with as much energy, or meaner fiddle playing skills, than Natalie Stovall.
Many fans may have been introduced to the up and coming country star via popular radio personality, Bobby Bones. The two met in 2014 when Stovall performed in studio on The Bobby Bones Show and sang a rendition of “Amazing Grace” that blew Bones – and fans – away, so much so that the show received numerous calls about her performance, with the Bones playing it whenever the opportunity was available and told Stovall he was a “huge fan” of hers.
“That meant the world to me because he has so much influence and plays artists that he really believes in,” Stovall says. Impressed by her talent, Bones asked Stovall to play with him and his band, The Raging Idiots, at the Ryman Auditorium alongside fellow rising stars Lindsay Ell and Chris Janson. Since then, Stovall has toured the country with the group playing her signature instrument – the fiddle.
Anyone whose seen her live knows what a talent she is on the instrument, which she’s been playing since she was four-years-old. “I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have a fiddle in my hand,” the singer said. As for favorite songs to play on the fiddle, Stovall says that growing up, it was the classic “Orange Blossom Special,” but today she cites Charlie Daniels’ signature hit. “Playing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ is the most fun song in the world. I still close almost every one of my shows with it,” she says, adding that she plays her own version that features a hint of Metallica on the devil’s part.
Stovall’s rendition of the song was so impressive that it caught the eye of Daniels himself, who asked the young singer to perform it with him at his 40th annual Volunteer Jam in Nashville. She reveals that they didn’t rehearse the track beforehand and when she asked him backstage how he’d like to perform it, he said “I’ll play off of you,” an experience Stovall will never forget. “As far as a fiddle player, it doesn’t get better than Charlie Daniels,” she says. “The influence he’s had on that instrument and what he’s done to elevate it is something that I’m so thankful for and it has a lot to do with why I’m able to do what I do now.”
And growing up so close to Music City helped her hone her musical talents. Born and raised in Columbia, Tennessee just outside of Nashville, Stovall says that “growing up in small town American was ‘huge perks’” because everything from music to acting auditions were at her fingertips.
“Being this close to Nashville was hugely influential on me because it provided a lot of opportunity for me,” she says. “It was all I ever wanted to do was to be on stage and perform, so Nashville and Columbia all at the same time allowed me to do that and still have kind of a really small town experience growing up.”
Just one of those opportunities was being a frequent performer at the former Opryland amusement park in their music show, a job she got at the age of 10. Stovall has nothing but praise for her time on the Opryland stage, saying that she “brought the country” with her fiddle-playing. “The biggest focus of Opryland was the shows, the music,” she states, adding that country stars like Little Texas and Lonestar were discovered there. “It provided you the opportunity to be a performer and hone your chops.”
Her time at Opryland was an influential one, and the singer is still grateful for the experience she had there today, comparing the cast to a family. “That really shaped who I am as a person,” she says of the Opryland experience. “The influences of the people that I grew up working with and the adults that were in the show, they really had a huge influence on even just me as a person, my faith and my beliefs.”
While Opryland sadly closed its doors several years ago, Stovall still continues to share her music with the world. Just one of her notable songs is that of “Dear Dolly” co-written with friend and fellow songwriter Ruthie Collins. The song is inspired by the struggles the two have faced in their careers and serves as an open letter to one of country music’s finest.
“You know, Dolly would know exactly what to say and do in this moment,” Stovall says of why they look to for career inspiration, calling the legend the “cleverest, quickest woman I’ve ever seen in my life.” “It just kind of spilled out of us, it was perfect.” Rumor has it that Parton herself has heard the track and is “extremely flattered by it.”
In early 2016, Natalie Stovall and The Drive released the EP, “Heartbreak,” a process Stovall calls “extremely cathartic” after they were unexpectedly dropped from their record label before releasing the second single from their studio album. “That kind of set us into re-do mode, we were in that place where we had to kind of figure out what we were going to do next,” she says.
This “re-do mode” led the group to Kickstarter in hopes of raising enough money to release new music. The group’s momentum was reignited when they met their goal within the first week. “It allowed us to know that people really did want to hear music from us…and it didn’t matter whether we had a fancy record label or not,” she says of fans support. “People are fans because they like you as an artist…and they love what you have to say and it’s nice to know that it’s not about the ‘fancy pancy’ stuff – it’s about the music.”