Merriam-Webster defines the word ‘normal’ as ‘conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.’ It’s such an abstract definition of something that’s perceived as so rigid, that it makes the challenge of actually defining the word all the more amusing.
“What’s normal anyway?” ask Akron, Ohio singer/songwriter duo DreamStates in their new single “Normal” — available now. “As we say in the song, you’re more than any stereotype.”
DreamStates is equal parts the creative handiwork of Madeline Eckhart and Natalie Grace Martin. While they previously honed harmonies working together in Natalie’s live ensemble during her “She/Her/Hers Tour” — including a critically acclaimed performance at Akron’s inaugural Pride Festival last year — they quickly learned a newly-inspired iteration of working together could be so much more than just a band.
“We have a really strong mutual desire to expand the roster of transgender musicians in the entertainment industry,” DreamStates explain. “For us, it goes far beyond our personal musical goals and over into the realm of activism, equality and empowerment for what is an embattled community of beautiful people.
“We like to say, DreamStates is ‘love made aural’.”
Speaking of love, “Normal” was an act of self-love and -care by Natalie this past winter as she celebrated her annual milestone.
“This song was a birthday present to myself,” reflects Natalie. “I wanted to write something that felt like a gift to myself. I made sure that it included everything I love.”
On the list? It had to be groovy.
It had to be positive. It had to be innovative, powerful, and uplifting.
Most of all, however, it had to be fun.
“The song came together through a combination of FL Studio 10, Audacity, and sheer musical determination,” she laughs. “I composed the whole thing in a single 10-hour sitting.
“The world’s never had a hugely successful and popular transgender female pop vocalist. The biggest challenge we face (sharing our music) could be simply introducing people to the trans feminine voice. I know my tone fluctuates; I have moments of masculinity and moments of femininity in what is, overall, a totally androgynous vocal performance.”
“Normal” is but one track in the 12 song debut collection titled Parts One and Two. Co-written between them, Natalie and Madeline found the process to be a passion project like none other, fuelled by momentum and drive. “The songs just kept coming to us, like we couldn’t stop,” says Martin. “We wrote the whole album between December 2017 and February 2018, with Natalie’s “Normal” coming right in the middle of it on her actual birthday, January 2nd,” shares Eckhart. “We released it in halves. “Normal” is featured on Part Two and stands in solidarity with the album’s overarching themes of self-love, acceptance, and triumph.”
Coming full circle, it was only fitting the video be recorded in the same room it was written.
“Natalie wanted a simple, straightforward approach,” Madeline recalls. “We were heavily inspired by the ‘simple concept yields astounding results’ aesthetic of OK GO. She challenged herself to see how much she could do visually with a single, close-up shot of a face.”
The results are an intimate, boundary-breaking tete-a-tete with Natalie start to end.
The video is polished and engaging, which is especially notable considering the creative rigging DreamStates created to pull it together. “I used an everyday kitchen mixer — a whisk — propped up in a small metal bucket to hold my iPhone in place,” Natalie laughs, detailing her impromptu ‘cameraman.’ “I then used Vegas Pro 12 with the very multi-talented Madeline to edit it.”
While the side bar pep talk here should inspire emerging artists the world over that yes, you can create magic using only a camera phone, creativity, and your kitchen, the true goal of the video was unequivocally achieved, and then some.
“We simply wanted to show a transgender individual giving a message of hope, love, and positivity,” DreamStates share. “We think we got there.”
That they did.
“Normal” is available now.