Natural (band)

Natural (band)

Natural was an American boy band who were best known for their debut single and signature song "Put Your Arms Around Me". They were very successful in Germany and the Philippines, releasing two albums and nine singles.

Formation

The original band was formed in 1999 when future members Marc Terenzi and Ben Bledsoe met at a party. Terenzi and Bledsoe met future band mates Patrick King and Michael Johnson at an industry party. The four got together and after subsequent members joined and left (at one point they had 6 or 7 members total), settled on fifth member Michael Horn who Bledsoe had found through his vocal coach.

The five young men tried to get signed to record label on their own but ended up being turned down by most of the major labels. The originally worked with manager Veit Renn and recorded several songs. However the band eventually frustrated turned to Lou "Big Poppa" Pearlman. Renn was not pleased with this and sued. The outcome of the case is unknown though the band did eventually stay with Pearlman.

How Pearlman found them is unsure; one story claims he saw them rehearsing at Transcon Dance Studios. Another story claims they first had success with the German reality show 24 hours. The show was successful and the band played the main stage at the major music festival Popkomm in 2000. Supposedly after this Lou Pearlman signed them to a production deal. The band was signed under Transcontinental Records and released under that and Sony BMG abroad.

Whichever origin they had Pearlman promptly returned them to Germany for a test run as he prepared their US debut.

Pearlman loved the fact that the guys still had the marketability of his boyband roots, but had the credibility of a real band as they all played instruments. Renn claims he was the one who insisted they learn instruments, spending $75,000 on their training. However certain members such as Horn and Terenzi had been playing since childhood.

Ben Bledsoe was the "All-American Guy" who played bass and was one of the lead vocals, Marc Terenzi was "the flirt" who played guitar as well as being one of the lead vocals. Michael Horn became J Horn, to avoid confusion. He was the "mature one" who played piano and was the final lead vocal (though in subsequent years as he withdrew from the band he was featured less), while Patrick King was the "younger brother" who also played guitar, and Michael Johnson was "the rebel" who played the drums.

The band became known as the "Jack of all trades" in the industry. They weren't afraid to try anything. This started when the band realized that they couldn't promote themselves very easily without having to bring their instruments with them everywhere they went, so they started performing a cappella versions of their music. This method was successful; their first show at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL was completely sold out.

Soon after, they kept building by Ben Bledsoe learning how to beat box and do vocal bass lines with the band in the a cappella setting. Then, after realizing that both Michael Johnson and Patrick King had extensive training in dance, the band added a few up tempo Rock style dance songs to their set. These were only seen on their tours, as it was a way to keep the show changing and more interesting. They would also switch instruments to allow one singer to have more front time for a specific song, such as "What If" and "Why it Hurts" where Marc would play bass and allow Ben to take the front of the stage.

2000: Debut and U.S. attempt

In the summer of 2000 Pearlman hired the "Genie in a Bottle" writer for Natural's first single, "Put Your Arms Around Me". He also struck a deal with teenage accessories store Claire's. The teenybopper store would sell the single as an extra with a $12 or more purchase. A join tour with the Monkees in conjunction with Claire's followed. However something was lost because the single never actually charted on the Billboard Hot 100. The single became #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales Chart yet that had little impact on the general public.

Natural would attempt the US several times in the next few years, though sporadically. Such promotions included several interviews and features in POPstar Magazine, performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2001, performing medley tribute to the BeeGees as part of ABC's 'Disco Ball' in 2003, and at one point a mall tour with Saks Fifth Avenue. Yet they still never charted or had successful radio play outside of Orlando.

2001: German album debut and success

Pearlman decided to wait on the U.S. release and the band went back to Germany where their first album Keep It Natural was released. The album exploded onto the top of the charts in many territories across the world, and debuted at #2 in Germany. This was only the beginning. The band continued with 8 top 10 singles and multiple Number 1's. The tours grew from Club-sized venues to Arena Tours.

The single and the album did quite well, and tours followed around Germany. The band also experienced success in Malaysia and Japan as well as the Philippines. These were the Asian countries where they had the most success, winning several awards (see awards section).

2003: New direction and disagreements

The days of pop boy bands had long passed even in Germany, and the members were adamant about trying out their own new sound. With each of their poppier singles progressively dropping on the charts (for instance "Put Your Arms Around Me" reached #12, while the fourth single, "Runaway", only reached #40) the guys felt it was time to change.

The style they wished to change to was a more mature, acoustic pop/rock with harmonies similar to the style of Lifehouse and The Calling. The band had tried to release "Paradise" as a single, but Pearlman was hesitant about the new sound. Some form of a compromise was reached when Paradise was released as a radio-only single. Rumors of a planned US release followed, however (minus local Orlando airplay in the summer of 2003) nothing ever became of it.

Apparently grudgingly (he tried to release poppy cover "Left 2 Right" to Radio Disney in summer 2004...2 years after the initial Keep It Natural release), Pearlman gave in and made another compromise: the release of the guitar ballad "What If?". The single however (unlike the rest of their second album) was not written by any of the members. Again talk of an American release occurred and actually did happen; however, the single failed to chart. In Germany it reached a little higher then "Runaway" by hitting #34.

Encouraged, their second album It's Only Natural went ahead as planned with all songs but "What If" written by at least one or two of the members (mainly Ben Bledsoe and Marc Terenzi; Patrick King and Michael 'J' Horn only had one writing credit on the 15 track CD). In addition to the writing, the vocals took a change. Keep It Natural had many of the songs splitting verses in the Marc/J/Ben order. The new album (most likely due to participation as Michael 'J' Horn had already intended to move on) featured mainly either Ben Bledsoe or Marc Terenzi on the vocals with the other one taking harmonies or a verse. J didn't even have a solo, and Patrick appeared in just one song. However, Michael's role had severely changed, with him sharing harmonies and occasionally lead vocals (unlike the Keep It Natural era when he was only featured on a bonus track). He would have even had more a role with "Cabdriver" which featured him on lead with Ben.

An up-tempo single in the new rock sound was released, entitled "Let Me Just Fly". This single charted higher then the last 2 at #23 in Germany. With the renewed success a string of other singles ("Cabdriver", etc.) were planned for release; however, the split disrupted them.

Split

Rumors were rife with why the band was splitting. Marc Terenzi had met German pop star Sarah Connor in the summer of 2003 and against Pearlman's wishes had kept dating her.

Outside of the Marc controversy the members were beginning to grow tired of Pearlman's rules. Not only did he suppress their writing abilities, he forced them to completely lip sync on shows and worse yet on most of the shows on the final tour. The boys who could sing and play instruments weren't allowed to do either just supposed to pretend they were. Michael Johnson later said that they had made the most of it. He couldn't play guitar but in some of the shows he would pretend he could. Most fans however did not get the joke.

Pearlman's other rules were also just as disheartening. For his boy bands, no member was allowed to get a piercing or tattoo, grow facial hair, and worst of all have a public girlfriend. The guys of course didn't always obey, especially Michael Johnson (who once while in the band pierced his lip) and Marc Terenzi.

In June 2004 it was announced that Sarah Connor was pregnant and the couple was engaged. Pearlman didn't like this and wanted Terenzi kicked out and replaced. Terenzi was a founding member, and the other members were not about to fall for it, so they decided to split - except for Patrick King.

Summer 2004: The end of the original

With the split of the original lineup imminent, the members quickly released a duet with Sarah Connor called "Just One Last Dance". It was more of a 'Marc and Sarah' duet due to the fact his vocals were the only ones featured from the band. The single was wildly successful, becoming Natural's only #1 and Sarah's 3rd.

The band announced they would go on a final tour in support of their album for the summer of 2004. However, Michael 'J' Horn had previous commitments and decided not to join. Mike Castonguay, the band's musical director and producer, replaced him for the tour.

Before the split had been decided, "3 Miles" and "Cabdriver" (which only appeared on the Japanese release) had been planned as possible singles. A video was even shot for "Cabdriver" (with a 30s theme), though it was never released. The final single officially released was "Why It Hurts" (also a Japanese bonus track). The song had moderate success, and the band finished its tour thus ending the original Natural.

Aftermath in the name

In November 2004 it was announced that Lou Pearlman was going to keep on with the 'Natural idea' at least in name. Instead of boy banding them he had original member Patrick King and four new members who now were going to be doing 'fake punk' music instead of pop. This did not sit well with many fans of the original band.

A year and a half passed, and the 'New Natural' had failed to even match the poor success of the later original Natural years (despite claiming all previous successes as their own). Many natives of the Orlando music scene stayed away from shows upon hearing the boy band tinged name. In early 2006 Pearlman's band renamed themselves "Well Worn Zero", and the name "Natural" was retired for the moment.

However once "Well Worn Zero" was dropped by Transcon, Pearlman decided he wasn't done with the "Natural" name. In the July/August 2006 issue of Orlando Style magazine, the 2am girls made the following statement about Pearlman's bands quote: "...and some super cute members of the British boys who are new additions to the rock group, Natural."

It seems there's nothing on the web about the third version of Natural or what plans Pearlman had for them. In early 2007 Pearlman was indicted on several fraud charges. He is currently in custody facing charges, and with his businesses in control of a court-appointed charge it is very unlikely any new incarnations of Natural will come about.

Original members aftermath

  • Ben Bledsoe started a solo career in 2005 and released his own indie solo CD Insomniac's Guide to a Lonely Heart, for which he wrote much of the music and lyrics. He toured the US and Germany in support of it. He created and runs his own record label, 44th Floor Records, and is currently working on a new album. He is also securing several acting roles.
  • Marc Terenzi married Sarah Connor in March 2004 shortly after the birth of their son Tyler. The family starred in their own reality show Sarah and Marc in Love that summer, and shortly after he released his own CD Awesome which was again mostly written by himself. The singles "Heat Between the Sheets" and "Love to Be Loved by You" both did very well on the German charts, reaching the top 10. He recently became a father for the second time with the birth of his daughter Summer, and is preparing new material.
  • Michael 'J' Horn married his girlfriend Olivia, and both reside in Winter Park, Florida. Horn currently teaches music, and is still acting and musically directing several plays in the Orlando area.
  • Patrick King was last known to still be in the 2nd version of Natural. In 2006 after a year and a half keeping the name "Natural" the band finally renamed itself "Well Worn Zero". In April 2006 they were dropped by Transcontinental Records. Last news was they would be going 'indie'; however that idea seems to have been dropped and the group has disbanded.
  • Michael Johnson teamed up with former Natural producer Mike Castonguay and created a punk blues band called Lukewarm Freeda. While they work on a debut album he also plays with other acts such as In For The Kill, Lover's Revolt and Jake CoCo in the Los Angeles area. He created and runs his own label, Blue Suede Records.

Trivia

Discography

Albums

all release dates are German unless noted otherwise

Year Title Chart Positions Certifications
GER AU CH
2002 Keep It Natural

2
9
72
2004 It's Only Natural

31
-
-

Singles

Year Title Chart Positions Certifications
GER AU CH Billboard Hot 100 Singles Sales Charts
2001 "Put Your Arms Around Me"
  • First single in the US and Germany
  • Released: 2001
  • Formats: CD

12
15
39
3
RIAA Certified Gold
2002 "Let Me Count the Ways"

11
49
57
-
2002 "Will It Ever"

27
38
-
-
2003 "Runaway"
  • 4th German single
  • Released: January, 2003
  • Formats: CD

40
59
-
-
2003 "Paradise"
  • Radio single only; was planned to be a 2nd US single but dropped
  • Released: Spring 2003
  • Formats: CD

-
-
-
-
2003 "What If"

34
-
-
-
RIAA Certified Gold
2004 "Let Me Just Fly"

23
52
-
-
2004 "Just One Last Dance"

1
5
8
-
2004 "Why It Hurts"

49
-
-
-

Awards

  • MTV Asia "Artist of the Month"
  • German Silver Otto Award
  • 2002 MTV Philippines Debut Artist of the Year
  • Popcorn Magazine's "Artist of the Year" award

References

External links

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