Chrissie and Jimmy doing a gig at BB Rovers on 3/21/2015
Jimmy & Chrissie Natoli, as The Better Halves, have many accolades and awards around their belts: Jimmy Natoli: Finalist at the Hallettsville Songwriter Serenade Competition, 2011,2012; his song “Uncle Joe” featured on NPRs Cartalk, 2007; Kerrville Folk Festival Regional Ballad Tree Performer, 2006. Chrissie Natoli: Honorable Mention Woody Guthrie Songwriting Contest, 2012; Honorable Mention in ASG Song Contest, 2012; a Prairie Home Companion Duet Contest, Finalist with Avenue Elle. The Better Halves: Nominated for Best Vocal Duo of 2011 for the Texas Music Awards.
I had the awesome chance to meet with Chrissie & Jimmy Natoli at Chrissie’s Acupuncture office at 2000 Southern Oaks in South Austin. Originally I met them at a show they were performing in Austin. I was instantly drawn to their energy and positivism, and was grateful that our relationship led to this interview.
Jimmy is originally from Long Island in New York—he’s been in Texas for about twenty years. He began playing guitar when he was eleven years old. Chrissie’s home state is Pennsylvania; she went to Penn State, and later moved to Texas. Chrissie has a fifteen year old son as well.
Chrissie & Jimmy met when Jimmy was playing at a gig at a Farmer’s Market; he would invite other musicians to join him, playing an hour-long set, and one time he invited Chrissie to perform. From there, their relationship grew and keeps growing.
When asked how they decided on their name The Better Halves,” it was sort of like choosing a baby’s name,” said Chrissie; they kept thinking and processing, and eventually chose the name The Better Halves because something about this name gave Chrissie a feeling of ‘rightness in her spirit.’ As The Better Halves, both accomplished musicians, they each mutually excel one another.
I asked, “Do you feel a new consciousness, that includes the Arts, may come about in the future? How do the Arts help to raise consciousness?” Chrissie suggested that the world-wide impact of Digital Technology plays an increasing role as a part of this consciousness. Artists can now have global contacts, so social media has brought together a community of humans who are passionate about art along with countless other people. She also feels, though, that the spontaneous combustion of the Internet has an outcome of digesting a mass of information. It sometimes happens that someone from somewhere hears their music, and makes comments. Yet, as Jimmy expressed, no one is sure, as an artist, if a neighbor who lives down the block will see or catch them on Google or Facebook. The explosion of Digital Technology will change the way we do relationships. Much of this is here already, but we don’t yet have clear maps for this virginal territory.
Both Jimmy & Chrissie believe that Music & the Arts are an integral part of holistic healing. Jimmy related a story of a friend of his who had cancer, and eventually died. As his friend was nearing death, Jimmy sang a song to him that he had written, because they used to play together when Jimmy first learned he had cancer. Once he went to visit his sick friend, and afterwards, a nurse told his friend that his pain & anxiety were high & erratic. But when Jimmy sang his song, his mood and physical effects briefly all leveled out. Shortly after this experience, his friend died. Could it be that Jimmy’s music helped him to peacefully prepare for death?
All of us are familiar with a diverse list of holistic methods now available, from Health Care to Mental Health services; research studies are demonstrating the connection between alternative therapies and brain chemistry. Artistic creativity has the ability to help us build new brains, change neural pathways, and systemically affects our sense of wellness, often infusing over into other dimensions of our lives.
There is also a spirituality factor in this creative process. Jimmy told the story of how his music is his connection to something beyond himself, and is a very meditative & contemplative process. Additionally, he says that other artists, mainly musicians, are his spiritual community, even as Buddhists have their sangha’s (communities).
Both of The Better Halves pointed to one experience that was so powerful in regards to creativity affecting mental health issues that it changed how they looked at life. They facilitated a six-week course whose participants were beginning to have memory problems possibly leading to Alzheimer ’s disease. They used music, discussion, storytelling & writing, and the participants began to see that they did have a collection of stories, and began writing, and over time they began to love it. Jimmy said it gave genuine empowerment to him, and was thankful to facilitate the course.
The Better Halves make 300% more music than Texas June Bugs!
Contact Information for The Better Halves:
Email to Chrissie: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (512) 773-2605
Check out The Better Halves every Saturday at the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market!
__________________________________________________________________________© Christopher Bear-Beam September 3, 2014