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The Pacific Northwest trans songwriter (real name Nat Puff) likes to fry it up crispy and top it over a bowl of rice and a hard-to-get-perfect over-medium egg. Then she tops it with a half-sriracha half-kewpie mayonnaise sauce she mixes in to create an ideal morning meal. Though veganaise will “do in a pinch,” she says. Puff often had the stuff once a week, though less so more recently. Another meal she enjoys, on occasion, early in the day is a “breakfast burger,” which is vegan and involves turning plain buns into a French toast-style burger bookended with cinnamon. Inside? Crunchy peanut butter layered over the patty. Though she might try strawberries and powdered sugar on her next one. Yes, Puff concocts. Whether it’s a meal or her latest mixtape, she’s often at work, tinkering, finding the perfect balance, and recipe. That is evident in Puff’s latest single, “Make You Proud (feat. TYGKO),” which American Songwriter is premiering today (June 15). The song is set to release on her next EP, Transgender Street Legend Volume 3, which itself is out June 24.
“If you can have Nutella crepes for breakfast,” says Puff, half-confidently, and half-defiantly, “you can have a breakfast burger with strawberries and powdered sugar.”
For Puff, who first began learning to play instruments around third grade, first piano then dabbling in drums before getting a guitar, the elements of a song (and breakfast) are always at play, intermingling, always shiftable until the last moment when they’re set to be unleashed into the world, devoured. As a kid, beginning to learn about the building blocks of songs, Puff was introduced to hip-hop largely by her sister, a dance teacher. Today, Puff is increasingly influenced by rap and hip-hop. It’s the most versatile genre, she says, a student of Kendrick Lamar’s releases. Today, when listening to her work, the bombastic percussive nature of hip-hop is especially evident in the work she’s released, from the popular EP, Transgender Street Legend Vol. 1 (see: “Revolution Lover”) to later albums, including Volume 3.
“The Transgender Street Legend series was something I started because I was working on [another album] You Are Not Alone Enough very heavily,” says Puff. “A lot of songs I was making couldn’t fit onto that album.”
Volume 1 ended up being one of her most popular releases, which is saying something for an artist with a big, at times-ravenous, social media following. And the momentum for Volume 1 has led to two more in the series. On this third offering, Puff’s singing voice is as strong as ever. It’s raspy and rich, powerful and muscular. Songs on it are pastiches, made from a bit of inspiration here and a borrowed drum track from another song there. A chorus from one idea here, a synth from another song attempt there. Like a cook using whatever’s at hand to create a meal with savoring.
“As far as vocally,” she says, “it’s really funny because I remember the first verse [on the third track, ‘My Old Ways’], I wrote during a beat battle—I think a lot of that vocal performance was delivered out of a time crunch. And the first chorus was written the first time I was on ‘shrooms when I was trying to come up with a verse for a friend of mine’s song.”
Puff is one of those songwriters, who, when preparing to release one work, is also finishing the next release simultaneously. Today, she’s working on several projects at once. Readying to drop the EP this month while throwing a listening party on Patreon for it, while also preparing to finish writing and recording a full-length she plans to let loose in the fall. Puff has a large fan base (nearly 200,000 Twitter followers) and many of her fans encourage her to continue her creativity, whether that’s music, comedy, or creative writing. Yet, recently, Puff has decided to take a mental health break from social media. She’s venturing outside more, reading. Social media was affecting her mentality, offering a “hostile environment” along with the pockets of encouragement.
“It’s been really good for me,” she says of her hiatus.
Following that path of sanity, the 25-year-old Puff said she “cried tears of joy for the first time in possibly a year-and-a-half last night.” She was sitting on her friend’s rooftop and emotions swelled. Previously, when she’s cried, it’s been the result of sadness or confusion. But as of late, she’s feeling better about her state of affairs, more centered. When that happens, it’s the little things that can make one feel overwhelmed, in a good way.
“I think overall,” she says, “that’s a good way to exemplify how my life has been as of this past couple of weeks.”
Now, with loads of music in the can and day-to-day life of tinkering, recording, and releasing new songs, Puff is ready for the future. She has some positive momentum behind her and possible business opportunities lining up, along with new albums set to unveil. She has high standards for her nest full-length and believes that will set a new bar for her work. She’s even impressing herself. Music has given her these gifts (along with a lot of hard work). Music has provided the avenue she’s walked that’s helped her express herself in ways no other creative boulevard could—with the possible exception of cooking.
“I’d have to say, the expression of emotions that’s otherwise unexpressive,” Puff says, “that’s what really does it for me. In music, you can capture specific emotions that are impossible to capture otherwise. It’s absolutely insane what you can do with music.”