American singer/songwriter/DJ/producer and music legend Ultra Naté has long been adored by electronic, dance and pop fans since the early 90’s. Ultra is celebrating her 30th year in the game having debuted on the scene in 1989 with the deep house classic “It’s Over Now” and her revered 1990 album, “Blue Notes In the Basement” album which spawned the hits “Rejoicing”, “Deeper Love”, “Scandal” and “Is It Love?”. Ultra was one of the first house music artists signed to a major label deal when she inked with Warners UK.
Three decades on with massive crowd stompers such as “Twisted”, “Automatic”, “Desire”, “Unconditional”, “New Kind Of Medicine”, “Found A Cure”, “How Long (Ultra Flava)” and the Top 10 pop nugget, “If You Could Read My Mind,” Ultra Naté is currently wrapping production on her 10th album, “ULTRA” and a handful of exciting new and unexpected collaborations. These have included the UK dance funk stomper, “Supernatural” with Point Blank music school alumni, Funk Cartel and the #1 soulful house essential, “I Can Dream” libed from the legend David Morales’ acclaimed album, “Life Is A Dance”.
Throughout Ultra’s career her sound has embraced a variety of genres including house, soul, disco, electro pop, R&B, hiphop and rock. She’s collaborated with a wide array of revered artists such as: The Basement Boys, Nellee Hooper, D-Influence, Mood II Swing, Nona Hendryx, Sia, Lenny Kravitz, Frankie Knuckles, N’Dea Davenport, DJ Class, NERVO, Todd Terry, Michelle Williams (of Destiny’s Child), 4 Hero, Deee-lite, Masters at Work (Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez), Roger Sanchez, Morgan Page, QuenBn Harris and others.
Ultra Naté’s career is full of timeless classic hits such as the unforgettable “Free”, which this year completes 25 years of “life”. The celebrations for this timeless hit started with the release of its reworked version by the popular duo Icona Pop and will continue until the end of the year!
Ultra Naté gave an exclusive interview to SounDarts.gr, and talked about everyone and everything!
Hello Ultra and welcome to SounDarts.gr. What have you been up to these days?
Everything! We just got out of a pandemic. I used that time very wisely and wrote what will now be my tenth album, which is coming out later this month. I’m very excited to say it… No. 10!!!
It’s a “MIRACLE”!
Yes, it’s a “MIRACLE”!! The album is self-titled, “ULTRA”. Also it’s the 25th anniversary of “Free” for which we’ve done some interesting things with that like the Icona Pop version which is out now. A reimagining of the track with some really great artists who introduced the song to some new demographic of kids just to give it like an update to celebrate the song’s 25 years. This track is still front and center in a lot of people’s minds and hearts and so that means a lot to me for still having this energy and power. I’ve also just finished an amazing performance with my backing band 45 Riots in Lincoln Center in New York City and it was an absolutely amazing thing to do. Amazing experience! Now I’ve got some other really fun things up my sleeve, that are going to come to press soon. So 2022 is turning out to be pretty amazing.
Recently you released your brand new single “MIRACLE”. What can you tell us about the procedure of its writing and the inspiration behind it?
When we go back to that period of the lockdown, it was really difficult and a tragic moment for a lot of people. We were seeing things going on in the world which were really traumatic between people leaving from here from covid, to racial injustice, to economic difficulties. So I was writing for the album and it was like a therapy to me. Every single day to have a plan of what I’m doing with myself that was constructive and creative. When I had “MIRACLE” from Gianni (Romano) who was sending me tracks for a couple of years, I never had the time to work on it. I’ve always wanted to work on it. I told him “I love the track, I’m gonna write to this, as soon as my schedule slows down”… but the time was really difficult because I was always on the road. Once I was settled and I couldn’t go anywhere then I could work on music every single day, I wrote ‘MIRACLE’ thinking about what I was seeing around me in the world. It was something to speak to my sisters, to black women and to people and women of groups that are marginalized, who struggled. Sometimes we get all beat up. We have to fight for this and that and we forget what our inner power and our strength is. So I wanted ‘MIRACLE’ to be that kind of song that would continue to inspire people. To speak it, gives it power. When you say something, you speak that power into the universe and to say “I’m a miracle, a mystery of ages, I’m a miracle a shining light” all of these things that are positive. I needed to put all this energy out there because I also needed that spiritual healing, It was working both ways. While I was working to heal myself, I was trying to create thing that would heal others.
What should we expect from the release of your forthcoming album “ULTRA”?
There’s always going to be different vibes and stories going on and put together in a body of work that makes sense together as a complete story. That’s how I’ve always approached my album-work. There are always the obvious singles that are going to be the drivers but it’s really about the complete story. For me, it was built when a pandemic space was happening and there was so much difficulty, fear, sadness and instability going on and a lot of this energy is going to be reflected in this album. A lot of these stories that I was thinking and seeing are going to be talked about in there but also always done in a way to bring light, not to live in the darkness, and to be honest, authentic and speak my truth. That’s what the album is about.
As you said earlier, before “MIRACLE” you released a re-edition of your 1997 smash hit “Free” with Icona Pop. How do you feel about the timeless value of the song?
The time was value of this song and that is so special. A song that affects people like this in your catalog, it’s something that a lot of people are never able to accomplish. That is always an amazing validation of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, putting out good energy and affecting people in a real way. This song has lived this incredible lifespan and continues to live because it still resonates with people. It still has a voice. It’s telling stories that people need to get out, and they need to express. And that’s going to always give it life. So for me, it’s special to have this work as my own, as something that I put out in the world, because that’s going to live longer than I do, into the generations. It’s always going to be special to me!
How was your collaboration with Icona Pop?
Doing it with Icona Pop was was one of the absolute ways that I wanted it to be reinterpreted and to be represented for this 25th anniversary. It wasn’t enough to just do a remix and then throw it out there. It was done in a way where it has a story and it has a personality that goes along with it. So with Icona Pop it felt like this is a really organic way to approach this. Like you don’t need to reinvent the wheel because the song is what it is, but you do want to approach it in a fresh way for new generations who may just be hearing it for the first time and still get that initial power, strength, energy and inspiration from it. That’s what the girls brought to it. Let’s bring the fun, let’s bring the empowerment and still have that sense of spirit that the original has.
Are there going to be any other single-releases before the album?
Well, it’s coming out later this month. I’m not sure. It would be a rush to try to do so, but it’s all possible. This very moment, our biggest concentration is the album, because there are things that we need to do behind the scenes to get it set up and ready to go. But who knows? Maybe next week we might be like, “OK, let’s get this upper single ready ’cause it’s there. It’s ready to go”.
You have also collaborated with a lot of worldwide known artists like Michelle Williams, David Morales, Sia, Lenny Kravitz, NERVO, Todd Terry etc. Is there a collaboration that stands out for you the most and why?
I’m always up for all of the different energies, characteristics and creative vibes that happen organically with whomever I’m working with. I collaborate with so many people. I’ve collaborated with Lem Springsteen of Mood II Swing who Co wrote “Free”, “Found a cure” and other tracks in the album “Situation: Critical”, way back in 1998. I collaborated with him again for the first time on this new album for a new track. I’ve also collaborated again with other people that I’ve worked with in the past and new people that I’ve never worked with before. It’s hard to tell who would be like my favorite. You just kind of like to have people that we get along with and they bring their particular talents to the table and then you tap into that, and just come up with something very organic.
Throughout your career your sound has embraced a variety of genres including house, soul, disco, electro pop, R&B, hiphop and rock. How did your sound evolve over time?
I started in this in this underground house music genre back in 1988 and at that time there was a new burgeoning sound that was just happening. And so we were experimenting and creating things that didn’t exist before. Technology was beginning to evolve, and how production was done. That played a large part into what was happening sonically. I had never written songs before. I wasn’t considering myself a singer by any stretch and so a lot of the things that I was writing and developing where all done in such a raw way. That kind of shaped where I was going to go and there were no rules, because it was new. We were able to pick and choose from different inspirations from all kinds of music. My manager at the time, Bill Coleman and Angelo Skordos now, we all listen to all different kinds of music and my management has been very involved in the creative aspect as well. Also my A&R people. My first A&R, Cynthia Cherry and Peter Edge and then on to Gladys Pizarro, later on the Strictly Rhythm, the people that I was working with in my whole sphere. I had license to go wherever I wanted to and they all appreciated and understood those places because everyone was very musical in that way and because house music was open to whatever the offering was because it was new. We had that kind of flexibility to do that. So I wrote whatever I was inspired to write in any given moment and that kind of lived like that as a magnetic sort of way.
Do you have any musical ambitions that you haven’t fulfilled till now?
Well I’m a girl… I always got plans and ambitions. I I love what I do and I love the fact that I have the creative license that I’ve had through my whole career. And that’s been a very special thing. So for me it’s to be able to continue to do that and my platform to grow. I’m already working in this space, in a way that I like, but it’s obviously to continue to let that platform grow, is always a goal because you want people to hear your music and to appreciate it. I love being onstage, I love performing for the masses and share in that moment so, as my career grows and continues, it’s to be able to say that it’s still growing 30 years later. It’s a wonderful thing. Every time I step on stage and in and there’s some little kid out there singing one of my songs or just masses of people and they know my music and tey’re singing along. In that moment, I’m so grateful in my head, I’m thinking “this is incredible, this is stunning”.
Have you ever visited Greece?
In fact, I’m on my way to next week. I’m playing a DJ set at Jackie O’ in Mykonos on July 13th, which is a very nice venue and the owners are in my heart. We’ve been planning this when the pandemic was over, for me to come back again. I had a couple really great shows there over the previous years before the pandemic hit. So we’ve been waiting for this moment, we’re going to have like, a family reunion, basically.
What was your experience from our country?
Well, back in the day, I would skip over to Greece periodically and I’ve been to Athens, Mykonos obviously and Thessaloniki. I had some really amazing shows there, and I’ve always had a really great time with the Greek people and the food!! Forget about it, that’s my thing! It’s always been a beautiful time with the culture and only thing I haven’t been able to do is spend time to go in tour and really see more like I’d like to. On this trip I’m actually taking two days off to just, be there and to really, absorb a little bit more culture because I used to read greek mythology like crazy when I was a kid. So, growing up and being an adult, then going into the music industry and turning up in these places, for me, it’s very spiritual in that way.
Which of your songs so far, holds a special place in your heart and why?
Come on. You know I can’t figure it out. So that’s that. That’s very tough, I mean, we’re talking about 9 albums of material and some independent singles in between. So that’s a lot of music. I will say some some of my favourites. “Twisted” is always good. People love that song and I love the way that people react to it. “Rejoicing” from my first album is always been one of my favorite songs. There are some that are album tracks that people may not know specifically, unless you lived in the albums. So from my “Situation:Critical” album, “Release The Pressure” is one of my one of my favorite songs and the song “Situation:Critical” itself. Finally “Pretender” the one with Lenny on the backing vocals. That’s a goodie too. Really great memory. Being in studio with Lenny and him playing guitar and singing background vocals, I was like “what the f*ck is happening?”.
What’s your motto in life?
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