She is one of the most legendary divas of the dance floor, a grand dame of club land and pop music, adored by fans around the world. Her voice instantly recognizable, her songs have become part of the soundtracks of our lifetimes. She is Ultra Naté and she’s back with a new album, called what else but simply ULTRA.
Speaking about her tenth studio album since the start of her career 30 years ago, Ultra said: “This ULTRA album, unlike any other, was the most cathartic and anchoring experience! Pandemic isolation and grief over the loss of many friends, unravelled the protective walls I had built around myself. Stripped bare emotionally, confused, and weary of the world, I needed to remind myself every day, who I was at my core.
“Writing, recording and shaping this collection of songs, physically alone, but with a team of people also committed to bringing this 10th album to life, was the gift.”
Finally back in the States after an extensive summer European tour, Raver Magazine were thrilled to sit down and catch up with the illustrious star to learn more about the album-making process, Ultra’s storied 30-year career, and talk about the lasting legacy of her seminal classic ‘Free’…
RM: Ultra, what an honour! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you tell us where in the world you are right now and what you’re doing?
Ultra Naté: I am finally back at home in Baltimore after traveling, performing and DJ-ing the globe the better part of this Summer. I have been fully absorbed in my ULTRA album release week and riding that amazing wave! Our independent release went Top 10 in 4 countries and #1 in the U.S. the weekend of release.
ULTRA – https://ingrv.es/ultra-sco-g
RM: 30 years in the music industry – what do you think are your most important insights?
Ultra Naté: Make the music that you love because once you put it out, it will live forever and you want to make music you can stand behind 10, 20 even 50 years later! It is also very important to have a great team of people supporting you and helping bring the vision come to life. And on the business side I would always recommend an entertainment specific lawyer and accountant in your corner!
RM: If you could give young Ultra any advice at the start of her career, what would it be and why?
Ultra Naté: Slow down and take everything in because it goes by tremendously fast! Don’t sweat the small things and definitely do not take anything personally. Lastly, learn to be OK with some in your sphere not understanding your journey.
RM: ‘Free’ turns 25 this year – how have you been celebrating such a milestone, and why do you think the song still resonates with so many people?
Ultra Naté: We have definitely been celebrating! The first of which, was the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts live show with an 11-piece band, for their Summer For The City event series and New York’s Pride weekend. It was amazing to hear material from all of my previous albums, as well as new tracks from the “then” upcoming ULTRA album, in a completely live format! After that, we finalized a deal with Icona Pop, who were excited to reimagine “Free” as an electro pop duet with me for a single re-branded as “You’re Free.” I loved this idea as we are big Icona Pop fans and thought it would be an amazing collaboration, which it has been. “You’re Free” version has gone Number 3 recently in Sweden and Top 10 in the Scandinavian dance charts and is breaking here in the States and Canada on dance crossover radio. The ULTRA album also contains a re-recorded update of the original as a bonus cut, “Free (Live Your Life)”.
RM: ‘Free’ is of course always going to be synonymous with you and your career, along with other hits like ‘Automatic’, ‘It’s Over Now’, but if you wanted us to listen to one song you’ve made that’s not quite so well known, which one would you choose and why?
Ultra Naté: I collaborated with Lenny Kravitz on my song “Pretender”, from the Stranger Than Fiction album (2001). The music industry and my label started to implode and disintegrate before our eyes in those early 2000s because of file sharing and the Napster debacle. I was on a major at the time and everything went into a tailspin as labels started to dissolve or merge into other labels. It was quite a mess and ended up being a terrible time to have a new album in the marketplace. No one saw it coming but when it hit, it was like a tsunami. So, for me that track never got it’s day in the sun, but it is one that I love to pieces and of course the L.A. studio session was magical (An unknown at the time Kate Hudson is handicapping with us on this!). An experience I will always remember and cherish, working with such an icon who was so giving and present.
RM: There are a lot of collaborators on ‘ULTRA’ – why is that and why did you want to work with them?
Ultra Naté: I was writing like an animal during lockdown, it was really therapeutic for me so really I just reached out to people that I wanted to work with or people who had already sent me backing track ideas that I never had time to get to. I knew I wanted to work with Henrik Schwartz , Tracy Young and Freemasons so I just reached out to them. Some collaborations came together organically and quite out of the blue like Slowz, Funk Cartel, John “J-C” Carr and Blue Lab Beats. Then there were my family who were always around, who I always interact with about music, whether from a DJ perspective or an artist perspective – people like Quentin Harris, Tedd Patterson, Inaya Day and Lem Springsteen of Mood II Swing.
RM: Are there any artists that you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
Ultra Naté: Definitely – but I can’t jinx it by naming them yet. I’m a little superstitious that way.
RM: What’s important for you when it comes to picking collaborators?
Ultra Naté: I usually pick people who have a sound and a style that I feel would complement my sensibilities, people who are professional and have a mutual respect for what we each bring to the table.
RM: Is there something on your career bucket list that you haven’t done yet?
Ultra Naté: I’ve done a lot with my career and the experiences have been exceptional and such a blessing. Headlining an arena tour with a full band, and having the luxury to really expand my live show with full production value around is on that list.
RM: What’s next for you?
Ultra Naté: Working my newly released ULTRA album over the next few months with remixes and additional tracks for physical format releases and possible deluxe edition is job one. There are also more epic things in the works for the 25th anniversary of “Free.” Of course, my usual international touring schedule keeps me busy and producing my own party event Deep Sugar, here in Baltimore, continues to grow!
DJ Ultra Naté DJ Mix: “The Glow Up”: