Ultra Naté: “I’m honoured that ‘Free’ continues to be an anthem that pushes us forward!’
As the voice – and co-writer – of one of house music’s most iconic anthems, Ultra Naté has more than earned her place in the Hall of Fame of electronic music.
And as the empowering track celebrates its 25th anniversary, the American singer, songwriter, record producer, and DJ is not slowing down. Travelling the world as an in-demand performer, and with two new releases under her belt, we managed to catch a few minutes with the powerhouse artist on her tour de force of Europe…
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! How are you doing, and where are we catching you right now?
I’m doing great, thank you! I’ve just recently headlined at Puerto Vallarta Pride!
This year marks the 25th anniversary of your iconic anthem ‘Free’ – it’s amazing how its core message still resonates on a global level so many years on…
Yes, it is quite amazing to watch and experience as the years have gone by. As a global society, we are constantly moving through these periods of difficulty and the need for a ‘fight song’ to push us forward is always at the forefront.
It is a tremendous honour to have a song that is significant in that way. But also, there is the underlying feel-good party anthem that continues to make people want to sing and dance through the generations!
As you co-wrote the song, what is its true meaning to you? When you wrote it, what was your primary inspiration?
Speaking loudly, charging at fences, continuing to carve my own path and taking risks musically were my biggest inspirations in terms of the attitude. I was stepping towards what would be my first single after two major label albums, and huge shifts in dance music culture were happening.
Together with my collaborators Mood II Swing and Peace Bisquit (my management), we collectively felt this was the time to really push the boundaries and experiment musically with what we could do within this genre of dance. So we really drilled down on the guitar ideas as the main character of the story musically, a distinct sound that had not been done, and then the message came next.
A message of connection, inclusivity and empowerment, these were all things we felt strongly about as a group – and felt the world needed to hear and be inspired by!
“Free” has been sampled by many different artists over the years, do you have a favourite alternative version of your song?
Yes, my new collaboration with Icona Pop is so fun and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it! It’s dropping this June, so get ready to bump it through the summer!
Ibiza is a place often associated with the notion of ‘being free’, how have you experienced this on the island?
Everything is so much more relaxed and vibrant in Ibiza. The island has a special energy, beautiful water with gorgeous sun and sand that feeds your soul. It is also like ‘ground zero’ for club life, so there is a feeling of community from around the world uniting us all in the single purpose of expressing ourselves through music. All of that equates to a sense of liberation, which has made “Free” part of Ibiza’s history.
You said in previous interviews you ‘fell into club culture’ while studying at university. What did you love about it, and the earlier years of house music?
I loved everything about underground club culture and analogue sound systems, thumping music that made you want to dance all night and into the next day. I loved the energy of the clubs in Baltimore, New York and London in those days. It was hot, sweaty and full of happy people that just needed the music, the sense of belonging, and a place to call home, with no pretence.
How did you experience the closure of the clubs for two years?
It was so sad and traumatic to watch because ‘club land’ has always been a significant part of my recreation and business life. I was watching memories fade, and dance floors that have cured our mental and emotional ills, and helped us find love, were closing their doors.
Here on Ibiza, we are braced for a historic season as venues fully reopen. What do you expect from the island’s renaissance and the global return of clubbing?
I expect a renewed vigour for the lifestyle and culture of clubbing. For many, it brought into sharp focus how dismal and stressful life can be without that bit of release! Ibiza specifically has always been a beacon of light for freedom and self-expression, this year I expect that the energy will explode after being pent up during two years of uncertainty.
Do you have time to hit the dance floor when you visit the island? Where would you go?
It’s been two years, so I love to investigate the new offerings on the island and see what they are like. I would definitely catch a good beat at Soul Heaven, Glitterbox, Black Coffee, La Troya, The Masquerade, and Flower Power.
What would your perfect Ibiza day look like?
A mid-morning rise, a coffee, a brief workout or yoga class, all day at the beach with a swim, lunch, a long nap, and then home to shower, get dressed, dinner with my man and/or friends, ferocious dancing, followed by an intimate sunrise.
What else can we look forward to from Ultra Naté this year?
Lots of new music, and a new album for the summer with some amazing collaborations! I’m also spinning and performing at some great events around the globe that will keep me extremely busy!
Interview by Olivia Ebeling.