Natalia Zukerman's swirling mix of blues, jazz and folk has a restless, wayfaring edge. The 34-year-old openly lesbian singer-songwriter wandered beyond her native New York for help making her fourth album, Brand New Frame, in 2008. She collaborated with well-known Badger State musicians. Milwaukee's Willy Porter produced, and the Gomers' Dave Adler played keyboard on the disc. Last weekend, I asked Zukerman how Cheeseheads came to influence her work.
How did you get to know Willy Porter?
I first opened for Willy in Eugene, Ore. We'd never met, and I'd never heard his music. He was done with sound check when I arrived, so after my quick setup, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. We became fast friends. Everyone who meets Willy falls in love, and I was no exception. And then I heard him play. I felt like my whole planet shifted, and with no hint of sarcasm here, my life has never been the same. Willy is my greatest musical hero and one of the nearest and dearest people to my heart.
How did Porter end up producing your new CD?
I ended up doing a bunch of shows with Willy that spring. He knew I was thinking about making a new record. He'd heard all the new tunes I wanted to record and offered his studio as a place to record some demos. When we talked more and dreamed and planned, it became clear to both of us that we wanted to make the record together. We're now working on our second record together that will be out on his label, Weasel Records, in February 2011.
How did Dave Adler get involved?
I am so lucky to have also met and played with a lot of the musicians that Willy's been working with for years. Both of my projects with Willy will have Dave Schoepke on drums, Bryan Mir on bass and Adler on keys, as well as lots of other guests.
Any other Madison connections?
Tret Fure has been a wonderful support for me over the years. She's a tremendous musician and a wonderful person, and she gave me my first opening spot at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia back in 2004.
Do you have Wisconsin roots yourself?
I do now!