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LISTEN: Get Your Headphones And Listen to Natalia Zukerman's New Album Before Anyone Else

LISTEN: Get Your Headphones And Listen to Natalia Zukerman's New Album Before Anyone Else

LISTEN: Get Your Headphones And Listen to Natalia Zukerman's New Album Before Anyone Else

The folk artist is giving SheWired readers an exclusive peek of her seventh album before it drops on September 16th.

Brooklyn based folk bad ass, Natalia Zukerman is already on tour with her seventh album, Come Thief, Come Fire, which is set to be released on Tuesday. We caught up with her on the road to ask her a few questions about the fan funded project. Zukerman is also giving readers a chance to take a listen to it before it's released. Get out your headphones and get ready for some bluesy goodness. 
SheWired: Your last album, Gypsies & Clowns, felt personal because it was live and you recorded it with so many of your friends in music (Erin McKeown, AG, Garrison Star, Willy Porter, the list goes on.) It made the listener feel like they were at a party with a group of friends they've known for decades. This album also features some of those same friends but it has an entirely different mood. How did it come together?
Natalia Zukerman: I feel so lucky that these are the  people that are my community, my chosen family. I’ve been making records with Willy Porter for a while now. When we get together, we play each other our new songs just sitting on the floor in the living room and we “noodle” around on guitar. It’s sometimes my favorite incarnations of the songs and I always wish that we had it recorded. So I decided to do that this time- I went out to Milwaukee with a handful of songs and we recorded “live” in the studio- two guitars and vocals at the same time. Out of that collection, one of the songs, “What Comes After” was begging for more production so I sent it to AG and Meg Toohey, knowing those two would send back something lush and cinematic. I was so excited by that version of the song that I just followed the path out there and recorded more with AG. Now I thought that maybe there would be two separate Eps (one acoustic, one more produced), but once the record was done, it became clear that it was just one story that unfolds. 
Erin and I co-wrote the title track and when I wrote “Jane Avril” I just knew I needed to have Erin’s ear and style for that song so she produced it and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record. Even with all the cooks in the kitchen, the final product ended up being cohesive somehow. I think that’s because I had a cohesive vision- great lesson for me there which is that when someone is clear with their intention, it’s hard to argue with the outcome.
Come Thief, Come Fire definitely has a linear story and each song feels like a chapter. What was the inspiration?
At some point, it seems, we all start to notice our patterns, our habits. Some of these patterns are the way we’ve developed to cope with the world and navigate our relationships and they’ve worked really well, protected us and gotten us through. But some of them keep us stuck. I was, and still am, in the place of shedding some of the patterns that don’t work for me anymore. It’s not always pretty but it’s good work if you’re willing to do it! Gotta literally burn things down in order for new growth. That's how I see this record- it's a character that is going through that process. For better and for worse.
Unlike books and movies, the way people listen to an album now isn't necessarily linear. People can skip around and shuffle and miss the story line. Do you think listeners gain more by listening to an album the way it was intended?
That’s something I thought about a lot- the track order is always really important to me. I spend a lot of time playing with the sequence, creating an arc to the record. That’s true for every record I’ve made but particularly true for this one. I know that’s not how people will necessarily hear it and I guess the hope as the artist is that each song will stand on its own. It’s not really up to me but if I could, I’d send instructions for listening. Controlling or loving? It’s a fine line, right?
Maybe you should press your album on vinyl so people have to try harder to skip around.
Well, I am actually hoping to do that! It’s the perfect way to experience this record since I really do feel like there are two distinct “sides.” If I have the funds to do it, I will for the next pressing of the album.
The song, "I Don't Feel it Anymore" makes me sob like a baby. Is it just me? 
Yes. It’s just you. Just kidding. You’re welcome? I’m sorry? I know what you mean! It’s really amazing how that song came out- Erin, AG and I were just talking about all the ways we used to access, for lack of a better word, magic. Wonder came easily as a kid. First love felt like transcendence. Some of the loss of that access feels like just that- a loss. But some of it feels like a relief too…walking around with a big, bleeding open wounded heart is tough work! I’m glad you like that song. It was one of those ones that was a beautiful collaboration that happened pretty easily, always something to celebrate as a songwriter.
The recording process became a family affair. What was it like to work with your father and his wife? 
My mom has played on two of my records and the experience with her was so incredible that I really wanted to have that with my dad and stepmom too. The timing has never been right before- I wrote a string part for a song on my album “Brand New Frame” but everyone’s schedule was so crazy that they were going to have to record their parts and send them to us. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be there for it. That was kinda the point. So I was out in LA with Adrianne (AG) and knew my dad and Amanda were coming out there for performances. Adrianne offered to bring a mobile rig to their hotel and record them there and they said yes. It was such a special experience for me and it couldn’t have happened more perfectly. Kinda like the rest of this recording process- I just kept trusting the next step and it kept showing up to be the right thing. Pretty cool. Now I just have to get my sister to sing on the next one and my Von Trapp fantasy will be fulfilled!
Your fans got to help you make this album. Most crowd funded projects are set up where fans pay an amount and they get a t shirt or a signed album. Your campaign had some of the most creative pledge prizes I've seen (interactive virtual gallery with custom paintings, a songwriting workshop with you, and even a Lonely Planet type guide to your favorite museums from around the world.) How did you come up with this idea?
I’ve watched a lot of my peers go through the fan funding thing and what I’ve seen with a lot of them is that when it comes time to “fulfill” the orders, people are really put out. They offer things that either take an immense amount of time, are way too expensive to make and not worth it in the end. I saw a lack of joy and an increase in anxiety around these platforms and so I stayed away from it for a long time, just taking pre-orders on my own. But then I saw an opportunity to make the fan funding process itself something creative and interactive. I had the idea to make an interactive space (the virtual gallery) where people could connect- I want MORE connectivity not less. All the exclusives that I offered through my campaign are things that I would create anyway- a body of paintings that I already had because I was obsessed with fire and the imagery in these songs. The whole process was really fun. This is the model we have now - essentially WE are the record labels with our fans. It’s just starting and it’s actually really exciting to help form and mold where it’s going. My goal was so much less about money and so much more about creating something that felt authentic to who I am as an artist. I think we did that- and of course the money is amazing! I’m able to work with an amazing PR firm, Toolshed, pay another musician to be on the road with me (Meg Toohey is coming for most of my fall touring!) and make creative decisions I haven’t been able to make before. It’s a real gift. 
When you take a day off, how do you veg out?
I’ve actually had to work at taking time off and vegging out. It’s hard to shut off when you’re self-employed and my "work" is also truly who I am. But...I went to the beach last week and read and napped for half a day. It's a start and it felt so luxurious! I also have a total netflix bingeing habit that I not-so-secretly abuse. I watched all of Orange Is The New Black in a two day period while eating kale chips on my couch. I guess you could say I’m learning to veg out pretty well!
Come Thief, Come Fire is available exclusively for SheWired readers until its release on September 16th. Listen below:

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Jami Smith