October 13, 2022

March 30, 2023

Phil Villeneuve


Ultra Naté’s career has been a rollercoaster, and the path it’s taken her on has lead to some glorious collaborations, relationships and ground breaking moments in house music.

Ultra Naté’s career has been a rollercoaster, and the path it’s taken her on has lead to some glorious collaborations, relationships and ground breaking moments in house music.

She’s just released her 10th studio album - ULTRA - and in celebration of this house-y release, we asked her all about her illustrious career, the legendary collaborations and of course, Michelle Williams.

Yohomo: You've been ranked as one of the most successful dance music artists of ALL TIME. We are not worthy. How did it feel to be on that list?

Ultra Naté: That was and still is a phenomenal feeling!! Especially when I looked at the totality of the list, and all of the icons therein, that I have been influenced by and/or grown up listening to, it left me floored to be in that very rarified air.

Can we just say that your hersotry in dance music should be made into a movie and it's been a wild ride right. The fact that your biggest mainstream hit happened after you left a major label and signed with an independent is so bad ass?!

Yes, it is pretty wild when you think about it that way! No one saw that coming and I am still pinching myself. I think the most important thing is to not be afraid to write your story, your experience will never be identical to any other artist’s experience. The industry and major labels are what they are, and that will not change. It’s a matter of finding your own voice and your own stride somewhere within that system should you choose to. Realizing at the end of the day, for that machine you are a product and there are pros and cons to being in that system. You have to have a thick skin and a bit of blind faith to be in this industry.

Because we are gay, we have to ask, how did the Michelle Williams track come to fruition?

That was the mastermind of our management teams, fortunately key persons in both camps are longtime friends. The opportunity came about because we were both independent, working on new material at the time, and thought it would be a great cross pollinate - as music has been doing for the last two decades in dance and other genres. Michelle was an absolute sweetheart, and we didn't actually meet in person until we were shooting the video with Karl Giant and performing for Mike Ruiz's birthday party after the single had dropped.

You're friends with an endless list of house and dance music legends... can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Frankie Knuckles?

Frankie was so special to me, as a club kid growing up in Baltimore and discovering house music in its early inception from his days in Chicago, to then becoming part of the industry and eventually meeting him, this global superstar and first DJ Rockstar years ago, was one of the most important things to have happened in my career and personal growth. Beyond meeting, Frankie became a friend, a mentor and a big brother. He had defined a culture and the fact that he embraced me with so much love, acceptance and respect for my art and contributions, gave me an added sense of purpose and confidence in what I was putting out in the world.

Forgive us for not knowing this, but when did your life as DJ begin? Who are some of your DJ heroes? What are some of your fave countries or clubs to play?

I started officially playing in 2004, when the scene here in Baltimore started to severely suffer from a lack of venues and displacement in the scene. I wanted to contribute and help keep the culture vibrant, as it was when I discovered it many years ago. I grew up listening to many DJs from Baltimore like Wayne Davis and Teddy Douglas among others, Sam “the man” Burns in DC, Tony Humphries was massively influential from Jersey, and many nights I would go to New York and dance to Louis Vega and Timmy Regisford. When I was on the international move I would catch my friends like David Morales and Frankie Knuckles. In Ibiza I loved to go hear DJ Pippi play or in London it was Norman J and Paul “Trouble” Anderson.

Let's talk about this spike in popularity and interest in house music. The community and artists like yourself have always been giving us house and music to get our lives in the club... but Beyonce's Renaissance seems to have brought new light to the genre to so many people. What are your thoughts on the album? And what are your thoughts on the world of house music that you exist in?

I think those from this scene, whether consumer or otherwise know and love house music for what it is. It’s a culture and a lifestyle, that doesn't change because there is a moment for artists that are on the outside of the scene. I think where that becomes tricky is when the narrative becomes that these artists are now validating the sound and the culture.

But “feelings” aside, it is a truth for people who are outside the culture. In the big scheme of things, it's still a win-win for this scene if new ears are suddenly exposed and open to this genre because an artist they follow from another genre introduces it to them. Personally, I get what Beyonce's album was meant to do and I am not mad at her for that! I am so happy to see some of the people that I am personal friends with getting some light in the mainstream because of it. I understand the frustration, but Beyoncé is not the enemy. The bottom line is that most true dance artists do not have the platform or bandwidth to get into those spaces because the budgets are not there.  The corporations that are driving charts, Spotify numbers / playlists and radio airplay, are not investing in artists like myself. I have yet to be offered another major label deal since I went independent in the early 2000s. Whatever we have done to sustain, grow and evolve my career has happened on my own dime. House music has always been a fringe sound although it is a massive global industry. When it comes to defining artists, when it comes to investments from corporations and labels, there is a difference in how dance artists are considered. The industry investments are not going to women, especially women of color, especially women of color…over 25! I tick all of those boxes so am I no longer commercially viable?

My new album ULTRA, day of release, reached Top 10 at iTunes US, UK, Australia and France, with just the power of our team and a publicist, so imagine if there were an actual investment from a bigger entity that could harness and magnify what we create on our own? But instead, it’s crickets from those entities, this is the world of house music that I exist in. And why major artists like Bey probably wouldn’t want to so clearly be defined as a “house music artist”.

In a world where the UK has always understood and appreciated dance music, and North America has always lagged... does it feel like this continent is catching up a bit?...

There's still a difference, the only scenes that are thriving in this country really are the EDM or Pop Dance genres

Speaking of albums, let's talk about your new chart-topping album!!! What are three words you would use to describe Ultra?

Fearless, intimate and timeless

This is your 10th album, what energy or feelings help bring this one to life?

Survival in the most confusing and emotionally turbulent time and space. COVID lockdown presented me with a lot of personal and professional challenges. I'm happy this album is what I have to show for and how I met those challenges. However, I am a different person now. Those experiences have made an indelible mark and shaped me. It was a definite moment of evolution. A clearly defining moment.

Sold Out” is our favourite track on the record, we just need to tell you <3

Thank you it's one of my faves! It feels like you've known it forever but somehow it's new and fresh. It's magic. It makes me smile when I hear it and for me that was very important while I was creating for the album.

Thank you, queen Naté! Can't wait to see you when you're in Toronto next XOXO

Thank you and I look forward to that. Big love to Toronto always!