Natalia Zukerman: Transitioning During Lockdown

Photo by Jen Lee

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)

What a pleasure it was catching up with Natalia Zukerman. Raised in NYC, Zucker has been a resident of Brooklyn until recently, when she relocated to upstate New York. Zucker’s music has been heard on The L Word and ABC Family’s Chasing Life. As of 2020, she has released seven albums and has been touring internationally as a solo performer since 2005, backing up artists like Shawn Colvin, Richard Thompson, Janis Ian, Ani DiFranco, and many more. She is currently supporting The Women Who Rode Away, the soundtrack and accompanying book from her one-woman show at NYC’s Cell Theatre. Read on to learn about Zucker’s experiences in quarantine, upcoming projects, and more.

Tell us all about your latest project! I know there’s a great story there, so let’s hear it!
Since the start of the lockdown, I’ve been writing a lot of poetry—creating a morning practice of stream-of-consciousness writing and trying each day to get to that before turning on a device or looking at a headline. I haven’t had perfect attendance, but that’s not (or shouldn’t be!) the point of creating a practice. I do, however, have several notebooks filled with snippets and musings. I’ve made some musical beds and image-based videos for a few of them and posted them to my Patreon along the way, and I’m thinking of creating a book (or maybe several!) with illustrated poems and songs/music to accompany them.

What’s a favorite experience you have of playing live shows in NYC?
I always had a great time at Rockwood—all the rooms there are unique and special, and the place, in general, feels like it’s NOT in NY. You don’t feel hurried in and out, and somehow there’s always parking. So maybe my favorite thing about playing live shows in NY has been when it doesn’t feel like it’s in NY!

How have you adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep your music career up and running?
The first thing I did was create a giant online music festival with my friend Kelly McCartney called Shut In & Sing. By the closing set of the festival on May 10th, 163 musicians played thirty-seven shows over the course of eight weeks, selling 6,673 tickets, and making $69,000! Twenty-six percent of the performers were queer, twenty-one percent were artists of color, and sixty-seven percent were non-male. I was and am really proud of that. It felt really generative, cooperative, and perhaps like a new model was forming.

It did make me pretty weary of streaming music, though, so for a while after the close of the festival; I didn’t play at all. I took some time to decide that any online shows I was going to do, I wanted to partner with an organization outside myself, whether it was a venue, a non-profit raising money for various needs, or partnering with another musician. I’ve been able to stick to that, and for me, I feel not only less lonely singing into my computer screen but also feel like I’ve been able to remain connected to a larger community.

Conversely, has the altered pace of the pandemic inspired you, opened any new avenues for writing, or made space for any new projects?
YES! I have been doing a lot of stop-motion animation and drawing in different mediums that I haven’t had time to explore in the past or thought I didn’t! I have been making all kinds of things, feeling freed up from the thought of how to market it or what exactly it’ll become. I feel more in touch with a really early, explorative part of my maker self.

Coming from a classical background, what helped you most in bridging the gap to the world of songwriting and guitar? I’m asking for the girls and young women who come from formal music lessons, or maybe band or orchestra, who want to follow this path but don’t know where to start. Any tricks that helped you translate from one world to the other?

The rigor that classical music gave me has been invaluable for everything in my life. There is almost an athlete-like approach to practice that was instilled in me at a young age that I still use, a work ethic that I apply to all my endeavors. I also really appreciate that I can “speak” music. I read music, I can write it, and I understand how to translate what I hear with a language that is shared. Is that completely necessary? No, but having those tools in my toolbox sure helps!

Any new gear in your world? Any gear you can’t live without?

I really love my new Ear Trumpet Edwina mic. It’s great for live streaming. I also have a Peluso condenser mic that is my mainstay for recording. I did just get a new BOSS loop station, but I haven’t used it live yet. It’s been really fun for messing around and noodling with. I actually wanted to use it for vocals to teach and run some live-stream singalongs, so I’ll probably do that soon.

Previous articleInside the Industry Paige Davidson, Co-Owner of Well Strung Guitars: Instruments Have a Soul
Next articleTake Five with VickiKristinaBarcelona
Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Perhaps best known for her hit song, “Cry,” which became a staple on the show “Dance Moms” and boasts millions of hits on YouTube, Calise’s raw emotion, heart-and soul-lyrics, and unmistakable vibrato have impacted thousands of young girls all over the world. Calise is currently working on new solo material and songs for licensing, and she recently released a new EP with another music project, Batfarm. In addition to her musical pursuits, she also works in public relations and marketing and owns her own party entertainment business. When not playing shows or writing music, she enjoys horror movies, exercising, or taking a well-deserved nap.