The 'Automatic' success of Ultra Nate

Pride princess gears up dance ditties for Motor City

By Jason A. Michael

Ultra Nate

6:30-7 p.m.

Motor City Pride Main Stage

She was on her way to med school in 1989 when Ultra Nate - yes, boys and girls, she really was born Ultra Nate Wyche - pretty much fell into the business.

"I had graduated from high school and started going to clubs," Nate recalls. "I went to a club called O'Dells and fell in love with the whole atmosphere and house music and just the vibe and the energy of the whole scene."

Soon Nate had hooked up with a couple of new deejays that were launching their own production company and looking for vocalists. "I didn't really consider myself a singer at that point," says Nate. "I sang in my church choir growing up, but I never considered myself a singer by trade."

In just months, the whole world would be considering her a singer as the song she worked on with the Basement Boys, "It's Over Now," went to number one on the Billboard Dance Chart.

Since then, she's racked up an incredible six number one hits. Her latest, a remake of the classic '80s Pointer Sisters' song "Automatic," was released earlier this year.

"It really happened organically," Nate says. "I was riding around last summer and the song came on the radio and it really catapulted me back in time to a place where I didn't have pressure and deadlines, to the fun of being a kid and not being time conscious or conscious about too much of anything. I thought that I could bring something cool to it with my interpretation while still maintaining the integrity of the song."

"Automatic" is on Nate's fifth studio album, titled "Grime, Silk & Thunder." "The idea came from a Rolling Stone magazine article about Nirvana's first record," Nate explains. "They said [the album] 'Nevermind' was a great mix of grime, silk and thunder. That's a real cool concept of what a record should really be about."

"Grime, Silk & Thunder" marks the first album to be released on Nate's own imprint, Blu Fire, distributed by her longtime record label Tommy Boy. "It's really exciting because it's the first time in my career that I've had an invested interest in my masters," Nate says. "It's a lot more responsibility - there are bills that I have to pay now that I never had to worry about before - but the return on that is much, much more than I've ever had before."

Nate has also branched out into the disk jockey business and promotes and produces a regular Sugar party at Baltimore's Club 1722. "I'm a bit of a daredevil and I'm not afraid to experiment and have fun with things," says Nate. "I grew up in that environment listening to deejays so I know how I want the music to feel and sound ... to evoke emotion in myself. So it's about being the one to orchestrate that as opposed to being on the receiving end of it."

Nate also recently orchestrated the start of a family, and gave birth to a son in 2005. "Being a mom is absolutely nuts," she says. "Your priorities have to shift to some degree to now nurture and protect this new life. It's very exciting at the same time because they're like a sponge and they're learning things and evolving so quickly. Obviously with my career it's a bit tricky because I have to travel still ... but it's something that was calculated and planned before we did it. So my husband and my family are a great support system and my son will be happy and healthy in the midst of it all."

Nate's also happy that summer is here, which means a return to the Pride festival circuit. "I love the crowds, the energy and the expectations there," she says. "People are there to have fun. It's a Pride event, so everyone's coming to the event happy and ready to party and enjoy the live performances. They're there to give some love to artists who are performing music that they appreciate. So it's a great time of partnership and I look forward to them every summer."

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