A GoPride Interview

Natalie Bergman

Family band: Natalie Bergman on Wild Belle's new album and success

Sat. October 26, 2013  by Jerry Nunn

We have a wonderful relationship. I couldn't be here without him or doing any of this.
Natalie Bergman
The pop-infused reggae band Wild Belle is the new duo of siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman. For years the two shared musical experiences, but Wild Belle -- and their debut album Isles released on Columbia Records earlier this year -- marks their first official collaboration.

The Illinois natives are returning back to their hometown of Chicago for a show at the Metro on Clark Street on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Jerry Nunn caught up with Natalie Bergman in the middle of the band's tour to learn a bit more the her brother, their relationship and unique sound, and the band's success.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, Natalie. Are you calling from Tennessee? I saw on Twitter that you were in Memphis.

NB: (Natalie Bergman) We were in Tennessee. We played Memphis, and Nashville then last night we were in Asheville, North Carolina. We are playing Raleigh tonight.

JN: You are all over the place. I am from Nashville so that's why I asked. It is great to discover that you are both from Chicago.

NB: Yes, we are from there. We have been on a tour for about a month now and we have six more shows. You caught me on a sunny day!

JN: With coming back to your hometown I am sure lots of family and friends will be at the Metro.

NB: I can't wait. I hope we sell it out.

JN: I am sure you have been to plenty of concerts there over the years. How does it feel to play there?

NB: This tour has been a real dream. We have played some great venues like Bowery Ballroom. We sold out the Bowery in New York so that was exciting and a cool thing. With the Metro it seems all of the work that we have been doing these past two years is finally catching up to us. It is all really fun.

JN: You have been performing since you were very young.

NB: Yeah, even as a little kid I was banging on some instrument. Our parents were very cool about putting music into the house. We were always spinning music like country and soul records. Music has always been around me and very much a part of my life.

JN: Who were singers that you liked growing up?

NB: I love Joni Mitchell. She was one of my mom's favorites. My mom was always playing Joni on the guitar and teaching me how to play a song. Neil Young was another one, also James Brown and Sam Cooke types. It took me down different paths of music. They just gave us our beginning on a large vocabulary of music. We just have explored so many different kinds of music over the years.

JN: The video for "Another Girl" was directed by your other brother I just noticed.

NB: Our younger brother was going to school on a cattle ranch in Nevada so that is how we got the horses. We shot some of it in a little town called Mina that is defunct and nobody lives there. It was an exciting video because we were all in it. It was my younger brother Bennet, my older brother Elliot and his girlfriend, and my boyfriend. Those were the characters. It was a lot of pulling off the road and yelling, "You have to get this scene!" I am proud of that video.

It was fun to travel by van but it is nice to have the luxury of pulling over and taking your time. With a video shoot you have to get the lighting right. There was a scene we shot in Utah where we woke up at 3:30 a.m. to catch the sun in the morning. Just to be able to have the land of this country available at any hour of the day makes our freedom so obvious. We are so free in this country.

JN: How did you make the video for "It's Too Late?"

NB: We did it with a green screen and threw a bunch of collages together. It was a fun quick video that we shot it in a couple of hours.

JN: Where did the name Wild Belle come from?

NB: My middle name is Belle. My mom gave me that name. Elliot came up with the name Wild Belle because it had a ring to it!

JN: How is it working with your brother?

NB: We have a wonderful relationship. I couldn't be here without him or doing any of this. I'm proud of him and thankful for him. He's the most creative person that I know. He is constantly coming up with new ideas. He even makes up new instruments out of things that you wouldn't think would even have sound. I can't say enough about my brother. He's a very inspiring person to be around.

JN: He must take care of you when you are out on the road.

NB: He really does. He takes care of me and wards off all of the guys. [laughs]

JN: All the groupies! Let's talk Chicago. Where do you like to eat in Chicago?

NB: I have been going to Gold Star Bar a lot. I love California Clipper. It is one of my favorite spots. It is on California. It is like an old country bar. There is live music during the week. They just bring in a couple of country bands to play there. I love El Barco. It is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.

JN: I know that place.

NB: I also love Avec. It is on Randolph Street. It is a cool place and my favorite in Chicago. That and California Clipper of course.

JN: Those are great choices.

NB: That is usually where I am at when I am home. We will be working on a new record when I am there. I don't know how much I will be able to go out.

JN: Well, if you have time we can hit the gay bars.

NB: Excellent, which one?

JN: I think any of them in Boystown would be fun since it is right by the Metro. I have taken a few bands to Berlin in the past.

NB: Oh cool. We can meet up after the show. We were trying to figure out where to have an after party.

JN: I can work on that for you. So you have been writing new music while out on the road?

NB: We have been writing, collecting, and trying to put a bunch of things together. We use voice memo and a tape recorder, whatever way we can document an idea. There are lots of scattered bits all over the band right now. We will get home and start working on some demos then put out the new record as soon as possible.

JN: Great, see you in the Windy City soon!

Wild Belle takes over the Metro, 3730 N. Clark Street, on October 26.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.