Natalie Walker returns in March with her first album in three years, Strange Bird. Her last release, Spark, won Walker the praise not only of Katy Perry, who tweeted her song "Mars," but also of Billy Corgan. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman actually contacted her to tell her how much he loved her version of "Galapogos." "I was blown away," admits Walker. "Billy Corgan was one of my teen idols. So it's cool to get that recognition from this guy who wrote [the] songs that shaped a lot of my teenage moments." Spark was also championed by Jason Bentley of KCRW-FM, a station that has supported Walker's music from the beginning.
Some significant things happened to Walker during the three year period between Spark and Strange Bird. One is that she moved from Denver to the quaint mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado. The other big change is that Walker, who was raised as an evangelical Christian, broke free from organized religion. These two events are connected, though they may not appear to be at first glance. "Nature is my religion," explains the introspective singer. "[And] you can't get any closer to nature [than Crested Butte]. There are mountains everywhere, and rivers… I can see the beauty before me, know that I am a small part of this infinite universe and feel tiny and powerful all in the same [moment]."
Highlights of Strange Bird range from the ballad "Nothing Lasts Forever" to more upbeat, nocturnal fare like "Skywalker" and "Lightning" to the haunting album closer, "Deja Vu." All these songs are given grandly atmospheric backdrops by L.A.-based producer Malina, whose previous credits include a stint with Nine Inch Nails. The two met through Walker's brother. "I told my brother that I needed a mad scientist," she remembers. "He didn't mention [Malina] right away but a couple of minutes later, he was like, 'Oh! I know just the guy.' And he was right." Perhaps the best example of their collaboration is Strange Bird's autobiographical title track. "It's about me as a little girl and how shy I was," says Walker. "I didn't like singing in public; I always sang by myself… Everybody thought I was weird. A strange bird!"
If that was the case for Walker as a little girl, it certainly isn't the case now. This self-proclaimed 'strange bird' has been on quite a journey since she flew her Indiana nest a decade ago and moved to Philadelphia to be the singer for electronica trio Daughter Darling. Since then, she has released three solo albums: her acclaimed 2007 debut Urban Angel, the following year's With You and the aforementioned Spark; she has played venues ranging from The Fox Theatre in Boulder and The Fillmore in San Francisco to Joe's Pub and the Bowery Ballroom in New York City; she's seen her songs pop up repeatedly on both the big and small screens; and she's acquired many fans along the way. Not all these fans are as famous as Billy Corgan but that hardly matters. "It’s incredible to receive emails from people telling me a certain song moved them," says Walker. "I've had so many fans tell me, 'This song got me through a really hard time in my life.' So many stories. It's powerful stuff."