When Willie Nelson needs a melody, he just plucks one he hears wafting through the air. Like Nelson, Argentinean songstress Natalia Clavier gathers melodies from the atmosphere. "They will be like floating in my head," she says with a giggle. "Sometimes it's even a melody with words — that's a very good event."
The sounds that Clavier gathers envelop the listener in a sensuous, soothing embrace. With a breathless delivery like Astrud Gilberto's on her classic "The Girl From Ipanema," Clavier sings in Spanish over a backdrop of lush rhythms presided over by husband/guitarist/producer Federico Aubele on her latest, 2008's Nectar.
Although it's her native language, initially she was uncomfortable about singing in Spanish. "I thought it was just a task, a tough language," she says. "It's a smooth ride when you're singing in English; it just flows. But Spanish, to this day, I find it quite tough."
Aubele's debut, Gran Hotel Buenos Aries, convinced her to try singing in her native language. "I was rather surprised when I heard that record," she says. "My God, everything is in Spanish and I don't hate it." She said her husband told her "everybody's singing in English — let's try to do something a little bit more original."
Clavier's original songs are part of the package as well. "Azul" was a love song to her husband she wrote while they were dating, but she didn't realize that's what it was until after they were married. "It's a good love song because I didn't mean to write it," she says, laughing. "It's one of the hardest themes to do because there's a fine line that divides poetry from cheesiness when it comes down to love." That won't prevent her from plucking one out of the air if it sails by, but she doesn't plan on intentionally writing any more love songs for her husband,
She's touring without him this time out, backed by label mates Thievery Corporation, originally a hard-edged dub duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, utilizing only a couple of turntables and a synth. But the act now has swollen considerably. "It's in between a rock band and a circus — we get to be like 12 or something on stage," Clavier says. The act includes a horn section, two percussionists and "a parade of singers," from five to nine, depending on the date.
As memorable as her music is, Clavier says acting is her first love. Taking lessons in her native Buenos Aries since she was in her early teens, she took an eight-year hiatus in her mid-20s. "I was just scared. I don't like auditioning. I thought I was not good at it." Now taking acting lessons in English for the first time in an acclaimed New York studio, she says her dream is one day to be in the movies.
Meanwhile she'll keep up her music as well. "I'm just an artist," she says. "Just a communicator. Even the word singer is a little limitating for me sometimes."
She'd love to be able to somehow help people through her music. "Like healing in physical times or even hangover times," she chuckles, before getting in one more plug for a film career. "Hopefully I'll be remembered in the amazing roles I play in these wonderful movies."
Natalia Clavier will perform at Dharma Lounge on July 31.