Name: Natan Kuchar (pronounced: Nuh-tuhn)
Hometown: Sydney, Australia, but he doesn’t have a strong Australian accent because he says, “Ever since I left high school, I’ve just sort of been following accents and absorbing them into my own.”
Current residence: West Berkeley, in a house he bought by singing a cover of “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
What he’s been listening to: Kuchar is really excited by artists such as Frank Ocean and Stevie Wonder.
Who he is: He’s a musician, an educator, a performer and a member of the Jewish community — a background shared with Troye Sivan. “He’s another Jewish kid from Australia, and he has a lot of ties particularly to the Jewish community that I grew up in,” Kuchar says. Right now, Kuchar is thinking about a program he could pilot where he can facilitate crowd singing events in Berkeley.
His voice: I arrive at Way Station Brew, the cafe where I’ll be interviewing Kuchar on his recent recognition for his art from the Berkeley City Council, with a great list of questions that I ultimately ignore. I want to know about Australia; I want to know what music means to him. More immediately, I want to know, “Are the streaks of gray in your hair natural?”
Without missing a beat, he says, “That is a far more interesting question. Yes. I was at Office Depot recently … and I was buying some silver Sharpies for a class, and the woman who was working there said, ‘Are those sharpies for your hair?’ and I said, ‘Yes!’ and she said ‘Really?’ and I said ‘No.’ ”
I tell him I find that story peculiarly Australian in its deadpan humor, and he says, “Well, you laughed.” That sets the cheeky tone for the rest of our interview.
As it happens, Kuchar’s first musical influences were outside of his generation: “Growing up as a kid, Stevie Wonder was a huge influence. My dad … would always play music in the car very very loudly,” Kuchar says. “He was a doctor, and I would be in the back seat of his very, very small sports car going to the hospital. I don’t know why I went to the hospital with him a lot, but I would, and he would always play (Stevie Wonder’s) music, and one day he played a cassette tape of Stevie Wonder ballads. And I (was) just in love with it. In particular, a song called ‘Overjoyed.’ ”
I have to ask: “You were overjoyed with ‘Overjoyed’?”
He chuckles and replies, “I was overjoyed with the song ‘Overjoyed.’ ”
Still unclear what Kuchar does at this point, I ask exactly what sort of musical career he followed from his love of Stevie Wonder. Then referencing my preliminary notes I add, “And what made you move to the United States to attend Berklee College of Music?” Oddly enough, the answer is jingle writing.
“I did the major called ‘contemporary writing and production,’ ” Kuchar says. “Essentially, it was learning how to write to screen, to visuals. … Short, condensed musical ideas. … (I learned) how to write the music but also produce the music in the studio and synthetically in the software.”
By the time I come back from refilling my coffee, Kuchar is checking his phone and mentions a text from his wife. Learning Kuchar has a wife generates a new, pressing question: “Do you have babies?” He smiles and tells me about Ayala, 6, Katriel, 4, and Selah, 1.
Kuchar is a family man in addition to an adolescent-focused educator, and throughout the interview, he creates for himself a community-centered image. With his resume before me on the table, I am taken aback by one project on the list. In his endeavor to foster human connection, I am curious about what compelled him to work on the soundtrack for “BoJack Horseman,” a cartoon TV show known for its deep sarcasm and candid portrayal of mental health disorders and substance abuse. I ask him:
“It’s an incredibly moving show for me. I’m actually six minutes away from the very end of the final season. … I don’t stop telling everybody that I know to watch this TV show,” he explains.
After hearing how passionate he is about the show, the way he got the job makes sense: “I cold-emailed the composer, and I just wrote to him saying, ‘I really, really love this TV show. Please hire me.’ … A few months later, he emailed me back and said, ‘Actually, I have some work for you.’ ”
Kuchar admittedly has an affinity for emailing people he doesn’t personally know about rather ambitious inquiries. He later tells me, “Yeah, I send emails to people all of the time. … I mean, I invited the queen of England to my bar mitzvah.”
As I begin to discuss how difficult making a living from a career in the arts is, Kuchar says something that strikes me. He’s adamant about making meaning, whether it be for himself or an entire audience: “I think we’re at a period of time … where we’re sort of struggling to make connection between people. We’re struggling to share our own stories.”
Regardless of the societal disconnect hinted at, Kuchar remains optimistic about the future, as he insists, “In the end, arts and creativity win.”