But she’s no Goth. “I’ve only got a tinge of gothiness — I’m not full-fledged,” she says. “Listening to my music, you wouldn’t even think I had a sense of humor, but I do, and I wear white a lot, also. I’m a minimalist, so I like red, white and black.”
But Nadler — who plays in one of the first places that warmly accepted her, the Bay Area, next Wednesday — is certainly an American original.
Raised by an abstract-artist mother, she studied painting herself at Rhode Island School of Design, and went on to teach fine art, first in New York and now at a therapeutic day school for special-needs children in Massachusetts.
“I didn’t take this job to make money. I took it to get out of the house and to stop only thinking about my own art,” says the portraitist, whose favorite public pastime is sketching the faces of unaware strangers.
The singer’s childhood was unique, too.
“I was very into antiquated things when I was younger. I think it was the direct result of some kind of rebellion against suburbia,” she says. She immersed herself in arcane crafts like bookbinding, woodcarving, illustration and encaustic painting, an ancient wax-based technique.
“I was also interested in the folk art forms — both fine art and music,” she adds. “So I feel like a lot of people are just creative people, and it doesn’t matter what format they work in, whether it’s a painting or a song. It’s all the same to me.”
Playing music, the guitarist soon discovered, was a more direct, intense form of expression. A painting could take weeks. A song? An hour, tops, if the mood struck her.
She issued her “Ballads of Living and Dying” debut in 2004, wound up running her own Box of Cedar imprint for two releases and is now signed to Brooklyn’s hip Sacred Bones Records for her fifth album, “July.”
Its stark processionals, like “Firecrackers,” “Dead City Emily” and “Nothing in My Heart,” are as lyrically visual as the forlorn, windswept isolation of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” masterpiece.
“July” feels like an archaic art form in its own right. And maybe it is.
“I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot, but making very slow music like this in a fast-paced world? You just have to expect your career to move slower, as well,” she says.
IF YOU GO
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $12 to $15
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.ticketfly.com