Yael Naim: A New Soul Comes of Age

By | Jul 19, 2011
Yael Naim

Has Jewish music influenced you?

You can’t escape who you are, and I am Jewish and Israeli and French. Everything that I am gets into my music. For example, I love klezmer music and I love the songs that are sung in the synagogue. So yes, I’m sure it somehow gets into my music, but it’s not conscious.

How about Israeli music?

Only after I left Israel, did I start to listen to Israeli music for the first time. Suddenly, I was missing home desperately and started to listen to music that connected me. I listened to Israeli radio and started to collaborate with Israeli artists. Also, my Israeli boyfriend was leaving me at the time and so I started writing in Hebrew. Much of my first album was in Hebrew.

Which musicians have influenced you?

Joni Mitchell was very important. And the Beatles, because of the way they go in many styles and don’t have any limits in the creative process. And then there are artists like Nina Simone, whom I love, because she is very deep and she is somewhere between classical and jazz, which is my background. I love Herbie Hancock, and folk music, and classical Indian and Bollywood music.

Your music has been compared to that of Regina Spektor and Norah Jones. Do you agree?

There is a generation of musicians who are kind of close to each other. Norah Jones is really soft and jazzy, which is not really my taste, but has some similar points. Regina Spektor plays the piano, has brown hair and wears similar clothes. We have feminine voices and a similar sensitivity and so maybe we’re seen as similar. Really, there are many differences.

Your songs, even those in Hebrew, are very popular in France. How do you explain people listening to songs that they don’t understand?

France is a country that has opened its doors to artists from all over the world. The African music scene here is very developed, as is the Arabic music scene. Also, take opera—people don’t always understand the opera they are listening to. They just connect with the music, and for those who really want to know, they can check to see what it’s about. It’s not necessary to speak the language.

What is She Was a Boy about?

My first album was about separation and discovering that things have not happened as I wished. The second one is a happy period in my life. Something opened up. There is more energy in the music and more curiosity to discover the world. I started to learn about myself and realized that there are light sides, but also dark sides and to accept this complexity inside myself and others. Musically, the first album had more folk influence, whereas the second has pop and New Orleans influence.

So, do you own a MacBook?!

I have three (laughs). I just got another one for touring so that I can record on the road.

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