Israeli Superstar Ivri Lider Talks To NY Blueprint
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Pinterest icon
Google icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Ivri Lider/Ronen Akerman

From his music to personal breakthroughs, the singer gets into it

Many fans have nicknames for their favorite artists — Ivri Lider has a loving moniker for his fans: “The New People,” a gesture that isn’t typical for a platinum-selling pop artist. But Lider is not the typical pop artist.

Growing up on a kibbutz, Givat Haim, where the current population is less than 1,000, he now plays shows for several times that number on a regular basis.

Touring around Israel for the past two years, Lider is coming to New York City on March 29 to perform for the first time in almost a decade; he’ll be at Symphony Space in the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre for one night.

For those who don’t know, Lider, 43, is one of the biggest pop stars in Israel. Sure, he’s sold more than one million records, making him one of the highest-selling contemporary artists in Israeli music — but that’s not just because he’s got a knack for pumping out hits. It’s Lider’s profound impact on the artistic and cultural milieu of Israeli life that has earned him the love and devotion of his fans.

Lider’s versatility and range as an artist is also what puts him in a category unto himself. As a solo performer, Lider composes poetic, soulful melodies that haunt like a friendly ghost. His lyrics, which are mostly in Hebrew, can range from existential to sardonic, but are always anchored in thoughtfulness. As a member of The Young Professionals, an electronic pop group Lider formed with Johnny Goldstein that performs in English, he composes tracks that will enliven even the most dour spirit — with beats and lyrics that jolt you like a shot of espresso.  

As a collaborator, Lider has partnered with an eclectic range of Israeli icons such as Rita, Idan Raichel, Gilad Segev and Natan Goshen, whose genres span from folk to rock to electronic to world music. As a producer, Lider has sent artists’ albums to gold and platinum status. He’s scored films, released a book of poems and collaborated with visual artists. He’s composed music for dance groups, including Israel’s leading modern dance company Batsheva (which has special family meaning as readers will discover). He mentors young musicians, some of whom are soldiers. And he’s considered a fashion icon. We’re not surprised he has a song called, “I Cannot Sleep.”

Lider’s also not afraid to take risks. For his fourth studio album, “It’s Not the Same Thing,” he had a 40-member string orchestra behind him — not a standard move for a pop singer. And it paid off. In 2005 he received the Male Singer of the Year award from Israel’s major national and local radio stations, as well as Best Male Singer and Best Live Show at the Israeli Music Awards.

Often making use of intricate, visual effects and interactive video, his performances can also be stripped down and intimate. But perhaps what is most distinguished about the 12 million album-selling artist, two of which were platinum and five of which are gold, is his unwavering gratitude and constant awareness of the gift of being able to create art.

In a phone interview with NY Blueprint to Tel Aviv, Lider discussed his upcoming show in New York City, coming out, his unusual way of relaxing and what he wants his fans to get out of his music.  

What brings you to New York to perform your solo act after eight years?

It’s something we always talk about and wanted to do — to come over to the States and play for people who are interested in what we do here. It’s a crowd we want to meet; I hear from them over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter …  and once in a while you want to come over and play for people who like your music.

What was the genesis of The Young Professionals?

Doing something like TYP is a side venture from my main career; I invent something and I go with it, writing music for film, producing other people’s music, photography. I have different ideas all the time about stuff I want to do. This is what I’m happy about when people ask what I’ve accomplished. The luck and privilege to be able to think about something and create it and make it happen. I think of an artistic idea I have and I just do it. It’s a blessing.

What was your vision for the group?

When I start things, I believe in them and I want to see them succeed, and when I do I’m very happy. The idea behind TYP was to start a band where the people in the band are not necessarily musicians; it’s a concept in music today where the music is not always made by musicians. People can feel it and experience it through other mediums. If music has an artistic output, it doesn’t end with sound: video, design and picture can expand the message in many artistic ways that aren’t necessarily musical.

 

 

What does it mean to be in a band but not a musician?

There’s a designer, a web person; we started with six people, operating from the start as a band, and we called ourselves a band. When we created the TYP world, they were totally a part of it. They weren’t working for me, they were working with me. I can hire the best people to work for me. Here I’m talking about something different, at least in the conceptual sense.

Are you planning anything different for your NYC show?

It’s going to be a special show that we’ve never done anywhere. Basically, an acoustic evening that will be much more intimate than the big shows in Israel with the videos and the big band. Just me and my keyboard player, two pianos. It’s a special thing for this trip. Artistically I like to do it once in a while, playing the songs more how they were written — more intimate, the crowds are smaller, it’s a smaller venue. Gonna throw in two or three English songs.


Ivri Lider/Ronen Akerman

Ivri Lider/Ronen Akerman

What got you into music?

I started playing classical piano at 5 and I didn’t stop. I started getting into a lot of electronic music when I was 11 or 12. I bought synthesizers and played instrumental, electronic music, got into playing jazz piano. I was never singing; I was always writing and producing. I started writing songs when I was 7 (they were very serious for a 7-year-old). Looking back, of course, it was an escape from a lot of things: family, shyness, my mom’s past, my feelings of being different. All those things were relevant to me, and they very much went into music and songwriting.

Your mother is a Holocaust survivor?

She is. She used to work at Batsheva Dance Company as a costume designer and manager. We are very close. She’s 79. She comes to a lot of my shows and my fans know her.

Did you ever have any other dreams?

Up until I was 14 I wanted to be a basketball player. But at some point music became more interesting to me.

What would you say some of the messages are in your songs?

Some of my songs are very private about my experiences in my life, about what I’m going through, about our culture, our way of life and the Western world. I’m very interested in Western world culture, like technology and computers, on the psychological side not the technical side. … I take a lot of inspiration from people I see and meet and talk to and, of course, [from] what I’m going through. There’s a psychological aspect to it. For me lyrics are very important; they’re not an excuse to sing a melody — it better be worthwhile. Even in my more pop songs, the lyrics are very serious, even when they’re funny, they’re serious.

 

 

Are you at all religious?

I’m from a kibbutz but don’t lead a religious life. It’s not a religious country, but the religion is very evident. I don’t think it’s part of the culture.

Did you serve in the army?

I served for one month and they made me leave (laughs). I went back six or seven years ago to work with soldiers and bands. I had an old band in the army and used to perform for soldiers all over the country. There’s an official military band and we do workshops for them and guide them.




Ivri Lider performing in Tel Aviv/Lior Keter 

Any upcoming new projects?

I just released an album with Ofer Mahiri (it’s not named yet). People into Israeli music know him as the guy in charge of the project called Metropolin. We wrote it [the album] together in Hebrew. It’s a first. I’ve been touring a lot the last two years around Israel; [the tour is called] “This Love of Ours.” We play songs from all the albums all the big hits, and the solo stuff.

Anything else?

I’m doing new things with the big Israeli DJ Tomer Meisner. I’m creating a cool clubby thing where we turn my biggest songs into club versions, which is really fun. They’re going to start playing it in clubs.

What do you do when you’re not making or performing music?

It’s very relaxing for me to go swimming. I do triathlons.

So even your downtime is intense.

(Laughs) I’m not trying to be the Israel champion. I like sports, I always did. I used to be a racing cyclist, and I’m very into photography. All the inside art in the last album is mine. 

Have you ever lived anywhere but Israel?

No. But I try to travel to special, weird places. Like Iceland, Ukraine … Texas. I try to go to unique places. Big cities kind of look the same all over the world. In April I’m going to Japan.

Do you have a favorite city to perform in?

Of course, I love NYC and San Fran and I love Austin and New Orleans.

Are all TYP songs in English?

Yes. Most of my writing is in Hebrew. I started really enjoying writing in English; I’ve been reading it since I was 12, like cyber punk, William Gibson. I was reading a lot in English and then at some point I started having relationships with people who don’t speak Hebrew and started living my emotional life in English. That was even before TYP. I love being able to once in a while write in English. The sounds, rhythms, vibe is different. Hebrew for me is a very serious language; the whole idea is that it’s going to be in English, but everyone involved is Israeli.

Do you enjoy hosting “The X Factor”?

I’m about to do third season. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really interesting to meet the talents and to find new talented people and help them get more and more professional and polish their game. Teaching them a lot of stuff and working with them, the show itself is a very high energy kind of experience. And we have good chemistry among the judges.

What do you want people to get out of your shows/music?

I cover a pretty wide range of emotions in my shows — they can be moody, they can be emotional, they can be a bit funny sometimes, they can be happy. The variation of emotions there in the songs. I tell stories and I hope people are connecting to those stories and the imagery. That’s how I think about lyrics, through images that I hope people can connect to and relate to and hope they make them feel and think something interesting about them through those images. I want them to think about their lives and experiences and put those images/metaphors I use to find yourself and stuff you’re going through. It makes the experience deeper. That’s what I want to happen, and when it does I think it’s beautiful.




Ivri Lider/Noa Feuerstein

Do you think you’re a sort of icon for young LGBTQ people in Israel and/or abroad?

When I came out, it was 2000 and I was the first big singer to come out in Israel. I think it is very important for famous people to be out. It gives a certain message that you can be out and successful and have a good life. And it’s very important for young people to see it and say ‘we’re OK, we can have a good life and be successful’ … and it’s important for parents to see it. It’s about visibility; we have a lot of power, we can be very visible and give a good example and can change people’s lives. People listen to what you’ve gotta say; for some stupid reason modern civilization of the Western world fame gives people a lot of power. With that admiration comes a responsibility to use it wisely and to use it to give something back. We get a lot of love from a lot of people. It’s a way to give back.

And you’ve helped a lot of people.

I’m really moved by that. It gives me an amazing feeling. It’s not a complicated thing, just saying who you are … and the fact that it can help someone is amazing.

Ivri Lider will perform at Symphony Space on March 29th at 8pm. Get tickets here.

Ivri Lider

Music

Israeli Music

The Young Professionals

Symphony Space

show

concert

Add Your Voice

Blueprint Calendars