Ivri Lider is a superstar in his native country Israel, but that could all change in 2008 as he launches both a new Hebrew and English album. The video for his English song Jesse has gotten a lot of airtime on LOGO TV here in the states, and Out Magazine recognized him as a member of the "Out 100" for 2007.
We got the chance to pop a few questions to Ivri, who just started working full time on the two albums while at the same time producing for fellow Israeli superstar Rita. He has some interesting things to say about his life and his work -- check out our entire interview after the jump!
Hunk du Jour: In 2006 you toured in the United States for the first time -- what kind of reception did you get from US fans?
Ivri Lider: We had a great time touring the States last year. The fans were great, very supportive, and their energy was amazing. It was really a wonderful experience for my band and me. Traveling to a different city everyday isn't something you get to do in Israel because it's such a small country, so that was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
HdJ: Did you have a favorite stop on your tour? Somewhere that you are anxious to return to?
IL: Of course the show at the Avalon Club in New York City was really amazing for us because so many people came out to the event. But also I can remember the show Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Bling Pig Club with pictures of Nirvana on the wall in a dingy little rock club packed with a young, enthusiastic crowd. I'd actually really love to go back to both of those places sometime in the near future.
HdJ: What is it like being a multi-lingual artist? Is it something you were always planning on pursuing?
IL: I feel that writing and singing in two different languages is expanding my style of song writing in general. The two different languages interact in their own ways with the music and that sometimes leads to different melodies and productions, which are nice. I don't think I always wanted to write and sing in English also, but it's something I started doing some years ago I guess when my English got much better (haha).
HdJ: You released an English version of "Your Soul" alongside the release of the film Yossi & Jagger. How do you feel about song translations? Does something inevitably get "lost in translation," or can some translations still convey the full message?
IL: To be honest, I'd like to have another shot at "Your Soul," because I'm sure I could do a much better job at it today. It's really hard to translate songs, especially from Hebrew to English (the opposite is a bit easier). The vast majority of my English songs are written originally in English and not translated from Hebrew. The ones that are translated from Hebrew almost always end up losing a bit of the meaning, and sometimes you have to scrap the original meaning altogether, it just depends on what you're trying to achieve with a particular song.
HdJ: How did you get connected to the film Yossi & Jagger?
IL: Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky (the film's creators) approached me to write the score for the movie. Of course I was very excited to be offered the job because it had always been a long time dream of mine to write music for films. It was also a great honor to work with those two. Later we became best friends and worked on "Walk on Water" and "The Bubble" together.
HdJ: How have social networking web sites like MySpace/Friendster affected your life and career?
IL: We use MySpace as a networking and promotion site mostly. I think it's great that an artist can connect with his fans across the world in such a direct, simple way. It really helps to level the playing field so that new and emerging artists have a chance to make it and not just have to depend on the old record companies to have a shot.
HdJ: How are your new albums coming along? Are you working on the Hebrew and English albums simultaneously?
IL: We just started working full time on some new music (English and Hebrew). I don't have release dates yet, but hopefully sometime in 2008.
HdJ: What is a typical day like for you this month?
IL: I don't do typical ;-) I'm producing the show for the Israeli diva, Rita (Israel's Madonna), so we spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room with her band. I also spend lots of time in my own studio writing and producing my own songs.
HdJ: To be honest, when I think of middle eastern countries -- the thought of a gay artist not only being accepted, but being so popular isn't something that I would expect. Is there a disconnect between how the world views the middle east (or specifically, Israel) and what daily life is like?
IL: Yes. Israel may be in the Middle East, but it is by no means "Middle Eastern." I think peoples' impression of Israel is skewed by the things they see on the news and read in the papers. That's not to say it's a perfect world over here, but things aren't nearly as bad as you might think they are from what gets reported. Culturally and artistically, Israel is much closer to New York and LA than to Baghdad and Tehran. In many ways Israel is even a much more liberal country than America, as we found out when my boyfriend got a visa as my partner.
HdJ: In Israeli culture, have you seen a shift in acceptance of GLBT people since you first decided to come out in 2002?
IL: I can definitely say there has been a shift. I think famous people coming out is an extremely important thing that helps to change lots of peoples' views. It also helps a lot of young people who are dealing with their sexuality and the feelings of being isolated and alone in the world. With regard to Israel, or at least Tel Aviv, you could probably call it one of the gayest cities in the world. For most people here, it's just not an issue.
HdJ: Has online distribution of songs and albums (both through authorized and unauthorized channels) greatly affected your work? For the better or worse?
IL: The world of music distribution is changing rapidly, and is currently in a place where the industry is adapting to new situations. I'm not sure if I know yet if it's for the better or worse. I do feel that we have the possibility to minimize the distance between the artist and the fan unlike never before. That, in turn, gives artists more power and independence than they've ever had.
HdJ: Are you planning on touring the US again to promote your upcoming English album?
IL: We're planning a tour for March. I don't think we'll have a record by then, but perhaps we'll do another tour later in the year to coincide with the release of the album.
HdJ: Who have been your greatest sources of inspiration?
IL: I've always been interested in many different kinds of music. I've played classical and jazz piano, worked with electronic music, and did the "rock band thing." So I try to find inspiration in as many different places as possible, whether it be from someone like Bjork or Bright Eyes to Keith Jarret or Brian Eno.
HdJ: Has there been a person or person who has really acted as a champion and cheerleader for you? Someone you couldn't have done it without?
IL: I would have to say that my mom and my manager are the two biggest cheerleaders in my life. They've been there with me from Day One, giving me their full support all the way.
HdJ: And finally -- I apologize, but the readers kill me when I don't ask this. Are you currently seeing anyone? What do you look for in a man?
IL: It's okay to ask. I have a boyfriend for over a year now. His name is Mike Phifer and we met in New York. He moved to Israel nine months ago and now we live together here in Tel Aviv. I suppose I want the same thing everyone else wants in a man, someone who's smart, kind, cuddly, and really great in bed :-)
HdJ: Ivri, thanks so much for talking with us!