Daniela Spector embraces ‘all the really beautiful things’

In her latest album, the local singer-songwriter bares her soul in a way she never had before.

March 4, 2015 22:49
tel aviv

FOR SINGER/SONGWRITER Daniela Spector, music is her catharsis, her way of understanding and dealing with the experiences that inform her life.. (photo credit: ZOHAR RALT)

‘Songs came out like an outside channel I could tune in to and helped me understand my life in a different way,” says Daniela Spector.

The disarmingly open Israeli singer-songwriter is talking about her earliest memories of music. As a young girl, she would rather daydream over a piano than finish her homework, so it comes as no surprise to learn that once she reached her 20s, she put music above everything else in her life.

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“I thought to myself that whether I was going to succeed or not, that didn’t matter to me,” she says.

This confirms something she has made clear for a while now: Throughout her three album releases – the folk-tinged 2009 self-titled debut; the 2011 collaboration with her husband, Ben Spector, on the English album Love Is; and the recently released full-length All the Really Beautiful Things – music has been her catharsis, her way of understanding and dealing with the experiences that inform her life.

Although Spector has a voice that could evenly mend and melt your heart, she didn’t grow up in a musical family. And unlike the typical singer-songwriter, she wasn’t influenced by the coda of an unhappy childhood or a broken family. Instead, she was inspired by the music that her mother, a film director for Channel 1 for more than 30 years, selected as soundtracks to the her many documentaries.

It was dramatic music that could tell a story, and this detail is significant when discussing the body of Spector’s work. Her main influences are the Icelandic post-rock artists Sigur Rós and Björk – iconic artists who create music that oozes imagery and tells a story. Their songs are so cinematic, that they shimmer in a weird vastness and live in a space that comfortably metronomes back and forth between extraterrestrial and traditional composition.

Spector opens her latest album with, “Beware,” which, akin to its title, has haunting echoes rendering an immediate comparison to some of the nerve-shredding orchestral sounds of Rós.

“I really tried to use specific sound landscapes to make the songs more atmospheric,” she says.

All the Really Beautiful Things is a homily on homespun instrumentation, gorgeously uneasy cinematic sonic landscapes, feverish admissions and gentle chords that warm every melody. It marks a newfound phase in her life and her musical career, but the journey getting to this point wasn’t overnight. After various life-changing experiences, she has arrived at a profoundly mature and reflective stage. In addition to songwriting, she began teaching music for young people who struggle with mental illness in Kfar Izun, near Caesarea. A tranquil location set on the beach, the name means “Harmony Village.” There, she witnessed the enormous power that music has and its ability to bring people together peacefully.

Music became the thread she used to stitch together new and old relationships. And even collaborating with her husband in 2011 proved to be an overwhelmingly intense experience for her.

“It was a journey for sure!” she says. “We actually worked for on it for six years.”

Like any couple, they fought; but eventually the music rose above it.

“We’ve been together for 10 years and worked together for almost 12. We now understand each other’s weak spots and sensitivities. I wouldn’t be able to be with a man who doesn’t understand what I do on that level, and it’s a big blessing,” she remarks.

However, teaching music and working with her husband were not the only factors that have brought harmony into her life. A year ago the couple welcomed their baby daughter into the world, and becoming a mother has significantly transformed the performer.

“It changed my body, it changed my everything!” she says. “It’s this big thing that enters your life and sits right in the middle of it. It gives me perspective and has created a new balance in my life.”

It’s only now that we see Spector displaying a penchant for focusing on telling stories about her personal life. From the first notes of her 2009 self-titled debut, she wrote with seeming effortlessness about events (“Hiroshima”) and fictitious characters (“Great White Bear”). She doesn’t bring any of these – as she called them – “stunts” into her songwriting anymore. She writes about herself and her family, even if it was painful. She explores heartache and the difficulties of maintaining relationships in a frank and unapologetic tone.

One of the most bracing songs, “Sitting in the Hospital Waiting Room,” is a testament to a memory that Spector holds dear. The song details Spector’s sitting in the hospital waiting for her mother, who suffered from breast cancer.

“She’s okay now,” she is quick to add. “To write the song was easy; it wrote itself. It was only afterwards that I had a lot of doubt about releasing it, but my mother encouraged me to do it.”

Spector acknowledges that her story is relatable and will give people hope.

“Whether it’s your family or not, we all know someone who has suffered from cancer,” she says.

It’s clear that Spector has hit a point of personal growth, where shying away from being vulnerable isn’t an option anymore. And ironically, it’s a joy to hear.

All the Really Beautiful Things spends most of its time chronicling the bittersweet pain and light-headed confusion that can only arise through the ebbs and flows of life. Spector is inspired by growing up in Israel, and coats an extra layer over the questions she wants to raise in her songs by using biblical references.

“Whale,” for example, the song about her father, finds her represented as Jonah and her father as the whale.

“I guess I grew up in Israel, and you study the Bible in school. It’s in your blood, and it’s a good bank of metaphors to use,” she explains.

This is an artist who embroiders layers of her personal life into her music but remains unquestionably passionate at the core. In order to reupholster her beliefs, she spins a tale during the song “Bells” about a person who hasn’t realized her passion yet because, according to her, “Having a big passion without being able to connect it to the real world is like having a dream you can’t reach, like walking in a world without a home,” she says.

So while music forces Spector to understand life in a different way, it invites us to do the same.

For more information about Daniela Spector, visit http://danielaspector.bandcamp.com.

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