A lot has been happening in the life of David Lavi since he placed second in the Israeli TV singing competition Kochav Nolad (A Star Is Born) in 2011. Although Hagit Yaso won the top spot, Lavi’s career has been soaring in its upward trajectory.
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter has been performing concerts around the country. His latest one will take place in Tel Aviv on February 17 at 8 p.m. at the Ozen Bar. He has also been working on producing his first album, comprised of Hebrew songs that he composed.
“I’ve never been so busy in my life,” says Lavi, who is the lead singer of his five-man band that consists of a percussionist, guitarist, bassist and keyboardist. Lavi, who also plays guitar and piano, has a style that straddles conflicting aspects.
“It’s hard to categorize my style of music,” he says.
Some of his songs are touching, personal ballads, while others are more vehement, where he expresses his more aggressive side on his electric guitar.
Lavi, who has no formal musical training, learned a lot during his stint on Kochav Nolad, which stood him in good stead in going about launching his professional career.
“Being on the show was the craziest experience,” he says. “It was six months of an emotional roller coaster. But it was great. I got to work with the best Israeli musicians, and I learned a lot about the music profession.
Amos Ben-David was the music producer on the show. We worked together on my songs every week and started building them,” he recounts.
In his concerts, Lavi and his band perform his original material, as well as other songs in Yiddish, Hebrew and English.
The oldest of five siblings, Lavi was born in Beersheba and grew up in an Orthodox home. His mother was born in Australia, and his father is Israeli, the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors.
As a child, Lavi was strongly influenced and inspired by his maternal grandparents, Harry (Zvi) and Dvora Waysman, who made aliya from Australia in 1971 and live in Jerusalem. Harry is a businessman who served as a cantor for many years, and Dvora is a prize-winning author of numerous English-language novels and short stories.
“My grandparents were the first artists I encountered,” says Lavi. “The writing part of me comes mainly from my Savta Dvora, and the singing part is from my grandfather,” he explains. “They were my inspiration and instilled in me the belief that I could do it [writing and singing] as a profession.”
Lavi grew up listening to the Yiddish songs and prayers his grandfather sang and the English-language Golden Oldies his grandmother loves so much. Hence in his concerts, he incorporates all that and more.
“I don’t speak Yiddish,” he admits. “With the Yiddish songs I sing, I know what they’re about, but I don’t know what the words themselves mean.”
The songs that Lavi composes, in both Hebrew and English, are about himself, his family, friends, God, religion.
“They are about what has happened in my life, from my early days at yeshiva to the present,” he says.
There have been many transitions during that time, as Lavi is no longer religious and is on a secular track. That shift was hard on his family at first, but “My parents are amazing, and we’re a big happy family,” he states.
In regard to the songs on his upcoming album, Lavi says, “Some of them were written 10 years ago, and others four months ago. But I can see the connection between them. I can see the transition.”
To raise the money to produce the album, Lavi went the crowdfunding route.
“Making an album is very expensive,” he says. “The music, the studio, the graphics – everything costs money.”
It wasn’t easy, he admits. There are several tactics one can use to raise the funds, he explains, such as offering to perform private concerts for the contributors or promising them a number of albums once the CD is released.
“And you have to keep reminding them [the contributors] and explaining how much you’re counting on them,” he adds.
When the money was only trickling in, Lavi came up with another strategy. He began writing posts on his Facebook page, relating stories about himself and expressing how he was feeling.
“When you open your heart, it is very effective,” he says. He shared stories about himself and his experiences. There was one story in particular that he believes had a powerful effect. “I wrote about a Yiddish concert that I performed in Jerusalem at a little bar in Nahlaot called Slow Moshe,” he recounts.
“At first there was no one there – just one or two people. But I really got into the music, and people starting coming in. By the end of the night, the place was completely full. It was amazing for me,” he marvels. “If I tell people the truth, they’ll believe me. And they know that my songs are as honest as my stories,” he says.
Lavi had already developed a following from his stint on Kochav Nolad, as well as audiences who had heard him perform in his concerts and at music festivals, he explains.
“People knew me, and I hope they liked me,” he says.
His candor was evidently very endearing, and it more than paid off. The money started streaming into his crowdfunding campaign, even exceeding his expectations. He raised NIS 80,000 for his album, which is due to be released in two months.
“This album is in Hebrew, but my next one will be in English,” he says, already planning for the future.
Once the album is released, Lavi will begin to perform a concert for private or corporate events with the working title “Nina Simone and Other Prayers.”
It includes universal and Jewish prayers in English, Hebrew and Yiddish that he learned from his grandfather, as well as his grandmother’s favorite Golden Oldies. Like any performer worth his salt, Lavi says he feels nervous and excited before a performance.
“But once I am on stage, I feel very natural,” he says. “I get better at it every time. When you feel natural on stage, you know you’re doing a good job. You always feel the audience.”
In concluding, asked if there was anything he would like to add, Lavi replies, “My favorite person in the world is my Savta Dvora.” How endearing is that! For information about David Lavi’s concerts, call 052-285-1239 and/or email email@example.com.