Don't stop me now

Hard-working pop singer Shiri Maimon is full of surprises - from an English-language CD to a love for Queen and the Rolling Stones.

shiri maimon88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
shiri maimon88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Shiri Maimon is a tough act to follow, and she's hard to keep up with. Since placing high in the inaugural A Star Is Born competition five years ago, her career has maintained a trajectory of meteoric proportions. She has put out a top-selling debut album - Shiri Maimon, in 2005 - and gained national exposure as a TV show presenter and actor. She has performed to ecstatic large audiences up and down the country. Her songs have regular berths on all the national radio stations. And her video clips are in the loop of pop and rock on TV's Channel 24. Not one to stop for a breather for too long, Maimon has just put out her second CD, Regga Lifnei Sheh (Just Before) and the first single from it, "Yoter Tov Lisloah" (It's Better to Forgive), is already a hit. "Yes, I do work hard," says the 26-year-old singer with more than a touch of understatement. "I truly believe you can do anything you want, if you're prepared to follow your dreams and go for it." Maimon is certainly going for it. Besides Regga Lifnei Sheh, she recently spent an extended period in London working on a new CD in English. "I had a great time over there," she says. "I had to work hard on my accent in English, and manage with the different atmosphere and behavior of the English. But it was really good." The "English connection" was spawned in 2005 when Maimon represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest, with "Hasheket Shenishar" (The Silence That Remains). "British record producer TJ Cases saw me in the contest and he got in touch with me about working together," Maimon explains. "He is a wonderful professional and we worked together really well. There's no point in doing anything if you're not going to enjoy it, and I certainly enjoyed working with TJ." STILL, IT comes as some surprise to hear of the English project, despite Maimon's polished Eurovision performance of "Hasheket Shenishar," which included an English version of the Hebrew lyrics. Maimon has built up a large and faithful fan base in this country over the last five years and, other than that Eurovision appearance, she has been an exclusively home-based pop star. However, it seems that Maimon has designs to take her act on the road outside Israel, too. "It has always been my dream to sing in English, and I would definitely like to perform abroad. For now, the English CD is coming out with Orange, as a cellular release, but we are looking for a European label for it too." In fact, the twenty-something Haifa-born singer is a surprise package in more senses than one. Despite her commensurately contemporary vibe, and in-your-face looks and energies, she largely feeds off musical influences from earlier generations. "I like the Beatles, Queen and George Michael, and R&B - definitely the Rolling Stones - and there's Stevie Wonder too." Surely, there must be some more up-to-date sources of inspiration in there too. "Mariah Carey is really great. She can do anything. And I like Alicia Keys - she draws on older influences, too, and does her own thing with them." SADLY, THE entertainment world is littered with artists who made it big early on only to burn out and disappear from the media radar just as quickly. But there doesn't seem to be much chance of Maimon joining that particular junk heap. "I think I've paid my dues," she declares. "I appreciate where I am today and I keep my feet on the ground." Besides an early appearance with top ethno-pop band Teapacks, Maimon put in a long stint as a singer and bartender in Eilat. "I don't think there's anything you can call bad experience," she muses. "It all depends on what you do with it, where you take it." Maimon says she doesn't let her success go to her head, and realizes there can be paybacks too. "I have become well known and I know I have to take care of how I behave, and that can have an effect on youngsters. I try to act responsibly and get positive messages out there." The latter includes freeing up time for worthy causes. "I appear at events that support the campaign against road accidents. I do whatever I can fit in to my schedule. We have to give back something, too." While A Star Is Born provided Maimon - and others like Ninet and Jacko Eisenberg - with an important step up the career ladder, there are those who criticize the talent show as being little more than a money-spinning starlet conveyor belt. For Maimon, the road is just as important as the goals she sets for herself. "The most important thing is to have belief in yourself and your talent, and to be prepared to give it everything you've got." For now, all seems to be panning out wonderfully for Maimon. "I want to keep giving my audiences as much as I can, and to try to develop my career outside Israel too. I feel I can develop a lot more as a singer and a person, and I want to represent my country wherever I go in the world. As far as I am concerned, the sky is limit." Judging by Maimon's incremental rise to popularity over the last five years, she might not even stop there.