Coming home

With striking vocals and deeply personal lyrics, Shimrit Dror Greilsammer invites you into her life on her new album, ‘Songs from the Home.'

Shimrit Dror Greilsammer (photo credit: RONEN GOLDMAN)
Shimrit Dror Greilsammer
(photo credit: RONEN GOLDMAN)
Watching Shimrit Dror Greilsammer effortlessly perform, I feel as though I am being lulled into a sweet dream that I never want to forget.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist’s show at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem last month showcased personal and hauntingly beautiful songs from her debut solo album, Songs from the Home. Set to be released on March 29, she is holding a release party later this month at Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theater.
With genuine warmth, Dror Greilsammer, 36, welcomed the audience into her “home” with stunning songs about standing on her patio looking out at the stars, sitting in her empty house waiting for her husband to come home, longing for her late sister, and feeling supported by a mother from her son’s preschool who stayed with her during a stressful day.
“I think the focus of the album is the existential condition, and for women in particular,” she says, noting that she considered calling it Songs from the Belly or Songs from the Vagina.
“Small moments in life, passing thoughts and things that happen on the way in my daily life.”
Vulnerable, though in control, with a gentle, pure voice, Dror Greilsammer bares her soul for the audience and makes those gathered around her feel at ease in her home. She sways and glides across the stage, sometimes with guitar in hand and sometimes free to dance with her husband and violinist, Michael Greilsammer, by her side.
While often Michael, the Israeli-French classically trained “reggae violinist,” takes center stage, or they share the limelight in their concerts at the Yellow Submarine, it was Dror Greilsammer’s night.
With love and admiration, he stepped back, providing vocals and playing a serene, and at times raucous violin. Their on-stage presence provided the audience with a window into their love. Once Michael got down on his knees while playing violin as if to serenade his wife. Dror Greilsammer describes their musical partnership as “the greatest gift we have.”
The Jerusalem-based pair frequently compose and write songs together; she co-wrote several songs on his 2001 album, Wake Up, and they co-released In Paris in 2009. On Songs from the Home, Michael sings and plays violin, including on the emotional track, “The House is Empty,” about waiting for him to return home from a tour abroad.
In the video for her song “On One Roof,” Michael plays violin as his dreadlocks sway in the background, but Dror Greilsammer is the focus. The song has an ethereal, other-worldly quality. In playful songs “Dance” and “Tou Dou Dou” off In Paris, they both share the spotlight, complementing each other’s sound.
Most moving on the new album is her song “Good for Us,” about her older sister Yael, who died suddenly at 42, eight years ago, of pancreatitis.
“She was really an enchanting person,” Dror Greilsammer says, introducing the song. A talented dancer, oil painter, wife and mother of two, Yael suffered from manic depression.
“I think she was too sensitive for this tough world of ours, and for an artist it is harder to find her way,” says Dror Greilsammer, who was five when Yael was diagnosed.
“It’s not good for us this way / it’s good for us to be together / that way is good,” she sings.
Dror Greilsammer recalls long phone conversations with her sister, trying to counsel her, her sister’s creativity and the sound of her laughter. But growing up with an artistic sister who struggled with mental illness also scared her as an aspiring singer.
“I was afraid that would it happen to me also. That I would go crazy… because my sister Yael was connected to the arts, and I thought this path is so difficult that perhaps it would be very easy ‘to go crazy’ over it and get lost,” she says.
Dror Greilsammer credits her parents with encouraging her artistically and reassuring her that she was fine.
While Yael was an excellent mother, Dror Greilsammer says she also saw up close the challenges her children faced.
“Many times there is a shame around mental illnesses and it is hard for children to ask for help from the outside, from the community,” she says.
These children can fall through the cracks and much of the child rearing can fall to their grandparents, as she saw her parents step in to offer great support.
“I feel that the surrounding community needs to embrace these children and offer more help to their parents who are coping and their families, and thus break the cycle of depression.”
Dror Greilsammer wanted her album to contribute to this cause. Raising the funds for her album through Headstart, an Israeli crowdsourcing site, she has announced she will donate 10 percent of the funds to Summit, an Israeli organization that supports young people facing mental illness, as well as their parents. Her donation goes toward sponsoring a new support group for parents facing mental illness and their children.
Dror Greilsammer raised well over her goal of NIS 70,000 needed to record and put out her album, reaching NIS 95,934.
“I thought about Yael’s children and how amazing it would be if someone would support enrichment programs for children whose parents are coping [with mental illness], giving them points of light in this complicated reality.”
For herself, Dror Greilsammer says she suffers from strong mood swings, and music helps her through these dark moments.
“It’s better than a psychologist,” she says.
“I write something new and reflect the emotions to myself. The music always comforts and soothes, like a new friend who accompanies me during the day.”
Dror Greilsammer’s home seems to extend to the stage.
Since childhood she has known she wanted to be a singer. From 6th to 12th grade she performed with Kova Tembel, a youth musical group based out of Kiryat Motzkin, named for the traditional round, brimless kibbutz hat.
A turning point came at age 14 when she met pop rock singer and pianist Daniel Salomon.
The Kiryat Bialik native studied in a theater program at her school, ORT Dafna. She recalls the turning point in her life of playing the lead role of Haya in their production of Ghetto by Yehoshua Sobol, and meeting the young Salomon, who composed music and played for the show.
“This was the most meaningful year of my life because I decided then that what I want to do in my life is to sing,” she says. Today, Salomon is the producer of her debut album.
“Working with Daniel Salomon again after all these years is closing an amazing circle and is really cosmic.” Salomon joined her on stage, playing piano, for several songs at the Yellow Submarine, including his song “Love.”
After the army, Dror Greilsammer says she searched frantically for musicians in Haifa to play with, not caring what genre of music it would be. She discovered Black Velvet, an Israeli-Irish band. She ended up singing on their first album, A Stor Mo Chroi, in English and Gaelic. Later she studied for a year and a half at Rimon School of Music, but left to focus on private voice lessons with teacher Rachel Hochman.
Her wanderings led her to her most significant musical partner, as well as her partner in life. Dror Greilsammer and her husband have collaborated musically since 2001 when he began playing violin for Fionola, a band in which she sang and for whom she wrote songs.
They focus on their individual careers as well as on creating music together.
“I think that work, like in a relationship, it is most important that each person has his place, his or her private kingdom,” she says.
“And with this, there should be a corresponding place together, a place in the middle where everything can two circles, moons that meet in the middle.”
Amidst their careers they also are parents to Lavie, seven, and Ayal, three. Dror Greilsammer says nurturing their work and home lives is not simple, but “it’s what we know and are familiar with.
“We met through music and from then it’s been like this.”’