Ariel Horowitz to release his seventh studio album

Horowitz, Naomi Shemer's son, thought he would be anything other than a songwriter who followed in his mother’s footsteps.

ARIEL HOROWITZ: My mother understood that if she let me invent my own stuff, it would talk to me much more (photo credit: IFAT GOLAN)
ARIEL HOROWITZ: My mother understood that if she let me invent my own stuff, it would talk to me much more
(photo credit: IFAT GOLAN)
It’s not easy being a musician with a parent who is also musician. There are expectations and shadows of the limelight to confront. As the son of beloved Israeli folk singer Naomi Shemer, the famous songwriter of “Jerusalem of Gold” and many others, Ariel Horowitz knows this story all too well.
For him, it manifested more in reluctance than anything else. He thought he would be anything other than a songwriter who followed in his mother’s footsteps. But six studio albums and a successful career later, Horowitz stands firmly in a life that he loves, continuing to tell stories through his music.
His seventh album, She Ba’nu Habayita (When We Came Home), will be released at the end of October with a debut concert at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on October 26. Horowitz sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss learning piano, giving in to destiny and working with the bassist from Hadag Nahash to create a whole new sound.
What was it like growing up with a mother who is such an icon of Israeli folk music?
Yes, she is like a monument. My parents put in as much effort as they could for me not to feel that there was something special about my mother’s occupation. They wanted me to have a normal childhood. Part of that was not having a television at home. I didn’t realize until later that there was something special about my mother being a musician. She was my piano teacher; that was the strongest influence. But of course, when I grew up, people began asking me what it was like to have such a mother, and then I began to inquire what they meant. Of course then I realized that my mother was very famous and that her songs were very famous, but in early childhood, it wasn’t such a big deal.
What I remember most are the experiences from her teaching my piano; she was a wonderful teacher. She tried at first to put me on the classical path, which was the way she was taught, but I rebelled. So she found a magnificent way to allow me to play the piano, although it wasn’t classical. We would make up melodies and then she would write down the notes. She understood that if she let me invent my own stuff, it would talk to me much more. She was a wonderful classical piano player and an equally wonderful teacher.
It sounds like she really gave you the space to tap into your own creativity.
Yes, she understood that I was not going to be disciplined the way she was.
At one point did you realize that music was what you wanted to dedicate your life to?
When I got into elementary school, this whole thing of being the son of a famous musician pushed me the opposite way. I wanted to be the kid who played soccer, not the one who wrote songs. I did love playing, I just never wanted it to become my profession. I loved all kinds of music: rock, folk, and jazz. I did everything to live a normal life. I never went to school for the arts, my army service was regular not in the band. When I went abroad after the army to the US and Canada.
I came to Vancouver and there was this jazz festival. I fell in love with the city and the music. I called my father and asked him to sign me up for Rimon School of Music, just for one year. Rimon changed my life. When I started there, I wanted to go as a pianist, not as a songwriter. But there was a course on songwriting and composing, that’s where I became aware that I had a talent there. My first hit song, “Yallah Bye” was from an exercise in writing a song with only four chords, from that course. I discovered that I have something when I write songs that touch people. I became aware of that and started to polish that skill as much as I could.
How old were you when you started at Rimon?
I was about 22 and I’m 48 now. I teach there now, that same course, Songwriting 2. I really got there by chance, it wasn’t my dream to be a musician. I’ve been teaching there for 10 years now.
How many albums have you put out so far?
I’m about to release the seventh. On October 24th, I have the premier concert, where I will play all the new music, at the Piano Festival at the Tel Aviv Museum. It’s coming out around that same time.
What were the creative and recording processes like for you in putting together this new album?
My genre is what you call storytelling. Each time, I ask myself what an Israeli storyteller should sound like. This time, I went to collaborate with a friend, Yair Cohen Harounoff, the bass player from Hadag Nahash. This was a new angle for me since Yair comes from groove and funk. I come from the style of Elvis Costello. The blend is something refreshing. It was really fun working with him. This is what makes this specific album unique.
Do you hear that when you listen to the album?
Sure, if you look at the video clip of “Berlin,” I’m talking about an Israeli phenomenon, about these youngsters who search for a new life in Berlin, of all places. The playback is like the Berlin landscape I think and that’s because of the style that Yair brings in. It’s not trying to force anything on the listener, but its basis is in the lyrics and then we use these new sounds.
What do you mean when you say that it sounds like the Berlin landscape?
I mean that it’s very modern. When I describe Berlin in the lyrics, it’s reflected in the way the song sounds. The listener is really in those modern streets.
Why did you choose the title When We Came Home for the album?
Because I love what the song is saying, it’s looking at this land as our home and what happened when we came home. Did it go the way we planned or did something else happen? If someone comes from very far away and they have been dreaming about home, once they get there, what actually happens? It’s a song I’m proud of, so I made it the title track.