Israeli singer-songwriter Sun Tailor spells himself out on ‘Losing Days’

Arnon Naor's first album in over 7 years has a bluesy soul to it, spiced up with some lusty gospel textures and everything that happened to be coursing through his veins and brewing in his heart.

 SUN TAILOR: There is the melancholy of the blues, of folk. But, it is basically a guy with a guitar singing a sad song. (photo credit: HILA COHEN)
SUN TAILOR: There is the melancholy of the blues, of folk. But, it is basically a guy with a guitar singing a sad song.
(photo credit: HILA COHEN)

Arnon Naor just tells it the way it is, the way it is for him. Naor, who goes by the suitably bluesy professional moniker of Sun Tailor, has just brought out his first album in over seven years, his third to date.

Losing Days has a definite bluesy soul to it, spiced up with some lusty gospel textures and just about everything that happened to be coursing through Naor’s veins and brewing in his heart during the record’s lengthy gestation period.

The 41-year-old singer-songwriter started out on his musical path relatively late and in a pretty remote spot. “I was stationed on Mount Hermon, when I was in the army,” he recalls. “There was a guitar lying around and I picked it up and began playing around on it, and coming up with my own songs. That’s when I realized that the music was inside me and was coming out.”

In fact, he’d picked up a couple of chords at an earlier juncture of his life, but hadn’t taken it much further than the doodling stage.

Up at the IDF mountain outpost, Naor well and truly caught the music-making bug. After a while, it was time to take his new-founded craft up several notches and at the age of 23, he took a meaningful step in a serious direction and relocated to London, where he enrolled at the London Centre for Contemporary Music (LCCM).

 The Hermon covered in snow. (credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN) The Hermon covered in snow. (credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

The personal and creative epiphany was not long in coming. “To begin with, I focused on guitar playing. I’d never really thought of myself as someone who writes music, or sings. But people around me at the school helped me understand that I really was a singer songwriter.” Nice to get some peer support, especially when you’re making your first tentative steps into the real world of practical artistry and entertainment, and the logistical shenanigans that go with that.

Living in London – Naor spent a full five years there – meant that he had direct access to a range of influences which he probably would not have encountered back here. He also got some pointers at school and a cerebral light bulb duly burst into life. “I remember a very important moment at college,” he recalls. “A lot of things I do are just a matter of me doing them and it is only later that I appreciate what they really mean.”

That go-with-the-flow ethos led Naor along many a long and winding road without noting any notable milestones en route. “I make all sorts of decisions and follow all sorts of directions without knowing what I am doing at all,” he chuckles.

Jazz musicians in particular, but also artists across the full disciplinary spectrum, talk about “finding their own voice.” As a budding musician it is fine to plagiarize riffs or chord progressions from some titan of your chosen field. However, at some point, you have to do your own thing, tell your own story and make your own mark.

“I was looking for my own voice, while I was at college and at that time, I played a demo recording I’d done to one of the teachers there,” says Naor. “He said it was great and that he didn’t know that I played music like that. And then he said he also likes John Martyn.”

Martyn was an acclaimed Scottish-born singer songwriter who put out some peerless folk-based rock-inflected material that brought him a faithful fan base during a 40 year career. If Naor was going to feed off anyone, Martyn would not be a bad choice. Then again, he wasn’t knowingly ripping off from anyone. “I didn’t know who John Martyn was. I didn’t really know anyone, not even [iconic singer songwriter] Nick Drake.”

BEFORE LONG, Naor got his own band together, The Paper Doves, and did the rounds of London pubs and other venues. Those may have been early days for the young Israeli, but he seemed to be getting into them creatively. A couple of the numbers from those halcyon times eventually found their way onto Naor’s debut album, Like The Tide, which came out in 2012.

Naor’s seemingly insouciant take on life and his career path has changed little over the years. He says he still just gets on with his thing and does not discern patterns or clearly definable developments until after the deed is done.

That also applies to Losing Days. “I worked on this album for quite a few years,” he states. “Before it came out, I played it to a musician I greatly admire. He said: ‘It’s interesting. You really explore the gospel-folk direction. You’re really into gospel, aren’t you?’ There are all sorts of gospel motifs in the album, especially on ‘Who To Face,’” he says, referencing a track on which he spars with Ethiopian-Israeli songstress Aveva. “There are all sorts of things on this album that sort of touch upon gospel. It’s also in older music of mine. But, I didn’t have that word in my head. Looking back on that now, I can start to investigate why I was drawn specifically to gospel,” he laughs.

That and the blues. “I love [legendary early bluesman] Robert Johnson. I remember the first time I listened to his music. That, for me, came together with all those enlightened folkies like Nick Drake and John Martyn.” Naor feels they are very much one and the same. “There is kinship there. Robert Johnson is from rural Mississippi in the 1930s and Nick Drake is from London in the late 1960s-early 1970s, like Martyn too. And, I am from Israel. But, there is the kinship.”

That and more all went into Losing Days. “There is the melancholy of the blues, of folk. But, it is basically a guy with a guitar singing a sad song. But, for me, this album is not just that. I really like this record. It has a broad spectrum of things in it. There is the very personal side, with love songs. Losing Days is a love song, a sort of song of yearning. But, there are also collective songs that shout out. Like someone standing in front of a crowd and telling them they should appreciate who is standing there.”

Naor is certainly upright and standing, despite the trials and tribulations of the past couple of years he and his fellow professionals had to endure. “In 2019, I was always on the road in a plane flying somewhere to perform,” he says.

He slowly got the feeling it was time for a change and to drop a gear or two. The pandemic helped put the brakes on his globetrotting and the birth of his daughter, Zohar, a couple of weeks before the first lockdown offered him a new perspective on his priorities in life.

He also felt the need to do something to better the lot of his struggling pandemic-strapped co-professionals and established a musicians’ association called Tzlilim. “I have had my eyes opened in the last few years,” he declares. “I began to notice the injustices and to see what needed to be addressed. Musicians generally work on their own. We fight our own battles and we almost never talk about our problems. But, we need to unite and work together to deal with the injustices.” Sounds like a good blues theme.

Getting on with his own artistic endeavor, for Naor, must entail connecting with his core. “I may sing in English, but I am an Israeli. I am part of the Israeli mosaic. Tzlilim also reflects that. I am from here.”