Music: Renaissance woman

New York-based Israeli musician Shira Gavrielov returns home with a new album and a new concert.

Shira Gavrielov (photo credit: DANIEL JACKONT)
Shira Gavrielov
(photo credit: DANIEL JACKONT)
Singer and Ramat Hasharon native Shira Gavrielov is a renaissance woman. After releasing her first single at just 15 years old, which shot to number one in Israel, she traveled to Europe and the US to further develop her sound and explore her musical expression. Gavrielov battled an eating disorder, made it further than any Israeli ever on American Idol and is now living happily in New York City, preparing to release her third album. Gavrielov will return to Israel later this month to perform at Tel Aviv’s Ha Ezor club on the 21st. She sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss attending music school at 13, singing an Elvis cover and getting in touch with her masculinity through songwriting.
You’ve been involved with music since you were young. What was the starting point?
My dad is a musician [Miki Gavrielov] and as a young kid I was always attracted to music. I played piano, which I was very passionate about. Then I started singing and asking for more instruments, more guidance and structure. That’s how I started getting into music. I released my first single in Israel when I was 15. Then I was signed to a record label that released my album. That was about 10 years ago.
What was the response like to your debut album?
People really liked it and I was very stunned. I wasn’t expecting love. I was just a kid who wanted someone to listen to my songs.
I never expected anything more than a couple of friends as an audience.
I read that you attended Berklee School of Music in my hometown of Boston. When was that?
That was before I released my first album. I got scholarships to fly to the United States. Berklee is amazing! I was really young, 13, and I went there for a summer program.
It was good. I wasn’t ready to move yet because I was too attached to my mom at that point.
When did you have the courage to leave Israel (and your mom’s side)?
I moved to Paris when I was 18. I had a company that was interested in signing me, but eventually I decided not to sign with them. I met a lot of other artists in Paris, which was amazing. I got to know MC Solaar, who is a huge rapper there. I got into French music and I even saw Adele perform there before she was a huge star. She hypnotized me. I did some music of my own there, but eventually moved back to Israel in 2008. I went through a huge difficulty in my life, which cause me to have anorexia. I was eventually admitted to the hospital and fought for my life, which gave me a lot of tools which I use today. After recovering, I flew to London to record my second album. I had so many thoughts and emotions that I wanted to share with the world. It made me write more.
Was the music a helpful part of the healing process for you?
Absolutely, the only thing that took me out of that time was the thought of music and the feeling that I had a purpose to serve.
Then you were on ‘American Idol’?
Yes, after I released my second album in Israel and Europe and had my first tour in the US, I got an email to come to an audition for American Idol, which they send to everyone who can sing and perform; I’m not special. But at 22 years old, I thought I had to go.
So I went in my very naive way and stood with 15,000 other people.
I was pretty calm going into it because I had no expectations at all after seeing the line. I figured that I would probably be sent home, but at least I would have the experience. I was shocked that I made it through. There are five or six auditions just to make it to that first round.
Being from Israel was different and weird for most of the contestants.
A huge obstacle for me was not the language barrier, but the taste in music. My kind of music was really different than the American palette. That’s okay, but it was hard to choose songs with other contestants. I wasn’t familiar with all the new hits because I was still listening to the Beatles, oldies from the ’50s and ’60s, or Adele. Everyone else was listening to new pop that I wasn’t familiar with. That is why I chose to sing Elvis’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” and everyone else chose more up-to-date songs. I think that was the first song I ever recorded, actually, when I was 14.
You made it further than any Israeli ever has before right?
Yeah, it was really good for me to be there and now I know it’s not for me. I had to know that. I’m more about making the art than standing in front of people. Performing is one thing, but being judged is not for me. My mom is an agent; she used to have a huge agency for actors, script writers and directors.
As a young kid, she used to ask me if I wanted to go on auditions and I didn’t. It’s a weird experience to be in front of a few people and try to please them. I have full respect for it, but I just can’t do it. It’s not good for my nerves.
So what are you doing now?
I’m working on my new EP that will be released in the US. It’s my third album. I sing in Hebrew and English. I recorded a song recently that was sitting in my guts for a long time, and I felt that it was time to release it in Israel and give it the respect it should get, even though I don’t live in Israel now. I do miss it a lot and I try to visit my parents in Hod Hasharon as much as I can. The name of the song is “He Has No Rest.” I worked with an Israeli producer here in New York and a full band. I wanted a visual to go with it. I saw this dancer in class, dancing to my song and I was very excited to see what she would do. She’s actually my drummer’s girlfriend. It was an aerial act. She made me shiver, so I asked her if she would perform in my video.
Who is the song about?
I wrote it about a guy who has trouble explaining himself, expressing pain and being clear about his feelings. When I started writing it, I realized that I was writing about myself, but from a male perspective. The song was cooking and it took me a long time to bake it. It was very emotional.
For more information and to buy tickets to the upcoming show, please go to: or events/421223074875536/.