Interview: Oren Lavie on Creation of Music
by Daniel Haim
Oren is definitely one of the most unique artists I’ve ever had the chance to speak with. His songs are like a piece of art, if it’s a massive overwhelming sculpture or if it’s a beautiful, colorful large canvas which he draws for you as he tells you the the words in each song. He has been blessed by this industry, in so many ways.
Written in New York and recorded in Berlin, the album titled The Opposite Side of The Sea was in the making for a few years. It’s full of singular tunes which take a part of the colorful background complemented richly by his silky voice. of the Israeli born Oren Lavie.
Daniel: Oren! When did you realize that music was your calling?
Oren: It’s something I always liked to do. I’ve been writing songs before I could play instruments, or when I played poorly. But you can tell an interesting story even if you are technically limited.”
Daniel: Tell me who inspires you, musically, who inspires you in this industry the most.
Oren: I like the classic composers, I don’t know if they count as members of the music industry though. I like Bach and Ravel and Debussi, Prokoflev, Gershwin, Chopin, Mendelsohn, and so on.. Then of course, there’s the Beatles.The Beatles got me into music. Lennon is still my number one songwriter.
I look at other genres of art for definition. Analyzing the fine arts helps me define the style more than listening to other music, colors help. Sometimes a combination of words that I like will become a song, and very often a song starts from a story that I want to tell. The challenge is to tell that story with very few words, which is what the song format allows.”
Daniel: What’s behind the name and who came up with the name of your album, The Opposite Side of the Sea” ?
Oren: It’s the title of one of the album tracks, which I had written while living in Berlin. I wasn’t sure at first whether I wanted to name the entire album The Opposite Side… Because I wasn’t sure I wanted to use a song title for the album title. Also, it felt a little too dramatic and I wasn’t sure that’s necessary.
But as time went by it seemed to me that there was no other title for the album, really.. It did represent the feeling that life is always somewhere else, that there’s always an ocean away between where you are and where your home is. It was not a feeling dissimilar to what I was experiencing during the time that I wrote the songs on the album. So I kept the title.”
Daniel: Well said mate. You’ve gotten so much recognition for your music video, Her Morning Elegance. And now I hear it’s nominated for a Grammy.. How does it feel to be positively embraced by this industry? What are your inspirations?
Oren: It was fun to watch the video taking off. It happened so quickly. But we knew we had a good video in hand so we were not surprised by the success only by the speed and the width. We thought it was going to be an underground success, slowly but instead it reached a very large audience, quickly. It’s the power of the Internet.”
Daniel: When I listen to Her Morning Elegance, I don’t just hear the song or the music. It’s like you are painting a picture, and to me it’s like a Van Gogh painting.. Tell me! was this song written for someone?
Oren: It wasn’t written for or about anyone specific. I had a vague portrait of that woman in mind and I wrote the song because I wanted to know more. That’s why I write songs, I guess. I am curious to find out what’s there. When you finish writing the song you know. And then you lose your interest in the finished sing. I am not too interested in a song once I’ve finished writing it.”
Oren: I am not good at planning years ahead. I guess I am hoping I’d be able to produce a lot. Music, books, videos. I enjoy working fast recently. I used to be slow, but so much material has accumulated that I feel I have to get it produced and published quickly to get it out of the system and make room for new material”
Daniel: Let’s talk about Her morning Elegance music video. It’s SO creative.. Could you tell me about the process of the creation? And of course, who directed this piece? Who brought this idea to the table? What was your favorite part in the making?
Oren: The video was a collaboration between myself and two Israeli animation directors, Yuval and Merav Nathan, yes, they’re husband and wife. I have a background in writing and directing for theater, where the challenge is to bring into confined space the world you want to create, and you have to be economic about it, and of course you can never ‘cut’ to a scene by the ocean or show the view outside the window.
You have to find ways to make these elements appear on stage, between the three walls and the audience. Along the same lines, the initial idea for the video was to have a girl lie in bed, asleep, while her dreams play on her bed and body like a moving picture on canvas, while we don’t cut to any other location, but bring all the “Locations” into the bed. Marrying this idea with the stop motion technique that Yuval and Merav do so well suggested a narrative and a strong concept.
The challenge was to always raise the stakes and keep introducing new visual and plot elements before the concept got old. I guess the fun part was spending the two days of shooting in bed with Shir Shomron, the actress. She really made it come to life because she managed to be so expressive, not a small challenge without the use of her eyes – she had to keep them close for the entire thing. And she was so fluid in her movements, a difficult thing to achieve when dealing with the stop motion technique which is not fluid, by definition.”
Daniel: I know that the music industry back at home (Israel) is tough. Offering yourself to a smaller audience (compared to the US & European) and also they rarely shop music, mostly listening to Radio stations. Do you think this will ever change?
Oren: The thing about Israel, as you said, is that it has a tiny audience. It’s always been and always will be a problem to make a living in the arts in Israel, in all fields of art, not just music.”
Daniel: Do you also write in Hebrew?
Oren: I love writing in Hebrew and I have collected many songs along the years that I didn’t get the chance to release. I’m planning to record and put them out sometime, soon I hope. When I spend time in Israel I write in Hebrew, when I’m in the US or Europe – English.”
Daniel: What have you been up to since the release of the album? Have you been working on anything new?
Oren: I have been writing new stuff, yes. I’m working on my second album and just finished writing a funny book for children which I am editing these days.”