Catch our conversation about the magic of live performance, writing songs and the energy of balance.
The beautiful and talented Paris-born and based songstress, songwriter and composer, Yael Naim, is lending us all wonderful bits and pieces of her own inimitable imagination, to fill up the empty soul spaces we can’t always reach. Her signature strong and genuine grasp of complex melodies, along with an honest worldview voiced with raw, effortless emotion is what makes Yael Naim the treasured staple that she is. The most recent instillation in her deep yet airy landscape of life and longing is “How Will I Know”, which captures the feeling of being lost in time and space, heavy-hearted and yet trying to heal, forgive and let go of the past.
Her live rendition of the song is a passionate masterpiece. Be sure to keep an eye out for Yael Naim’s forthcoming international tour – from Paris to Berlin to NYC, she may be performing live in a city nearby this coming Spring. In the meantime, tune in to our exclusive convo with Yael, where we speak about the art of songwriting in different languages, her most prominent musical influences and live performing.
First of all, it’s 2020! How is your year going? (It feels like January is lasting forever). It feels like giving birth to something I’ve been carrying for a long time. Feeling strong, amazing, sometimes painful but in a good way… feels alive.
Can you explain the inspiration behind your latest single, ‘How Will I Know’? It talks about losing connection with a part of my soul and not knowing how it happened and how to find a way back to myself – strange or familiar?
You include a mix between French and English in this song. Are you more inspired in one language than the other? Now I really feel that both are strong languages for me… It’s weird because I never used the French in any song the last twelve years, and now it appears that in French I can get into more personal and maybe simplify things…
When did you first start writing music?
I was ten years old… I was already playing classical piano but used to feel the [desire] to express a more personal emotion – that’s how I started to write my first songs. When I discovered the Beatles and Joni Mitchell around the age of twelve, I bought myself a four-track tape recording and started my first recordings.
Who are some of your musical heroes from early on until now? (I should mention: you are one of mine!! A huge inspiration to me as a young vocalist also, so thank you).
Thank you so much. It touches me a lot.
Mine were Mozart. Then Elvis and the Beatles – then came a revolution with Joni Mitchell and Billie Holiday. Then as teenager: Nina Simone, Björk, Radiohead, and these days Sufjan Stevens, Brad Mehldau, Moses Sumney – I love the new record of Angelo de Augustine.
And what’s your writing process like? Does it differ or do you have a method? Writing songs is maybe the only thing that I can do simply… It became a natural expression of any emotion that I need to process or release. It can come with an instrument or by walking… The songs come usually almost finished, music and lyrics together… I love the first details that come out so I try to immediately record when I feel something is coming. (As my studio is at home, it’s quite easy to do). I often start a first recording the day I compose it, because the feeling is fresh and the Intention is the one I will build around when I start production.
How would you describe your relationship with live music? Its liberating, fresh air. It’s the place where I can connect to the moment, to people, and the moment I can become aligned with something very strong.
Sometimes I think your music feels very airy and ethereal yet at the same time, grounded with human-ness and real life. Do you resonate with this – in any way? How do you balance intangible feelings and physical human existence? ~ ~ ~
I really appreciate and understand what you mean. Both exist and both are needed. We are here in a physical world but invisible energy exists for sure and is a part of it… (maybe even a big part). Art is one of the ways where we can get in touch and express this invisible energy. I’m looking to find a balance of both in my life and in my music.
Switching gears here: if you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose? Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens. I can dive into it and never get out.
What is the most significant career moment that you experienced so far, would you say? The day I met David Donatien fifteen years ago. The day we started to produce music together is the beginning of everything that I became and everything that happened after that.
For the readership of women and girls with Girls Are Awesome, what is your advice for creatives – or anyone, really?
To take one hour a day for yourself… Could be meditating or going for a walk or automatic writing of anything that will liberate your unconscious and put you in contact with something deeper and more free? In contact with something that exists inside each and every one of us.
Also, one final question – for myself… I am currently in Paris, what should I go see? Haha, and should I be scared that I am going to be living in Paris and do not speak French?? I love the Marais and Bastille area… I prefer the little streets rather then the more commercial one. The new generation feels better with English so it should be OK. Let me know if you need for anything else. What will you do in Paris?
Thanks, Yael! I will be staying in the Northern area in Paris, most often writing in cafes alone and taking walks on the reg. Let’s meet up!