While he’s next to unknown outside certain circles in Australia, singer-songwriter Ivri Lider is arguably the most famous gay man in his home country of Israel.
This week marks Lider’s first visit to Australia, as he explained to Sydney Star Observer down a fairly fuzzy phone line from his home in Tel Aviv.
“I’ve had some contact with Australian fans over Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. People have written to me, and I answer when I can.
“You never know what audiences will be like when you’re headed to a new country. I know what to expect when I play in New York now, because I’ve done that before, but somewhere like Australia is totally new to me.”
Lider needn’t worry — one of his Sydney shows has already sold out, while his Melbourne concert is well on the way. Audiences at his Australian gigs will be treated to material from his upcoming debut English-language album, Fly/Forget.
“I’ve been writing in English for the past six, seven years — it was a natural process. I started getting a lot of fan mail from all kinds of places, saying ‘We love your songs, but we just don’t understand them because they’re in Hebrew.’ People were looking for translations on Google.
“So I’ve been recording this new English album for the last year or so in a studio in Sussex with my band.”
Since his 1997 debut, Lider has released seven Hebrew-language albums, becoming one of the biggest-selling contemporary Israeli musicians in the process.
It was in 2002 that he started speaking openly in the media about his sexuality — a somewhat risky commercial move for an artist with two platinum albums already under his belt.
“At some point, I just thought that it was the natural thing for me to do,” he said.
“I want to be totally free in what I do and what I write, and I wanted to feel that I was this guy who wasn’t afraid of anything. I wanted to use my status to help younger gay people.”
Since coming out, Lider has often discussed his sexuality through his music — take recent single Jesse, with its opening line, “I love a boy named Jesse/ But Jesse doesn’t love me back”.
“I think today for an artist, being honest is a must. I don’t think you can keep writing songs without being true to yourself, because it comes across and people can feel that it’s fake,”he said.
He’s also had some fun with his sexuality, recording a cover of Katy Perry’s boner-dyke anthem I Kissed A Girl last year, original lyrics intact.
“I think it’s funny, taking a song like that and giving it a totally different perspective. Who knows, maybe I’ll cover more songs like that in the future — maybe Barbie Girl!”
info: Ivri Lider performs at Sydney University Orientation Week and Bondi Pavilion on February 24 and at Queer Tel Aviv, Queer Thinking on February 26.
Israeli singer-songwriter Ivri Lider