Ivri Lider absolutely thinks mainstream America is ready to embrace a gay Israeli pop singer. Why not? he asks with a sweetly audacious laugh. Maybe hes so confident that crossover success is within his grasp because coming out to a major newspaper in 2002 only increased his popularity, and it helped turn his years of recording, touring, and collaborating into a headline-making career.
Or maybe its because hes got plenty of practice singing honestly about complex sexual affairs in a country raging with secular and religious wars. Israel is many things, he says by phone from a sound check in Eilat, a city at the southern tip of Israel. It can be very liberal and open-mindedand parts can be the opposite of that. Its something you can say about America too.
Lider (pronounced LEE-der) grew up in an artistic family and started fooling around with pianos when he was 5. Before I could read words, I could read notes, he says. He added an increasing array of electronic equipment to his repertoire, creating a blissful, hypnotic style that blends a live band with synthesized samples.
Hes well-poised to become the Israeli Ricky Martinwith one (other) key difference. Unlike the massive worldwide Latino market, there are only so many fans of pop music sung in Hebrew. To be awarded a gold record in Israel, you have to sell just 20,000 albums; in the United States, its 500,000. Liders five CDs have sold a combined 160,000 copies, no small feat but still far from the American success he dreams about.
Israel is such a small country that no matter where you play a concert, at the end of the night you always get to go home, he admits. A U.S. tour last fall, including playing for a packed house at New York Citys Avalon Night Club, only reinforced that difference. We traveled to 10 concerts in 12 days, he says. Not everyone knows your language, but you still have to connect with the audience.
Hes also got a cameo in a new film. Liders close friends Gal Uchovsky and Eytan Foxcurrently Israels best-known gay exports, with Walk on Water and Yossi & Jagger enjoying major filmfest successhave promoted Lider from composer to on-screen star. In their new movie, The Bubble, he belts out Gershwins The Man I Love. The experience only made him eager for more. Next time, he says, I hope I get a bigger part!
This month hell get a proper introduction to American audiences with the release of Revolutions, the first CD collection from Music With a Twist, the boutique label from Sony Music Label Group and Wilderness Media & Entertainment. Ivris song sounds different from everything else, says Matt Farber of Wilderness, who helped choose Liders track from thousands of submissions. Its haunting.
Liders song Jesse, the only cut on the compilation by an international artist, is written in the universal language of unrequited love for an allegedly straight man. You feel like if you can just show him how wonderful it can be, hell change his mind, Lider explains, bemoaning the frequency with which he and his friends have both been there and done that. You can spend a lot of energy and sadness on that kind of relationship.
He seems to have learned his lesson, though. Theres one other potential explanation for Liders stateside ambitions: a Washington, D.C.based boyfriend he met last fall. The long-distance part doesnt worry Lider much: The world is becoming not such a big place.