Israeli Pop Star-turned-rock-n-roll-singer Tackles First Album in English

Merav Michaeli
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Merav Michaeli

Pop-rock singer and actress Ninet Tayeb, who this week released the first song from the English-language album she produced in Liverpool, now feels she's on the right track. Once Israel's darling, who won the first "Kochav Nolad" contest - Israel's version of "American Idol" - Tayeb has metamorphosed into a rock 'n' roll singer who does what she believes in, even if it means losing fans and large audiences.

You've said it was your dream to make an album in English. Since when?

Ninet Tayeb in rehearsal.Credit: Alon Ron

Tayeb: Since I was about 10. My whole childhood I listened to foreign songs.

So what were you searching for all these years if that's been your dream since you were 10?

Because I didn't know that's what I wanted. I didn't even dare to ask it of myself. The English album was like a sort of hidden dream I was keeping to myself, and when I felt I was capable of making this step and dreaming it out loud...

What made you feel you could "dream it out loud"?

I simply started writing songs in English. I don't even know how it happened. I played them to Rockfour [the renowned Israeli rock back Tayeb has been collaborating with], and we said let's do something with it. Of course it was a very long process and many times I gave up in despair along the way.

What kind of despair?

Insecurity. Thinking I couldn't really do it, didn't really have it, what am I thinking?

What's "it"?

Being able to write and sing in English.

And what about the ability to make it and conquer the world?

I'm not really counting on that. My goal with this album is to appear around the world, on new stages, meet new people, a new culture.

But recording in English and in Liverpool, with a known producer - that does seem to say "I want to make it abroad."

Obviously I want to, no question. There's a German label that is very interested and we're thinking of starting our tour there.

Do you see yourself living abroad?

Don't know. I want to, but it's complicated.

Yes, there's a guy. He works in Hebrew.

Totally, totally, but Yehuda [her partner, actor Yehuda Levi] is totally with me. It's terribly important to him that I make my dream come true. Yehuda is also an actor who dreams of acting in Hollywood and so do I. It's like give and take - we both understand each other and each other's needs and dreams. So when that happens I believe it will be alright, God willing.

How hard was it for you to cope with people's difficulty in accepting your change?

It was difficult at first. I thought, don't they see? Don't they feel it's real? I didn't get it and I was angry. But it's like a relationship, like parting - at first you hate the one who left you, then you repress it and finally you accept it.

Does the change in your music have to come with a rock 'n' roll look?

Not at all. I don't want to go into definitions. Amy Winehouse, for example - the music she made was pop. But she's the most rock 'n' roll possible - with her look, what she said, her persona in general. Rock 'n' roll is attitude, it's doing what you want in principle. That's my definition of rock 'n' roll - doing what you want.

You're financing the new album, "Sympathetic Nervous System."

With my money and that of a few wonderful people.

And that's why you said you were doing a campaign for underwear company Delta.

Yes, but not only that. Obviously the money is very significant here, but Delta came to me with a proposal to do something different, and it's with a collection I designed. That blew me away.

So you'll model a bra?

Sort of. I'm going to model a bra and panties, but not the way it sounds. It will be more mysterious, not in your face. That is also something I very much believe in.