Shelly, you’re an international woman with plenty of talents, and an appreciate for storytelling and beauty. Tell us your story.
My parents are Israeli independent filmmakers who moved to Hollywood in the mid 80s to peruse their film careers. I was born two years later. And when I was seven we moved back to Israel. When I was seventeen, I moved to NYC to become a Jazz singer. But now I’m back in Tel Aviv. And hope to live in Europe at some point in the near future.
So, you’re sitting in Tel Aviv right now, right? Set the scene for us.
It’s December and I can still wear a sundress and sandals. And I can see the Mediterranean from my bedroom window…
How does location and culture inspire you as a writer/songwriter?
Greatly. I wrote my first EP in Brooklyn. Songs inspired by the city, songs of awe for the beautiful and tumultuous city that had been my home since I was seventeen. The city I became an adult in, rather quickly if I may add.
I escaped NYC last summer for two months to Portland, Oregon and did a lot of reading, writing, hiking, swimming, drinking, dancing… I needed a change of scene and the Pacific North West’s beautiful green landscape really fit the bill.
I decided to finish the album in Tel Aviv, though. At home. I spent nine years in NYC. I paid my dues. I wanted to be able to run on the beach in the morning, write songs in the afternoon, and see my friends at night. I missed speaking Hebrew. But mostly, I just wanted everything to be drenched in olive oil, sea salt and lemon.
You studied poetry for two years. How has that informed your songwriting abilities? Which poets are you reading?
Getting my M.F.A in Poetry happened completely by accident, and turned out to be one of the most creative, challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. When you write a song, so much of the emotional landscape is painted by the music that the lyrics have to do very little of the work.
You also have rhyme and repetition at your side, which are hugely beneficial. In poetry, you’re on your own. The words alone have to create the entire world of the piece you’re writing; there is no music, no form, no structure, to fall back on.
You are the judge, jury, and executioner. It really magnifies your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Immensely challenging, and hugely rewarding. After writing only poetry for almost two years, songwriting feels like a walk in the park.
I love Anne Carson, Patricia Smith, Richard Siken, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Brenda Shaughnessy, Kevin Young.
If you could describe your music in 5 words, what would it be?
That’s a hard one. Here goes: beautiful, deep and insightful, yet still youthful and fun.
Tell us about your band and your upcoming goals in performance and music.
I’m working on my next album, which I’ll be recording early next year. My first love is acoustic music, and will always be where I feel most comfortable as a writer and performer. But I recently started playing around with electronic music. I have a dream of forming an all girl electro-pop band. And I plan on making that dream a reality…
My show at Pete’s Candy Store features the guitar player and drummer that I recorded my first EP with. They’re both phenomenal musicians and composers, and I feel very thankful to have them bring my musical vision to life.
The band is everything, and in my case, I have the good fortune of always surrounding myself with incredible and supportive human beings that also happen to be phenomenal musicians. They’re also easy on the eyes, which is an added bonus. I am an incredibly lucky lady.
For all you NYC folk, Shelly Yosha is performing live at Pete’s Candy Store on December 23 at 11pm with Chris Parrello (guitar), Or Bareket (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums).
Images: David Pearl