With three albums under his belt and a whole host of collaborations and live supports including the likes of Paul Weller, Yo La Tengo, Devendra Barnhart, Tom Monahan and Vetiver to name a few, he is currently recording his fourth album and will be touring Europe and the UK this summer from next week onwards.
We had a chat about the music and get a few insights into the man who has been dubbed as "Israel's Neil Young".
Born and raised in Kibbutz Ma'abarot, Geva began playing guitar at the young age of 12. He grew up immersing himself in lots of different music from all over the world.
His father's records featured iconic staples such as Elvis and The Rolling Stones but it was his older brothers were bringing in the great American songwriters such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Guitar legends like Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, lyricists such as Bob Dylan alongside lots of 90’s bands from the UK and US.
Nourished with the modern rock and roll hall of fame, Geva took to all the modern music he could get to. By 2000 he had matured into a gigging musician, on the scene and creatively working with other bands in and around Tel Aviv.
After many successful collaborations, such as Shy Nobleman’s “wonderful”, Geva decided to strike out on his own and in March 2006 saw his first solo album, Days of Hunger was released. Its acoustic country-flavoured harmonies along with his distinct vocals and guitar made him a notable artist in Tel Aviv's burgeoning folk-indie scene.
His third album “Get Closer” was produced by legendary producer Tom Monahan, who’s credits include indie-giants Dinosaur Jr. and modern US folk legends Vashti Bunyan and Devendra Barnhart to name a few.
I caught up with him in the middle of recording his fourth solo studio album for an in-depth interview with the man exclusively for Ynetnews.
"After such a successful job on 'Get Closer', Tom was a natural choice for me for the 4th album. Only this time he is brought with him three musicians who I have never previously met.
"They had only been sent the rough sketches of the songs, but they are very talented musicians with musicians from bands like Vetiver and Joan Baez. It’s a real privilege."
Solo or band
Any of you who have been lucky enough to see Geva perform will know that whether it’s a solo club spot of a large stadium gig with his band, "Tree", his performances are always memorable.
I reflected to him that many modern musicians are playing solo these days with the use of technology to aid them as well as doing some shows with a band
Solo or band, how do you balance these dynamics?
"When you play alone its more about you as you are. The effects and loopers that I use at solo shows are there to help me keep the volume and intensity whilst at the same time, keeping the intimacy that you naturally have with one person playing on stage.
"Bands are different; there is something big and powerful with a band. By design with a band, there are group of you on a stage, it’s a different energy that’s transmitted."
Memorable performances (Photo: Yiftah Belsky)
In today’s music industry these performance technologies alongside the marketing technologies have empowered musicians to have more direction over their career.
What do you feel, if anything, has changed?
"With today a singer has to cut it on stage to be measured, because with all the technologies that are available today they can easily take someone who can't sing and make it sound like they can, but live is a different forum. So you can't really lie on stage, you have to be good to entertain people, I guess that’s still true today as it ever was, just more so."
There is always a division between live and studio. In Geva's albums he has a band but many of his shows are solo.
How do you reconcile the differences?
"Its two forms of art – people tell me that my shows aren’t like my album, that they are in fact more intense. Studio set-ups are always more relaxed. There isn’t a crowd there. A show is by design more intense. A studio is hidden while a gig is naked. You can't hide, you’re there before people."
Having worked on five albums previously, three of which his own solo career, means a lot of songs. I added up in my head that on average each album has 10 plus songs and then multiply that by five and you have over 50.
As anyone knows, there are so many songs that never make the album that any artist ever writes. This struck me that Geva's creative output must be constant and to maintain such productivity must have certain mindset or inspiration to keep the creative flame alive.
What’s the secret?
"There is no formula. I decided a few years back that I wasn’t going to wait around for the muse. I decided that I was going to write and write and work and work, I'd get through a million bad songs until I wrote the one I wanted. Inspiration is all around us and the key is to grab it. There and then.
"It can be in the car when I’m driving, it can be at night time, it can come when I walk the dog in the park, memories from my childhood, sceneries of the place I grew up or the political conflict. Whatever it is, it's about grabbing the moment and putting into a chorus and verse."
The wind whispers
In a previous gig I'd seen there was one song that stuck in mind: "The Wind Whispers."
"That song is about an observation I saw, growing up as a kid and the scenery from the Kibbutz, which is right next to the West Bank and the Palestinian territory. I always wondered about the nature around where I grew up and the scenery just the other side of the horizon and wondered why they never took us there because it looked so pretty with its green valleys.
"The song is about this guy standing and watching across to the other side wondering if there is another guy watching back. It's really about whether 'is this all difficult, or do we all make it that way'.
"In the lyrics I use the word 'cousin' because it’s a word that a lot of Israelis use towards Palestinians. That they are our cousins. A lot of Israelis look like Palestinians and vice versa. If you are from there you can tell the nuances that separate each other. Clothes, accessories, intonation, cars, all the stuff that is external."
When travelling abroad from Israel on tour, is this something that defines your meetings with people?
"Every time I travel outside Israel and go to Europe and meet Lebanese and Syrian people we get along fine. There are no issues between us. Makes you think about the person and the politics. So that song, 'The Wind Whispers,' is all about that."
Do you have many fans in the Middle East outside Israel?
"The fact that I'm singing in English has an impact in the Middle East. I have got a lot of great feedback from Iraqis and Iranians who are talking about my music on the web. This wouldn’t have happened if I had been singing in Hebrew. Once I started to get feedback in Arabic on Facebook, only then I realized that the English happened to get their attention.
"This is a big deal for me, because I find myself talking on the net with people from Baghdad. We talked about music, with a bit of curiosity about what it is like over there. For me, since the album came out, this is one of the biggest things to happen. It reached 'the other side' and it would’ve never happened any other way."
About the album you're currently working on, what drove the song writing and where are you looking forward to?
"Over the past two years, a lot of personal things happened in my life and this coming album is more about those things and my next phase of growing up. The kibbutz is something that was always there for me, a place that I can go back to when I write.
"In this album I’m touching some of the more uncomfortable things of my past but also there are also love songs. Come what may it will be an essentially romantic album whether it’s the romance of love or the nostalgia of the past"
His third studio solo album “Get Closer” was released in Israel last year and is going to be released in the UK on May 11. Geva will be doing two shows to promote it: The official launch in Hoxton, London on May 11, and then moving on to play Cambridge on May 14.
There are also shows across Europe this month and throughout the summer in the run-up to 4th solo studio album, set for release later on this year.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Geva Alon then you are strongly advised to catch one of live shows. For more details on all the tour info and more, please visit www.myspace.com/gevaalon
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