Jewcy Interviews: Yael Naim

After her success thanks to a MacBook Air ad, Yael Naim is set to put out her next album, “She was a Boy.” We talk to her about Steve Jobs and French antisemitism. Read More

By / May 12, 2011
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Yael Naim burst onto the cultural zeitgeist when her song “New Soul” became the song of the moment by being featured in the advertisements for the MacBook Air.  We sat down with the Israeli Born, French artist for a quick Q&A and some details about her new album She Was A Boy, which came out this week.

First, and most importantly, do you own a Macbook Air.

(Laughs) Yes, I do and I love it.   I have a bigger one that I use for more of the music type stuff also.

Have you ever met Steve Jobs personally?

No, I never have.  Although, I do know that he personally chose the song for the ads.

Do you feel like the ads pigeonholed you in any way?  If you could go back, would you give the song to Apple again?

I never thought that so many people would get to hear this music so, yes, of course I see it as great a thing, it really just made it possible for a lot of people to hear the music that wouldn’t have otherwise.  So, I would do it again, yes.

In the US people know you as a Israeli artist, and you’re associated to some degree with Judaism, I’m curious what your relationship with religion is, do you consider yourself Jewish.

I don’t practice any religion, but I love the cultural side and I love celebrating Friday night with my family and celebrating Pesach.  I respect everyone’s belief, but my family is not religious. I’m Israeli and Jewish and French.  In the future I might even be more things, I don’t know.

I’m wondering what it’s like to be a French Jew.  I’ve read that there’s a rising antisemitism in Paris, is this true, have you observed this?

I don’t know if It happens to people.  I guess some people have felt this, like blacks have felt racism, but I think there’s stupid people who do stupid things.  But generally from my experiences, I’ve never lived any kind of anti-Semitism, even the opposite.  I read in Hebrew everywhere, even in the Metro, the subway.  The album, the majority of the songs are Hebrew and I’m known as Israeli, Jewish.  So, for me the answer is no, I’ve experienced just the opposite here in Paris, I’ve met a lot of Muslims and people from other religions and cultures that are curious  and open-minded, who want to stop and think, not judge.  The team that helped me record this album in Hebrew were not from the same religion or culture as me, and it was a really beautiful experience.

With “New Soul” having been such a big hit and such a cultural phenomenon, do you feel a certain amount of pressure, either from the label or just internal pressure to sort of, record another “New Soul,” a newer soul?

I didn’t really do it on purpose the first time with “New Soul,” so I think the thing for us was just to continue to do the music and to calmly continue to do what we love and maybe good things could happen, but I don’t believe really in chasing after things.  When I arrived to Paris I was 20, I was trying really hard at first and I was miserable, nothing good happens from this way of being.  So, we tried to not think of any kind of pressure and not to repeat ourselves and just tried to make music and hope people would connect with it.

How is this album different from the last one?

Maybe the period of life was different?  The first one was a really melancholy experience.  The second was happy and things started moving and it was like a new life.  For this album we felt like we wanted to take more risks and try to new instruments like marimba, and harmonica, and we wanted to try new arrangements.  I think also that there’s just more rhythm in general.

I’ve noticed some really big sounds on the last album somewhat and especially on this album and it reminded me very much of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, so I wondered whether that’s an influence for you.

Um, no. (laughs)  I don’t know much about him, sorry.  More New Orleans music like Nina Simone, and some classical music.  These are probably the major influences for what you’re describing.