Spotlight: Eyal Amir
It is always interesting to see artists on the cusp of something big. Eyal Amir is one of those artists. He's an Israeli musician, composer and producer based in New York.
He's one of the faces of the next generation of progressive rock musicians. He mixes elements of jazz with more traditional rock fare to create something special.His inclusion in this next generation of artists can be seen by his adoption of alternative publishing for his work so far. He has posted his work, both solo and with Project RNL, on youtube for fans to see. This new school of musicians understand that giving listeners this material will only increase demand for new work.
When you first hear his music, you understand that there is something very different happening. You can see it plainly is his videos, too. Eyal's music is upbeat- you can see him really enjoying himself behind his keyboard. Like many musicians in the prog/rock spectrum, he works with an often changing group of musicians, yet there is something very clearly Eyal to it. There is also undeniable joy and creativity in his music. Take his cover of Taylor Swift's 22. He transforms a pop song into something very different, and very unique. Eyal's outlook on music comes through loud and clear.
I got the chance to talk with Eyal about his vision for music and what the future holds for him:
When I discovered you and your music, it was under the guise of 'Prog' or 'Progressive Rock'. Is that how you would describe your music?
I definitely feel myself close to the 'prog' world, since a lot of the music that inspired me to pick up an instrument and start writing music was under that category. Bands like Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull and Dream Theater are a big influence over what I do, so I find myself drawn into those areas quite often. Having that said, I do have a wide variety of influences that seem to blend in somehow - Jazz/Fusion, for example, some pop- like The Beatles- and lots of classical/modern classical music.
In both the music titled under your own name, as well as with RNL, you play with a wide variety of musicians. How do you manage to keep your own sound and identity while playing with different people?
My first guess would probably be my character - I'm a very detail oriented person, and I'm trying to direct the musical situation in a way that will blend in with what I had in mind. So even though I will bring lots of different players, I will usually have clear idea of what the parts should be like. However, I'm also very influenced by the musicians I'm using - they are always people I admire and respect, so my goal is to always let them express themselves within the boundaries of the composition that I have created.
Many times I would be inspired by person himself to even write the music. A good example would be Ray Livnat from Project RnL: He is so talented and musical that he can control his voice just like an instrumentalist can, and that inspired me to find some very challenging melodies that are still 'me' in nature but will also be a good vehicle for him to shine through.
Your music tends to sound very upbeat and positive. Why do you prefer this sound? It's rather unique in the genre, as many rock/prog groups tend to write in minor keys, and with darker themes.
I guess that has something to do with the way I connect to music - I really never feel music as 'sad' or 'dark'. When I really enjoy music, it brings me to a state of euphoria. This is also the situation I always put myself in when I try to write. It's also hard for me to become inspired by sadness or depression - usually those feelings cause me to stray away from productive activities, while happy feelings make me wanna play and explore music.
Groove is also crucial for everything I do.
Many musicians seem to think that 'groove' is about timing, but it's not. Groove is about the movement of the composition, how it flows from one note to another and how each phrase is being expressed. It's also what brings life to a piece of music, and connects the audience to it - not just the musicians.
When I write, and after that when I'm working with the musicians, I'm very aware of elements like articulation, dynamics and phrasing. When you're dealing with polyphonic music, which I tend to do a lot, you have to be extra careful of that, because one voice played with the wrong 'feel' could easily destroy the unity and flow of the whole band.
Do you see yourself making records in the future, or are you going to focus on producing and your technical skills?
I definitely intend on making full albums. Right now I'm in Israel working with a new line-up of Project RnL, and I think that this band will be ready soon to record an album - I've been avoiding it for a while because as a fan of classic albums, I didn't feel like a collection of songs recorded by different musicians would be something I believe in. But now with this new band that I've been working with, I feel very confident that we can do one that I will be happy with.
I am also very interested in producing/arranging or mixing for others, so I don't think I'll ever let that go completely. Sometimes you can get really creative when you have to give your input on someone else's ideas. I don't see that whole aspect of music as 'technical' - for me it's just as creative as writing a song, only the tools are different.
I feel very connected to the technology side of creating music. For me, the tools and the workflow we use for creating music influence the final result quite a bit, and I like that when I get new tools (such as keyboards, software synths, studio tools or even iPad apps) that can suggest something a little different. It might eventually sound like me, since it goes through the same 'filter', but it opens up new possibilities. I'm also very interested in the sound design/record/mix aspect of creating albums, so for me mastering the tools in the studio was crucial in not just making 'good' sounding records, but also get closer to documenting my exact vision in the released result - this was way harder before I learned that and had to trust external engineers to work with me, which never sounded like what I had envisioned.
You can find Eyal Amir on youtube , and you can also find him with his group Project RNL . RNL is playing their first ever live show in Tel Aviv on December 15. With that experience under their belt, they'll move from releasing singles over the web to recording their freshman album.
Great things are coming for Eyal Amir.
Be sure to check back for more interviews in the Spotlight series.