«The Character You’ve Created Is Going to Live Forever»
Israeli singer Ella Ronen started her career in music in Switzerland, on the stage of «The Voice of Switzerland». Though she did not win the show she never gave up on music and released her debut album this August. On October 16 Ella starts the album tour through Switzerland and Israel but before that she found time for a talk with Negative White.
Negative White: You’re studying French as a foreign language and English at the University of Lausanne. That means you’re reading a lot. Who is your favourite author?
Ella Ronen: Difficult question! I just read some Henry James for university and I really like his writing. Although it’s quite difficult because it’s so condense. At the moment I enjoy reading James’ novels.
How about your favourite poet?
That’s Maya Angelou. She was an African American poet who passed away just recently. Her poems have a beautiful mix of strength and lightness of spirit. She’s still able to laugh and to see the things who are beautiful in life – even if you can feel in her writing that she has been through a lot. I recommend to read some of her poetry. You should start with the poem Still I rise.
Most of your songs are really poetic. Does the poetry influence you on your own song texts?
Definitely. That’s a bit part of why I am taking these classes as well. It feeds my writing in a way and it gives me a wider base to write from.
You are not only writing your texts in English – a part of the song Mirror Maze is in Hebrew. Can you explain to me the meaning of that text?
It’s about the meaning of life actually.
No, I’m kidding.
Well, it could be. I don’t understand Hebrew.
That’s the point! I did that part knowing the people won’t understand. I like the feeling of foreignness it gives to the song. I wrote this Hebrew text when I moved to Switzerland and I didn’t speak French yet. There are not a lot of people who speak English in Vevey where I live – at the beginning that was really difficult for me. There’s this human need that is so basic that we often forget about it: the need of interacting and connecting with people. It’s a text about that: When you’re in isolation you only need a look of someone else to make you realize that you’re still alive.
What about the English part of the song Mirror Maze?
Nowadays with the social networks we all get lost in who we think we’re supposed to be. We create a character that is not really us but the person we think we should show to the world. At some point you start to confuse yourself with the character you created. Besides we don’t realize how immortal the things we write on the internet are. They are going to stay there forever. In away they’re going to outlast us. The character you’ve created is going to live forever and you are not. And there this one question appears: ‹Who is the real you?›
I tend to confuse myself with the person in the glass who’s reflecting who right now and who of us will last?
Mirror Maze is also the name of your first album that was realised in august. How do you feel about having published your CD?
Very weird! But weird in a good way. I’ve been living with this songs for so many years, we’ve been working on the album for so long, and it was always such a protected thing. Even when I was performing the songs live I still felt like they’re mine. When you put your music on a CD and put that CD out in the world it’s not yours anymore. Anyone can listen to it whenever he wants to and I’m not there to explain what it meant. Actually it doesn’t matter what I meant to me. Publishing this CD feels like letting go something that was a part of me for a very long time. I’m still getting used to that.
The first single of your album is called Please. The text is really provocative and the song is quite different from the others on your album. What’s the story behind it?
Oh that’s a funny one! During my music studies when I was surrounded by a lot of other musicians I got inside of my head a little bit. I wrote a lot of melancholic and deep texts. At some point I realised that it’s hard for my audience to pay attention to an entire concert of these songs. So the song Please started with a joke: I thought about writing a song that starts with the sentence «Chain me to your bed». It’s provocative and brings everybody’s attention back. I was just playing around with this idea for some time and suddenly it became a real song. Please talks about power in any kind of relationship and interaction between people.
Although you had a classical singing formation your vocals in the song «Please» sound very jazzy. Where does that come from?
My older brother who lives in New York is a jazz musician. When I was growing up he was already into Jazz. We had jazz playing at our house a lot. When I started being a little older and my brother realized that my singing is a real thing he started giving me CDs of jazz musicians he liked. I don’t intentionally try to sound jazzy but because of my background it’s maybe somehow natural.
So your brother supported you for your music career?
Yes. My whole family supported me. I’m really blessed with them and I miss them a lot. One brother is in New York the rest of my family lives in Tel Aviv.
With your family in Israel and your husband in Switzerland you’re living a bit between these two countries.
That’s true. And it’s enriching. Living in a different place is always good for you. I gained another perspective on things. I’m still learning the culture here – I don’t feel like I completely understand it. As for my relation to Israel it’s a bit special. In some way I’m more connected to home although I’m far away. On the other I’m feeling distant. I’m seeing Israel also from the eyes of Switzerland now.
Some Swiss have prejudices against Israel and the position of women there. Is it a problem to perform in Isreal as a woman?
No, not at all. Israel is not a religious country. The position of women there is exactly as it is here. For that point there’s no a huge difference between Israel and Switzerland.