An Interview With French Composer Yael Benamour
We recently caught up with world class musician, songwriter and composer Yael Benamour to find out about some of her influences growing up, her favorite projects to date and what she has coming up next. Here is what she had to share:
Hi Yael, lovely to meet you, how have you been coping with the pandemic?
I am a very sensitive person which is helpful when creating music, but sometimes it can be pretty challenging to live with so much emotion. At the same time, I am a believer and I have a very positive mindset which gives me the strength for everything I’m having to face in my life. I consider each day as a new start with the knowledge of what was yesterday and the ignorance of what tomorrow will be. For me, it’s exciting because it’s very similar to my creation process.
Also how each new music request looks like as a fresh start because it’s all about a new feeling. This pandemic it full of emotion like a giant rollercoaster. The pandemic really didn’t change my routine — every morning, I start with meditation to center myself before going to my recording studio, where I spend the entire day composing, arranging and producing music.
I’ve been getting a lot of music requests to illustrate the effect of this pandemic so I have to jump from a heartfelt piano solo to an epic hybrid orchestral piece as well as investigation-style music to background documentaries — describing research efforts in the race for the vaccine.
Please give us an introduction as to when you first got into the music industry:
Unfortunately, it was not a good experience. It was in Paris (France), I was a newbie, an 18-year-old woman when I was approached by a US record label named United Artists Records. They asked me to write French lyrics for an artist they signed called ‘Nightingale’ (I don’t remember her first name). I stayed in the studio almost all night, to help her how to pronounce the lyrics correctly. Then my lyrics were stolen by the artistic director from whom I rejected the results. When I knew that my lyrics were stolen, I did research and I discovered how to protect my creations in the future. I registered right away at SACEM (equivalent to ASCAP or BMI in France) as a songwriter.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
My father was a very talented pianist so I grew up surrounded in a classical music environment. I was used to listening to composers such as Chopin, Tchaickowsky, Rachmaninoff and Beethoven (they resonated instantly). I remember my father teaching me how to turn a symphony into an image we were listening to, together. Later on, when I started to write and sing songs, I was influenced by pop artists such as Elton John, Michael Jackson and other French artists.
Do you feel like you have grown a lot more as an artist over the years, through your experiences?
Oh yes, absolutely and especially since I moved to the US in 2011. The music sounds so much different than in France, I’m not saying that it’s bad, I’m just saying that it’s not the same at all. It is difficult to start over fresh because that’s what happens when you move from one continent to another but you move with your experiences, your roots — and when you mix who you were with who you are now, you become a better version of yourself! I’m still learning and getting better every day by creating music again, listening to people’s critiques and advice and by analyzing all kind of music structures. Success is a long staircase, where each step is an award!
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on so far?
My favorite project I worked on was for a short movie entitled ‘Silent’, which I scored. This project was a challenge for me for 2 reasons: First, it is based on a true story. I’m Jewish and it reminded me of stories I heard when I was young. Secondly, there is no dialog, therefore the music was the only voice of the film besides the perfect acting performances.
I watched the movie a couple of times with the producer to mark the cut points as usual but, what I remember is that at a certain point, I was crying. When the producer left, I jumped deeply into my feelings to translate them with instruments and started to listen to the music in my head. I love working on images. It is my favorite way to compose.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
To get Gold, Platinum and Diamond Disc awards as a singer featured in the French collection albums “Les plus belles chansons françaises”.
Who has been one of your favorite artists/producers you have worked with so far and why?
The singer Georgia Jane who is a very talented artist, I love her voice a lot. I produced and co-wrote several songs for her album. I loved working with her because she came from a very different music universe than me and it pushed me outside of my boundaries. I enjoyed every session we had together. I was asked to write a strings arrangement for a song on the album called ‘Twenty +’ for the band ‘All-4-One’. My collaboration with Jamie Jones was very smooth and easy. Jaime is a great artist and a great man allowing me to express my talent as an arranger with lots of freedom and trust, which is a blessing in this industry.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Usually I don’t like to talk to much about upcoming projects, probably because of my superstition, but I am very excited to have a new album coming up with a talented new tenor artist named Nicholas Hylander. I also have several other music projects requested by different music publishers based in Germany, Israel and in the US that I’m signed to.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Music technology is in constant evolution, so keep yourself busy and very well organized to improve your skills. Share with your community, pay attention to the critique you can get by trusted professionals, because it’s the only way to improve. And if sometimes you are not inspired, that’s normal! We are all human beings, take a break! More importantly, when music is rejected, it doesn’t mean that you or your music are not good, it just means that your music doesn’t fit perfectly with the listeners expectation or mood at that moment. Lastly, for you, if doing music is like breathing, don’t give up! It’s not because sometimes we are short of breath that we stop breathing!