This is an interview with a great indie-singer songwriter based in Israel by the name of Hilla Peer. We were given a nudge to check this artist out by Lorraine, one of our reviewers, who pointed out that not only is Hilla a really good songwriter, but she has done covers of two of our favourite tracks, “Tainted Love” and “It’s My Party.” So it was hard to resist an artist with some real sassy appeal, and having listened to her new EP, “Remind Me Who I Am,” released in May 2023, and presenting a range of solid pop tunes that have a wide commercial sound, we reached out to say hello. Stevie has reviewed the EP below.
You can download the EP here.
We began by asking Hilla about those two cover versions; the “Tainted Love” one especially resonated with us; she gives it a twist and makes the track her own.
Hilla- That’s why I need to do covers now and then, as that is how people can find me. With “It’s My Party,” I thought about the lyrics and went for it in an emotional way. I felt the lyrics and wanted to go for it in a different way than the original.
We wondered if Hilla had grown up in a musical environment. There is a general comment on the internet that she came to music late, but we thought that was unfair.
Hilla- Yes, I did come from a musical family. My grandmother was a famous singer in Israel in the late 50s and 60s,called Rachel Attas (link here) and I had a very musical family. My parents had a children’s music theatre, so I grew up in a very musical environment. We listened to music all the time, but I suffered from awful stage fright ever since I was around seven, and I didn’t want to do anything that involved performing or singing. I was kind of away from the arts till I was 37, and then it just started with a bang! I started singing, and I don’t even know how it happened. So for the last four years, I’ve been writing music and making covers, or recording my own material. It has been an incredibly good time. It has always been there, but now it feels like I’ve done this all my life.
So how would the younger Hilla Peer feel if she knew what you were doing? It seems like a seismic change in direction and a new career.
Hilla- She would be very surprised! I think she would go, ‘Oh My God, that is a miracle that has happened to you.’ It was a hidden dream, one I didn’t even know that I had, in the past, I didn’t even have the courage to dream that. I was so afraid, and the stage fright was so bad back then, so she would certainly give me a ‘Wow, good for you.’ And I think she would like the music. Here in Israel, I tend to get asked why I’m not singing in Hebrew, as that is my language. That’s what they always ask. But I started writing in English, so I connected with English for music.
To quote Gene Simmons of Kiss for a moment. Gene was born in Israel, and his family were Hungarian Jews, and English was his fourth language. But he always makes the case for musicians operating in English, as it is the international language, and if you sing in Hebrew, for example, your market immediately constricts. If you want as many people as possible to hear you, then you need to sing in English. That is how Hilla came to our attention.
Hilla- That is so true. I really feel that I can reach out to many more people and connect with more musicians this way. This is because I make music in English and can reach out globally this way.
The EP sounded great. It has six songs too, it only needed perhaps another couple of tracks, and it could have been an album! What held Hilla back from completing a full second album? (“Free” came out in January 2022, it runs out at 28 minutes and has 14 songs, you can download it here). We also wondered how she worked as a songwriter, as the EP has some lovely, soulful melodies.
Hilla- I planned to make an EP with four songs, but then I had these two extra songs that I had to place somewhere! So I placed them here as I had a concept in my head, and it is now complete, and I am happy with how it is, not too short, not too long. I write on the piano, usually just starting with a hum, a melody, and I sing to myself the melody, maybe recording it on my phone, and then I turn to the piano. I would then develop it and add the lyrics, but I start by singing to myself.
We loved that funky bass on “Addiction Baby.”
Hilla- It is funky! That one was just me singing to myself, and then I felt it needed this cool, funky bass connected to it. It developed on the computer, and I took it to my producer. And people like it.
And are your children big mom fans now that you are there in the music scene?
Hilla- Well, they are both little, but they like that I have this thing in my life, but I can’t say they are listening to my music. But they know I’m doing this cool stuff with the beats and all that.
“Remind me Who I Am” as a single is a really good song.
Hilla- We actually shot a video clip for that one, which I am excited about. We shot it on stage with a dancer, and it is me reflecting on my life, who I am, and that I need someone to remind me of that. The teenage girl dancing there is beautiful, and the whole song is very emotional for me. It can make me cry! It was soul searching, it is who I am now and who I was when I had nothing to do with music. But now I have discovered myself again.
And how is the music business for Hilla Peer? As someone coming to it quite late, did it meet her expectations?
Hilla- I had no expectations, and I believe that is the key to enjoying what I do. I had no preconceptions, I was someone who got to do what I always wanted to. I made a studio in my room, started singing for fun, and entered a discovery zone. I just enjoy and love to make music and sing.
And what is on the horizon for Hilla Peer now, in 2023?
Hilla- I will release the new video next month. Then I will be hoping to get on with writing new material and doing a few shows here in Israel.
And there we have it!
On that EP, it opens with a beautiful piano melody and harmony vocals in “Remind Me Who I Am” as Hilla muses over how she gets tired sometimes of this life. It sways gently, and we all need that person to remind us who we are occasionally.
Then we have the swagger of “Addiction Baby,” a piece of straight commercial pop in the style of Paula Abdul. This deserves some serious radio play as it slices through the dance hall.
“One of a Kind” is a dance number, it has an addictive chorus and a throbbing beat. It is actually my favourite on the EP. It needs to be played loudly and has a smooth modern dance vibe.
“What You Do” keeps up the dance feel, a fast beat and a strong pop sound.
“Focus on You” changes the mood, it is more easy listening pop with a strong chorus and a touch of Kylie in its feel. It is another that is really radio friendly and has you singing along.
“Unless” is the last one up. It’s in line with the rest of the EP, reflective, catchy, and a great close to the EP.
We like Hilla Peer here at Rock the Joint Magazine, and we think if you have a listen, you will too!
By Mark C Chambers
Stevie Ritson (the EP review)
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