Lior’s soulful lyrics on love

Lior’s early years in Israel make a mark on his melodic tracks. Photo: Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore

As the Sydney Jewish Museum’s exhibition, Jukebox Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl celebrates the Jewish contribution to musical history, popular singer-songwriter Lior will show the contribution he makes to Australia’s thriving contemporary music scene in an intimate concert on Sunday, June 23, writes Sophie Deutsch.

THE blissful and exhilarating phase of early romance naturally lends itself to poetic songwriting, but Israeli-born Australian singer-songwriter Lior has always sought to reflect the realities of love and relationships.

His classic number, This Old Love, does just that.

“So many love songs talk about the big spark, the big bang, the world of planets and stars and fantasies,” Lior comments. “Here was a love song that was grounded.”

The popularity of This Old Love has stood the test of time – perhaps, at least in part, because its lyrics resonate with non-romantic forms of love too.

Lior is performing in concert at the Sydney Jewish Museum on Sunday, June 23. Photo: Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore

As he recalls watching 16-year-olds sing along to This Old Love when he performed the poignant composition in high schools after its release, Lior remarks, “I realised then that it can also be a song about friendship, companionship and togetherness.”

But it was the unpredictable fluctuations in life – particularly during a period of transience – that inspired this timeless piece of songwriting.

Composed in his mid-20s, he says This Old Love is “a marking of where I was at in life, coming out of being a teenager or young adult and entering into a more grown-up world where companionship is also really important”.

“Everything seems to be transient and moving, but this companionship is the one constant, the one steady thing.”

Reflecting the realities of love has been a philosophy underpinning Lior’s songwriting ever since.

His latest album, Between You and Me, which was launched last year, features a song called Where Will We Be.

While love songs typically explore one of two extremes – the overwhelming swell of emotion that characterises early love or the agony of heartbreak, Where Will We Be – a collaboration with young emerging artist Domini Forster – falls into another category entirely.

“It’s about the point in a relationship where it’s hanging in the balance and you just don’t know where it’s going to land and all those feelings of doubt, hesitation and confusion that accompany that period,” says Lior.

“When we sat down to write a song, that is what Domini was going through and we were laughing because a lot of the other songs on the album have a positive overtone to reflect where I’m at in life.

“Retrospectively I can certainly identify, so I just had to transport myself some years back and we found common ground.”

The Jukebox Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl exhibition is currently showing at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Coinciding with the Sydney Jewish Museum’s current exhibition, Jukebox Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl, Forster will perform at the museum on Sunday, June 23 before Lior takes to the stage.

The rare opportunity to witness Forster and Lior’s musical talents intertwine is bound to be an occasion the audience will savour – and it will certainly be a treat for Lior too.

“Domini is probably my favourite person to sing with,” he says. “I like the fluidity and spontaneity that intimate shows can bring about where it feels like you are having a direct conversation and connection with the audience.”

Having spent the first 10 years of his life in Israel, Lior’s exposure to eastern and western musical traditions has shaped his voice as an influential, contemporary artist.

Describing his vocal style as “a hybrid of Jewish and Arabic”, Lior adds, “There’s certainly elements of the way that I sing that have been influenced by growing up and singing traditional Jewish songs and having [been influenced by] cantorial music and singing.”

And it is not just in Lior’s solo songwriting that his Jewish heritage finds musical expression.

In a collaboration with Australian musician Nigel Westlake, the two creative minds produced a “symphony of songs” for voice and orchestra, consisting of ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts, centred around ideas of hope, kindness and love.

From their first encounter, says Lior, “there was a very poignant overtone to our relationship”.

They met when Lior was performing at a fundraising event for Smugglers of Light Foundation – a music and film program supporting young Indigenous Australians that Westlake and his wife, Jan, established in memory of their son.

“It was really that night that we sewed the seed of what came to be known as Compassion,” Lior remembers. 

Their collaborative masterpiece premiered with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House in 2013.

“It was an immensely rewarding and successful project. Over the last few years Nigel and I have formed a very close bond and friendship through the writing, composition and performance of that work.”

Bookings: $50.