New York City based singer-songwriter, Shira, has had a multifaceted career to say the least.
Born in Rochester, New York with Israeli roots, Shira spent time in both the United States and Israel growing up. She finds her unique voice and musical style through many of her personal experiences. Whether her music is inspired by a friend’s battle with cancer, like her song “Am I Beautiful,” or by something as simple as a ride on the subway, like her newest single “Birds of a Feather,” Shira’s music is refreshing and vulnerable.
Shira wrote “Am I Beautiful” after one of her good friends was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Naturally, she wanted to help her friend through the challenging time, so she wrote her a song as “an ode to sisterhood and the power of unconditional acceptance.” The powerful music video depicts her friend’s struggle, and Shira supporting her every step of the way. The lyrics show her friend questioning her worth, but Shira continually reminds her friend of her value. “Am I Beautiful” is a raw and powerful piece that resonates with all who have been touched by cancer.
“Birds of a Feather,” released in August, has a folk feel with a more ethereal tone. The guitar plucking provides a cushion for her smooth voice to paint a story in the listeners’ ears. The song describes her thought process following an encounter on the subway with someone she found attractive, and a potential case of the one that got away. For the remainder of her trip home, she was writing “Birds of a Feather” in her head. Her lyrics are a candid reflection on what could have been.
Shira’s diverse talent has made her a versatile artist. In addition to being a singer-songwriter, she is a sought-after actress with an extensive resume. She has been cast in Off Broadway shows such as Dead End, Evening 1910, Solitary Light, and Harriet. While working on Solitary Light, she met Paul Carbonara– the former music director and guitarist for the band Blondie. They became musical partners, and together they recorded her debut album, Till the Sun Comes. Her new EP, Birds of a Feather, will be released 9/18, and you can pre-save it here.
We had the chance to chat with Shira about all of this and more.
I see that you have roots in both Israel and the States. Can you tell me a bit about your childhood and what got you into music?
I was born in Rochester, NY, to Israeli parents, and split my time growing up between Israel and the States. I was always a little different no matter where I was. Not entirely Israeli, and not totally American. I wasn’t good at assimilating and paid a price for that. [I] got bullied a lot, and music was always there for me. My brother was the one that got me into music. He’s an incredible musician in his own right (check out Assaf Averbuch). He sat me down to listen to Ella & Louie for the 1st time when I was 10 years old. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was like medicine for my soul. As I grew up with her voice as my guiding light, I knew I wanted to do the same with my voice, and bring healing through music. Later, my brother gifted me with his Blue & Red Beatles collections, which to be honest, were really the ones who taught me how to speak English. I stayed weird, and with the help of the incredible musicians I kept discovering like Alanis, Sara Bareilles, Passenger, Hozier and many more, I knew it was the best thing to do.
When did you start writing music, and what inspired you to start?
The first songs I ever wrote were actually when I put music to letters and poems written by fallen soldiers. I was 18, and I had just been drafted into mandatory service in the Israeli Army as a singer in the army band. The songs were part of a project for Israel’s Memorial Day and were broadcast on national TV. It was the first time I was solely a songwriter. I was not allowed to sing the songs I had composed since I was a newby. This was still the army, and other singers had seniority over me. I still felt I was living my calling even though I wasn’t the one singing. One family member of one of the fallen soldiers wrote to me after the broadcast, and said I was able to give them another moment with their loved one. I can’t really express in words how it felt to let that sink in.
How would you describe your musical style, and is there anything that, in your opinion, defines your music?
I call it Fairy Folk. I know you won’t find it on your Spotify genres, but it’s the best way I can describe it. It’s acoustic raw folk mixed with a bit of Israeliness and a hint of fairy dust. The fairy dust is the ingredient that brings the healing in the songs. Especially in the lyrics. I have a smile in my songs even if its a bitter smile.
Can you explain your songwriting process a bit?
Usually, music and lyrics come together. I could write about a life-altering event like when one of my close friends was fighting breast cancer like in “Am I Beautiful”or even a simple moment of missed connection on the subway like in “Birds of a Feather.” Along with the music and lyrics, I can always see like a movie or a story told in images as I’m writing. It’s like I see the music video in my mind as I’m writing the song.
I read that your new single “Birds of a Feather” was inspired partly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you explain the story behind this song?
It was actually written before COVID hit, but I’ve been looking at all my songs through a new COVID lens… Here, for example, the chorus, “Come find me before the flood… We’ll brave the storm together… birds of a feather,” has a whole new powerful meaning. This pandemic has made it even clearer how much we need our people to get through the storm.
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process?
Definitely hurt… I feel like my whole being was in “survival mode.” It’s been hard to quiet the anxiety sometimes, but listening to music has been helping me through that, and I’m sure writing will be quick to follow.
I see your new EP, Birds of a Feather, is coming out 9/18. What can fans expect compared to your previous releases?
Like before, I take my listeners along on my personal journey and hope it resonates with what they’re going through. You can expect songs that will uplift you and maybe make you shed a tear at the same time. Ultimately, it will leave you with your heart a little lighter.
Can you tell me a bit about your acting career? How does that compliment your career as a singer/songwriter?
A lot of people have told me over the years, “You have to choose. You can’t do both.” Well for me doing both creates a healthy mental and creative balance in my life. When I’m “Shira the Singer-Songwriter,” I’m a lone wolf channeling the deepest part of myself. When I’m “Shira the Actress” I can step into someone else (a character) and collaborate with other incredible artists. One informs the other and I think doing both makes me a more empathic, diverse, and altogether better artist.
Outside of music, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’ve been Vegan for the past three years. I’m passionate about sharing my Vegan journey and cooking yummy, healthy and compassionate Vegan food!
What are some of your long term goals as an artist?
My audience are like my people. We understand each other’s hearts on a deep level. I aspire to find my people all over the world wherever they may be and that they will find me. Together we will create a web of open hearts and healing.