Alumna Galia Arad on her new album, growing up as a Bloomington townie and her worst gig ever
The daughter of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music professors Atar Arad (viola) and Evelyne Brancart (chair of the Department of Piano), Galia Arad grew up in Bloomington studying music, dance, acting and singing. In 2005, the IU alumna received her musical theater degree from the College of Arts and Sciences' Individualized Major Program.
Today, she's a solo artist living in New York who frequently collaborates with other musicians, performing her country-infused folk pop music throughout her new city and overseas in Ireland and Japan.
The up-and-coming artist, who has won the Songwriter Hall of Fame's Abe Olman Scholarship (2008) and the Great American Song competition (2006) shares her journey from Midwest to East Coast and talks about her second album, Ooh La Baby (songs from the dog pound music) which features Elvis Costello's rhythm section, guitarist Marc Ribot and liner notes from Shane MacGowan of The Pogues. Her first album, Sand In Your Bed, was released in 2008 by Riax Records.
Live at IU: Were you musical growing up?
Galia Arad: At 6, I decided to be a trumpet player -- and though I can't imagine why a parent wouldn't want a 6-year-old wailing on a trumpet in the house, I just took violin, piano, ballet, and all the acting/singing stuff. I loved the Waldron Arts Center. I like to tell people that I had the same violin teacher as Josh Bell. (I have actually never said that to anyone, but I should start.) I was the chubbiest child in dance class and never got the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. I only amounted to mouse and soldier status, which is traumatic to me to this day.
LIU: What was the first album you bought, and what inspired you to start a performing career?
G.A.: First album I bought was Madonna's Like a Prayer. Actually, my sister bought it for me, because I used to do arm exercises to "Cherish" in second grade. Since I was little, my sister and I also did a show every year for my parents' anniversary, where she would boss me around, and I would play all the secondary characters.
LIU: Were you in any bands in Bloomington?
G.A.: No, in Bloomington I was involved with more theater/music school stuff. I wasn't cool enough to be in a Bloomington band, unlike my drummer, Dylan Wissing, who was in Johnny Socko!
LIU: Who were your mentors at IU?
G.A.: Bruce Burgun was my directing and acting teacher. He taught me that Shakespeare is simple once you calm down about it, which I find to be a fully applicable philosophy, all the time. My voice teachers Alice Hopper and Meredith Mills taught me how to breathe, in all senses of the word.
LIU: Any favorite Bloomington hangouts?
G.A.: When I was in elementary school, I hung out at Monroe Public Library, College Mall and Haverway Farm. Then I feel like I spent a lot of times in friends' basements. After 21, I spent most of my spare time at The Vid. So much time that I had a yearlong affair with a bartender there, which inspired the song "Bartender Jason" and also "My Chewed up Gum" on Sand in Your Bed. Have I said too much?
LIU: Do you have a job in New York in addition to performing?
G.A.: I work at a hedge fund, believe it or not. No one knows how I got, kept, and continue to keep working there. I always have to Wikipedia finance terms (like "hedge fund"). But my hedge fund peeps sometimes come to gigs. I am like a little exotic animal to them -- an exotic animal that's never dressed appropriately for work. I have gotten better. For the first few months I always showed up looking like a retired dance instructor.
LIU: What was your first gig like?
G.A.: Well, my second gig was the worst. It was at this bar in China Town. Only person in attendance was my angel slash then-roommate Ryan Hontz. The promoter very meanly told me that because I had only brought one person, my set would be cut down to 15 minutes. I was up there singing and crying, and there was Ryan, trying to be the most attentive audience member ever. I will NEVER forget that. It was awful, but so so funny.
LIU: Describe your new album.
G.A.: Ooh La Baby is pop/folk plus a little country -- you can take the girl out of Indiana . . . It is a concept album about falling in love with an Irish Boy and has the most incredible musicians. The liner notes are written by the legendary Shane MacGowan, who is featured on two tracks. The stuff I'm working on now, and some of the stuff on the album, I'd say is Bob Dylan meets Britney Spears.
For more information on Galia Arad and to listen to her music, see http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/galia-arad/id283735578.
This story was originally published Dec. 2, 2010.