Magnetic soul singer, Erez Zobary, may be nearing 100,000 Spotify listeners who come for her unique brand of modern funk-R&B pop and her rich, acrobatic voice, but the Toronto-based artist hasn’t quit her day job: she’s managed her burgeoning music career while working at a non-profit and as a high school teacher in her hometown. Perhaps that’s part of why her music teems with relatability — drawing inspiration from mid-20s confusion and coming-of-age woes to soundtrack every millennial’s journey towards self-actualization, listening to her sounds like hearing a big-band pep talk from your sunniest friend.
Do Your Students Know That You Make Music?
Some of them do. My dad is also a teacher in Toronto, and he always plays my music to his class. Sometimes if I’m having one-on-one conversations with my students, I tell them I’m a musician. I told one of my students that I’m on Spotify. They looked me up and we started talking about music and I had put out a song, It’s Not Unusual, and she knew that it was a Tom Jones song! I was like, you are the coolest Grade 11 student ever. So there’s definitely a crossover and I have to be pretty aware of not putting up inappropriate content. We’re definitely going for a more wholesome vibe — which I think is also just kind of who I am as a person.
What Are Some of Your Musica Inspirations?
I love Stevie Wonder. I grew up listening to him and Earth, Wind and Fire. But then, also, I really love Joni Mitchell and the way her melodies work. I grew up in a very Jewish family — not super religious, but very culturally Jewish — so there was always music involved, like on holidays and even on the Sabbath every Friday. It’s like everything is a song. Yemenite Jews are very known for their singing. Very, very beautiful voices, but a lot of runs as well, even in our prayers. And so, I kind of grew up like hearing this melody line and hearing these vocal riffs in my very young childhood. I think it actually impacted the way I sing even more than I probably know.
Do You Find Writing and Playing Your Music Therapeutic?
I think what people don’t understand about when musicians write these uplifting songs is that it’s not necessarily that I am actually in that mood all the time. There are so many shows where I’m feeling pretty depressed and it feels like I really just don’t have the energy, but I find that the songs actually re-energize me and allow me to reframe my thoughts. I often need the songs probably more than the people listening to them.
How Are You Feeling About Playing NXNE?
I’m really excited. I love showcase events like this. I’m excited to hear from other musicians — it’s always so good to join together as a community. We’re doing an intimate acoustic set (June 17, 9 pm, Gladstone), which I’m very excited about.
NEXT: Zobary plays NXNE, Fri., June 17, 9 pm, Gladstone House, Toronto