Ohad Hitman’s life has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. He released his third album and wrote his first musical, got married to his boyfriend, fathered two kids and survived the big earthquake in Nepal. Maybe it’s not coincidence that the recent interview with him started by him saying that if he could he would change his first major hit, “Tagidi Lo” (‘Tell Him’).
“Here’s why,” Ohad explains.“In 2001, I graduated from my music studies at Rimon and appeared for the first time with my band in Tel Aviv. I added ‘Tell Him’ at the last minute, the song which I originally wrote for a very famous singer. A week prior to the concert, she replied to me, saying the song was amazing but she thought I should sing it. I was very offended by her answer but I decided to try it out. To my surprise, the song stood out in the show, and I noticed that it caught the audience every time I sang it since then, and every time I sang it I played with the phrasing a little. Then, when I got to the recordings of the album, I thought that singing in an album should be cleaner and sterile, so I actually sang it very ‘square’. Although the song was very successful and opened many doors for me, today, if I could, I would fix the singing and record the song as I sang it in my concerts: flowing phrasing, disordered, to even surprise myself. In general, I now realize that singing in recordings shouldn’t be perfect, but a kind of emotional snapshot of the moment. Without a doubt the song in my concerts exceeds the album performance.”
What really made this conceptual change?
“During the days of the first album I was only in the initial stages of coming out and self-acceptance. I stand by every word I wrote on this album, but I remember I had made changes over and over and edited the texts so that whoever wanted to understand would understand. On the other hand, things weren’t said in the simplicity that I wanted. For example, when I wrote things like, ‘I want you [to a woman] to love me well,’ I didn’t lie. I was referring to a love [as a feminine] that was part of my life. But if I wrote this sentence today, it would probably be rewritten: ‘I want you to love me well’ for a man. In general, only in the third album, ‘Hamasa’ (‘The Journey’), which was released a year ago, did I write explicitly, with personal aesthetics and about the gentle person who I am – without apologizing or looking for nice words to hide the truth. The essence of the great change in me and my work can be felt especially in two songs in The Journey. One of them, ‘I’ll call you Uncle’, is written for and dedicated to my husband Ran, whose name is even mentioned in the words of the song. Also, the song ‘I Give Thanks,’ I added to the song, based on the Shacharit prayer, that represents who I am very clearly and condenses the respect that I have for the words and the Hebrew language.”
Between the second and the third album Hitman took a very big break of six years, during which he finished his Master’s degree at the Academy of Music in Jerusalem, created the musical “Billy Schwartz”, wrote music for dance and theatre, performed around the world and most of all, created the emotional infrastructure of his life: he married his boyfriend of seven years, Ran Harush.”On the one hand, I made an advancement as an artist, and especially as a person, but on the other hand, maybe the pause between albums was too long in terms of consciousness. Perhaps during this period I had to release singles here and there that were ready, especially at a time when an album as ‘an album’ was less substantial. In the end I don’t regret my choices. I’m an artist and a person who is always in motion, constantly renewing and innovating myself. However, there’s no doubt that the next time I release a new song it will be in the near future, certainly not after six years. ”
It seems that the more you accept your preferences and characteristics, the more creativity grows. Do you remember days where you hid yourself? From your parents? your family?
“I always looked for a stage and an audience. But I was a nerd and unpopular, and in gentle words I would say that I didn’t have many friends. It made me remain indoors and play 8-10 hours a day on the piano. Without doubt during those years I learned the discipline to work and the honor of the profession. At that time, the music came to life from a deficiency. In recent years, after I made my life stable in a relationship, with friends and mostly self-acceptance, the music has been created out of that abundance. So if we examine the songs I wrote at the beginning relative to songs written for the last album, the songs of ‘light’ are now significantly more intense than the ‘dark’ songs”.
And how does the element of sexual orientation enter the whole story?
“As a child and as a teenager just didn’t think about it. The questions in my head started to rise only after the end of my military service in the army music group. On the surface this was a very ‘convenient’ place to deal with such questions.”
“In the military I moved from being a lonely child and an unfriendly teenager to being part of a large group of people. With the guys there was an option not to ask questions and to concentrate on the joys of life. When I was released from the army, I came out of the bubble of a binding framework. Suddenly everyone from the pack that accompanied me started building their lives, and I couldn’t run away from dealing with those questions anymore. ”
If you are coming to Israel, don’t miss Ohad’s musical “Billy Schwartz,” now playing in Haifa. “The musical is my creation, but we wouldn’t get these results if there was no cross-fertilization between all of the co-creators. In general, something happened to me during my work on ‘Billy Schwartz.’ On one hand everyone knows I’m the executive creator. On the other hand, if I didn’t give up the ego, we would not result in a product of an ensemble of artists and actors.”
“The theme that stands out in ‘Billy’, the soul searching of people in themselves and their loved ones, is shown in a humorous and conscious way. The messages themselves are absolutely not light. In a comic musical I talk about exactly the same issues as my I do in my albums, songs where I open up and talk about feelings, but in a musical I do it in an amusing way. ”
There’s something not presumed in Billy Schwartz. There are no mega-superstars, or a convoluted story. Are you like that?
“You could say that all the characters are based on people in my life or in my autobiographical mirror. There’s something in Billy, especially the part where she wants people to see her, when people don’t understand her, that reminds me of me as a child. Malka Schwartz is a combination of my mom, my dad and my grandmother Z”L. Yonatan is all the bastard men I met in the twenties, who underwent a process themselves and today they are wonderful people. Simona is all sides of the destructive instinct or alternatively the sense of power I wish for myself.”
Is there a power that you have now, as a father?
“As a father, I feel that I am more releasing and not aggressive”.
It seems like it’s no coincidence that Billy Shwartz, a play that summarizes the story of your life, came just with the happy ending of the Nepal saga.
“All my life I’m surprised by timing and coincidence. After all, Ran and I have experienced abortion. If it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have had time to finish the work on Billy Schwartz properly. The timing of the birth was perfect: a month after the premiere of the musical. And the conclusion I take from it is simply to stop analyzing everything all the time and just live life. “