November 15, 2018

Keren Ann returns to Skirball

Keren Ann Zeidel, better known as Keren Ann, isn’t afraid. She’s not afraid of technology, or change, or terrorism; in fact, she even seems to be handling motherhood with aplomb. Speaking by phone from her home in Paris, Keren Ann drifted between waxing poetic about her career; caring for her young daughter, Nico; and discussing the rising wave of anti-Semitism in France that’s had her considering her family’s safety in the country she loves.  On April 30, she’ll perform at the Skirball Cultural Center, a return visit for the indie darling, whose music is a particular favorite in Hollywood.

“For me, making a record, a whole record, with a beginning, a middle and an ending, is very important,” she said. “I grew up listening to vinyl, so when I make a record, it’s almost like there’s a Side A and a Side B. So I’m still into that form of music making, and I’m not into just making songs and putting them out there.”

Despite her preference for carefully crafted records, many of Keren Ann’s songs have been featured on acclaimed TV shows in the States, shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Six Feet Under” and several others. It’s something she doesn’t shy away from. “Today, any way that your music can be exposed is a good way, as long as it fits things that you like. I’m very happy that my songs were featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Big Love” and “Nurse Jackie,” because these are great series.  Personally, I love TV series; I’m a big fan, and it’s great, and sometimes when the song fits, it’s a great way to get the music out there.”

She has worked with artists as diverse as the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Roots, and has become known as a producer, songwriter and engineer, not only for her own work, but also for artists such as Emmanuelle Seigner and Henri Salvador.

“I love the writing, I love the storytelling, I love the form of songs, but sometimes I feel that I need to explore a different musical landscape,” she said.

Producing was something that came naturally to her, she said, although it has been a tough field for many women to enter. “We tend to forget that it’s a very emotional, creative work, and I think that sometimes because of the technical aspect, it’s less appealing for girls.”

Keren Ann was born in Israel but has spent much of her life in Europe, particularly in Paris. Like many, she was shocked by the recent spate of terror attacks in the country, and admits that she and her family considered leaving for a time. “Last year, I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn, and when we were here this winter before the events, we actually asked ourselves whether we’d go back to Brooklyn … and I felt that after the events, I have to be here, I have to be in Paris. Maybe because I have a voice, and maybe because I get to speak up for my community, in a certain way. So I felt that it’s my place to be here.

“I think it’s been a big shock for France, for Paris. For me, as a Jew, I’ve seen things like this a lot in the past few years, because Jewish establishments have been hurt many times by attacks,” she said, noting she was speaking on Yom HaShoah. “This time it was different, because it wasn’t only a racial attack, it was attacking the freedom of expression, which is a very, very, very sensitive subject here in France. The whole hymn of the French Republic is, ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.’ ”

The Skirball’s program director, Daniel Soto, said he’s excited to bring Keren Ann back to the Skirball, where she first performed in 2006. “We’re always interested in artists who reflect longstanding traditions, but also have contemporary sensibilities, and I think Keren really exemplifies that,” Soto said. “Her references are very eclectic and deep, from American songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to French songwriters like Francoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg.”

The concert comes as she finishes up her first album after a six-album contract with EMI. “I made the decision to play this show as a duo with a very good musician friend who I respect and adore … Thomas Bartlett,” Keren Ann said. “It will be an intimate show, that’s for sure.”

When she returns to France, she hopes that it’s to a country that will hold a brighter future for her daughter. “I’m not saying that things are getting better, because they’re actually getting worse,” she said, though she thinks the dialogue that’s started since the attacks in France is a step in the right direction.

“These are very, very complex times. I’m talking about these things every day with friends.”

Keren Ann performs at the Skirball Cultural Center on April 30 at 8 p.m., for more information visit