A New Soul and a whole lot more

BY: DANIELA GUTIERREZ

Yael Naim likes to hang out and play music with friends in her little apartment in Paris. Musically, she likes folk, pop and The Beatles. David Donatien also likes the Parisian life, but prefers jazz instead. Despite coming from different music backgrounds, Naim and Donatien make a nearly perfect match. They fight and yell while composing, but then stand in awe of the final product. They finish each other's sentences when talking about music and cities. They are close friends who display a sparking chemistry when they perform together. It was in Naim's little Parisian apartment with friends and coffee that, after 24 months of yelling, compromising, conversations and new ideas, Naim and Donatien finished their new record. The first single, "New Soul," was featured in the Apple MacBook Air ad and quickly became a best-selling song on iTunes.

Both Naim and Donatien agree that it's their creative tension and different musical backgrounds that spark their creativity.

"Especially when we were writing 'New Soul,'" Donatien said, "It was a war. I think because we are so different in music, when we agree to create something, it can be listened to by everybody."

Yael Naim's self-titled record was released in France on the T“t ou tard label last October. Atlantic Records released the album in the U.S. on March 18 for everybody who didn't want to go to France to get a copy.

Naim and Donatien went on their first American tour in March. Their first show in the States was on March 12 at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. They also performed in Austin and New York, and even made an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" before leaving for their European tour.

The 13 songs on the album are in English, Hebrew and French, and were all written by Naim, except "Toxic," an unexpected and surprisingly beautiful cover of the Britney Spears hit. Naim says that the language in which she writes the songs is arbitrary.

"I think it's more about periods, different periods," she said. "For example, the Hebrew songs were born in a very particular period, completely intimate and a bit sad also. It's hard to explain why certain songs are born in English. I start writing and they just come out."

Naim, a French-Israeli, has been writing and playing classical piano since she was a little girl. She did her mandatory military service singing for the Israeli troops with the Israel Air Force Orchestra. Her first album, "In a Man's Womb," was released in 2001, although she was unsatisfied with they way that record turned out.

Everything changed in 2004, however, when she and Donatien, a West Indian drummer, met and started working together, marking the beginning of a collaboration that Donatien describes as a fruitful one.

"It's so incredible," he said. "In music, you never know what can happen with two people in a band, and with Yael, I find something very complete, a big connection. We have so much to share."

Ever since their album first hit stores in France, they have been in an unexpected whirlwind of constant performances and travel all over the world. "From the point [the album] was released, everything has happened so fast, so it's really extreme for us," Naim said. "We were really calm in an apartment, eating, drinking, having friends come and playing music for two years. So now, suddenly being out all of the time, we need to get used to it.