Gay Israeli music star Yehonathan Gatro is starting to make a name for himself on the North American music scene, care of his steamy music videos and danceable tracks, which he now writes in English. As part of his first North American tour this summer, he’s stopping in Ottawa on June 30 to perform at a fundraiser for Capital Pride 2010.
Coming out to his fans by releasing a gay love song in 2006, he has since produced two full-length albums in English — to growing acclaim.
“After releasing two of my music videos online, I was really amazed by the wonderful response they got from people worldwide,” says Yehonathan, who now performs under only his first name. “At that point I realized that the music speaks to a lot of people, and that triggered me to write songs in English so they could relate to them better than [in] Hebrew.”
Since making the language switch, he’s been prolific — releasing two English-language albums in the last two years. He says it’s simply a love of performance that drives him to produce so much work so quickly.
“I know it sounds really corny, but I really love what I do. That’s the best driving force in the world. I love singing, writing, performing — in Hebrew, English — I’d do it in more languages [if I knew] any others!”
Yehonathan has been part of the Israeli music scene for 10 years now, and he has an interesting performance history. Many of his current North American fans don’t know that he used to be a teen heartthrob in a boy band called Five. As a closeted gay man, misrepresenting who he was for the throngs of adoring young girls eventually got to him. Pretending to be straight for the sake of a mainstream music career lost its appeal when he had to hide his grief over the end of an important relationship. He ran away to LA for a couple years and started on the path of coming out.
“I feel my work is much better now — more free and honest,” he says. “I do what I want to and that, to me, [is] the most important thing. I look at gay artists that are still in the closet, and I feel bad for them…especially because I feel their art is hurt by it.
“[Before I came out], I was so busy acting straight onstage, and that was very limiting for me as a performer. Now, I feel I can act as whatever — macho, feminine, gay, straight, you name it. I’m much more in tune with my personality and body, and I can display my range without worrying, ‘Oops! Was that hand wave too queer?’”
Part of Yehonathan’s growing popularity in North America has been due to his steamy videos, which often feature shirtless men making out, flirting and showing each other desire.
“My music videos are a reflection of my personal life, and I examine [the] situations in my life — for better or worse — in my videos. I gotta say they are semi-autobigraphical.”
But being this out has been quite a process for Yehonathan — part of which was a period of time serving in the Israeli army, strangely enough. He says the experience was life-changing for him.
“It was a deep and character-building experience for me, especially as a gay man enlisting [in] a very elite and demanding military unit like the Parashooters [a counter-terrorism unit modeled on the British SAS]. I had anxieties before being recruited that I [would] not make friends and that I [wouldn’t] measure up to my straight buddies in the unit, but I was very surprised to discover that I had one or two very butch bones in my body. I realized during my military service what a real man I am, regardless [of] being a gay one.”
But, these days, music is again his priority.
“Both me and Lyrik, my music producer who also shares the stage with me, are truly excited about this tour,” he says. “We look forward to meeting exciting new people, and [we’re] very curious to see how the audience will respond to the show we prepared. It’s a bit unusual, and I hope people will like it. We sure do.”
Yehonathan and Lyrik, with special guest Dixie Landers
June 30, 8pm
The Bronson Centre
Tickets $25 in advance (at After Stonewall and Wilde’s), $30 at the door
All proceeds benefit Capital Pride