When life handed neo-soul singer-songwriter Erez Zobary lemons, she made lemonade.
She was in Grade 12, attending the TanenbaumCHAT day school in Toronto, when she found the confidence to perform in public, despite having developed vocal nodules the year before and losing her upper register.
Vocal nodules – callus-like growths on the vocal chords – can be caused by voice trauma, yelling or straining while singing.
“I went on a trip with a bunch of friends and I was screaming a lot, and I came back from Grade 11 and found out I had vocal nodules,” Zobary said.
Not letting the condition get her down, she changed musical direction and began singing R&B and hip hop, which suited her new raspy alto. The nodules helped shape the genre she’s in now. “Before, I was singing all these high-register show tunes and I had to very quickly adapt to having a lower voice, not only in singing, but in speaking, as well,” Zobary said.
“That’s when I chose to go more of an R&B, pop route, when I realized I didn’t have the falsetto I had before and I couldn’t hit the higher notes like I had before. That really did shape my music career,” Zobary said.
In July, she released her debut album, July Clouds, to critical acclaim, with a reviewer at a major Canadian newspaper declaring Zobary a “new artist worth hearing.”
The album’s first single, “Before I Knew You,” made it onto Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlists, which champion emerging artists. Recently, she was the song of the week artist on the CBC Radio One program, Here and Now Toronto.
July Clouds has a jazzy, soul sound, with some country and pop. Zobary, along with musician Adam Eisen and producer David Lipson, both friends of hers from TanenbaumCHAT, wrote and recorded the album over several weekends in the summer of 2018 at a cottage in Parry Sound. Another TanenbaumCHAT graduate, Josh Nash, arranged the saxophone and trumpet parts on the album.
Zobary stressed that she doesn’t consider July Clouds “her” album, because it was a team effort. “All the best of our friends in the Jewish community helped out in ways they could, with photography or videography or art,” Zobary said.
Two years ago, she participated in an RBC Master-in-Residence Program, led by singer-songwriter Steven Page, at the National Music Centre in Calgary. Coincidentally, just before she met Page, she learned that he was her cousin from Who Do You Think You Are? – a TV show about celebrities discovering their roots.
In the music centre’s basement, Zobary wrote the catchy R&B tune “Love Me,” which she recorded on July Clouds. “I was just thinking about unconditional love and I thought about my parents, who came to Calgary with me, and how much they did to support me,” she said.
Eisen penned the album’s title track, “July Clouds,” which is about the sense of peace that can arise from appreciating the simple pleasures in life, like watching clouds. The song reflects the vibe of the album, which was recorded in a cottage, by a lake and under the stars, Zobary said.
They made an official music video out of the jazzy tune “Banks of the River,” which is available on YouTube.
Zobary and her band will be performing at 8 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Supermarket, and at 7 p.m on Oct. 23 at Jasper Dandy in Toronto. The album is available on all major platforms.