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Naomi Less Proves Jewish Chicks Rock, Too

22 October 2010By Marisa Torrieri 1,858 views No Comment

Songstress and guitarist Naomi Less isn’t just a rocker chick with an axe to grind. She’s a spiritual chick, too, influenced by her connection to her Jewish heritage and her desire to help others. This summer, she served as a volunteer guitar coach for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn. In September, she did some great spiritual work helping families connect with the Jewish tradition musically and experientially during the high holiday season out in Encino, California. How does she find time for it all? We sent our Rew on a quest to find out.

Naomi Less proves that being a spiritual chick can rock.

ReW: Thank you so much for doing this interview for *GRGR’s monthly newsletter. We appreciate YOU…How long have you been pounding this pavement w/ your musical endevours??

NaOmi LeSS: It’s been about three years in this project. And then about five years before that in my previous project, Less Nessman.  For Jewish Chicks Rock, I don’t pound the pavement as much — I spend more time in the air traveling to different communities!

ReW: You always have a ton of exciting stuff going on ALL the time musically..cds , SO MUCH travel…what’s on the horizon these days???

*NaOmi LeSS: wow…these days? or these daze? So much going on I’m truly excited about. I just finished one of my favorite things in the world – volunteering at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls where this year I taught guitar and learned much more than I taught from the amazing volunteers. This fall, I did some great spiritual work helping families connect with the Jewish tradition musically and experientially during the high holiday season out in Encino, Calif. The late fall, early winter is all going to be about two things: booking gigs for my band (Naomi Less Band), and to be a model for young girls that women can rock, play electric instruments and run a band! The second is developing programs for my project Jewish Chicks Rock – which includes concerts for communities and programs that reach young girls – encouraging them to have their voices heard, create music and get involved in the Jewish rock community! We are in DESPERATE need of gender balance there.

ReW: You certainly are a girl that rocks and inspires all the time..how did you start this empowerment for youth?

*NaOmi LeSS: I have been working with youth since I was basically a youth myself. I have a masters in Jewish education and have worked mostly with overnight camps – building national staff training programs to better address the needs of  youth. In my travels to camps across North America, I started noticing that the issues girls were dealing with when I was a pre-teen or adolescent are not getting easier, in fact, they’re getting tougher – more media pressure, more sexual pressure at an earlier age, more body image issues – eating disorders, body dysmorphia, you name it. And I just began to thing — I can either stand on the sidelines or get involved – and my assets are the ability to work with youth, my musical abilities and my loud voice – meaning, I’m not afraid to speak out and give my 2 cents about things.  So that’s really how I got started.

ReW: I must ask..focusing on the ‘Jewish’ness….how has that helped/hurt your career?

NaOmi LeSS* : Well, I think it’s limited me in my audiences, certainly – I do both Jewish and secular music, but I’m more known for the work I do in my own faith community.  But I really try not to differentiate between audiences.  Every single song I write has a universal message – and if there is a Hebrew lyric on it, well, that’s ok – there are lots of songs that have different languages built into the primarily English songs – so I feel like if people open up and listen – and possibly view it as edgy-pop with a hint of world music sensitivity, then perhaps they’ll be inspired by it as well.  Everyone has issues of connecting spiritually in this lifetime — and this is one way of expressing it.

ReW: Do you exclude other religions?..wanna elaborate on this & spread the word please…?

*NaOmi LeSS: I certainly don’t exclude other religions – my take, my upbringing is from a Jewish lens – from a Jewish perspective, but I have tons of friends who are expressing the same kind of messages from their faith communities – and I love collaborating with those musicians.  The messages I’m sending out are about loving yourself, loving those around you, being kind to yourself – respecting yourself, how grateful I am (and possibly we all are) at having this life, this soul given by God or however you understand that primordial, universal force to be. Additionally, there are a couple of songs that challenge the notion of God – and what my relationship is with God.  And that’s important to state as well – it’s not a given, this spiritual connection, it takes work and faith and sometimes you don’t have the strength or faith within you – so you question. Whatever language you say it in, I think there’s a message in the music for everyone.  My partner, Glenn, and I both write the music together – and that really keeps it real.  He constantly challenges me to think about what I’m writing, is it accessible to the listener, what’s the best way to express it.  I’m so grateful to him!

ReW: I feel like you are so easily living your dream..does it come as easy as it looks?

*NaOmi LeSS: It’s such hard work – it truly is – there’s so much out there, so many people doing so many different kinds of approaches to get their music heard – the social media piece of this is killing me – and it’s easy to feel like you’re “falling behind” the next person.  So you have to remind yourself that you’re on YOUR path and not try and compare yourself to anyone else.

But no matter what – I know that I am doing my best to live my “Personal Legend” – a concept I really believe in from “The Alchemist”.  It’s taken me a while to quiet myself enough to really hear what that is – and to move forward towards building my personal legend.

ReW: Who inspires your songz? One or many people?

NaOmi LeSS*: So many different things. Sometimes it’s looking around at what’s wrong with the world. Sometimes it’s looking around and being able to see what’s RIGHT!  A lot of the adolescents I work with inspire me — I listen very very very carefully to what they say to me or to each other. We really need to be able to listen more to them.

ReW: I luv lyrics & stories & it seems your songz are loaded w/ both, any strange one that stands out?.. *NaOmi LeSS* :

I have a new song that’s called Thank You – and it’s from a day I was feeling particularly grateful.  So many times I write from a place of frustration, anger, sadness – but this day – for some reason, I woke up that morning and sat on my couch – the sun was pouring in, it was light and I just said to myself – wow – thanks.  I know things can be tough, and I know i can focus on all of the things that aren’t going well, or haven’t happened, but here’s a few things that are going well, and that have happened.

ReW: Do you have a favorite? Or an all time favorite song you wrote{or was inspired to write from another song}..why?

NaOmi LeSS*: I don’t have a favorite – but I do have one that I really feel strongly about – it’s called “The Real Me” – and it’s about how sometimes you feel like there’s a part of you that you can’t share with other people because you’re afraid that part of you won’t be accepted.  It can be about something you like, or like to do, or your gender, or your sexuality or really anything.

ReW: When you tour do you go full band or solo? how often do you prepare for this?

NaOmi LeSS*: Usually full band, but sometimes I go solo – just based on budget. During the summer, I tour non-stop.  But during the year, probably once a month – though I’m anticipating more this year.

ReW: How does touring today effect your family life & musical career? Who does the booking & funding of the tour?

NaOmi LeSS*: Funny you should say that – I’m actually at a transition place where I may bring on a booker – I’ve been doing the “indie” thing but I think I’m ready to grow.  As far as family, Glenn, who is my writing partner and producer, is also my drummer.  So the more I tour, the more we get to work together!!

ReW:Is it what you expected & did it achieve what you dreamed it would?

NaOmi LeSS: It is what I expected and MORE. The relationships I’m able to develop, the young girls who’ve come up to me and told me they want to play music, or get involved or loved seeing a woman rock it up there, well, that’s it for me, you know??

ReW: Does the music business live up to your expectations or dissapoint them?

NaOmi LeSS*: No, it certainly doesn’t – I don’t even know what the music business is – it’s a tough business – but I guess I get to be in a part of it that isn’t that horrible. I get to play for the people – with a direct link to the people, without a middle-person.  So I have a bit of a different take on it.

ReW: What do you think of facebook?

NaOmi LeSS: Savior and nemesis all at the same time.

ReW: do u still visit Myspace?

NaOmi LeSS: Rarely, but my twitter account is linked to it

ReW: Do u have time to Twitter.. ???

NaOmi LeSS: No, but I do it anyway!  I read it more than I actually tweet content…but I try.

ReW: Is there anything you do as a daily regime for songwriting??? Do you do vocal excersizes?

NaOmi LeSS*: I do warm up. I had vocal surgery at 30 and since then, I have to take care of the voice even more. Sometimes I steam, but I basically have three exercises I do to warm up. As for songwriting, no I don’t have a daily discipline, but i do have a writing book in each bag i carry so I’m ready. I’ve also been known to sing stuff into my phone.

ReW: Do you believe everything you read??

NaOmi LeSS*: Certainly not – unless it’s from the Onion, of course!

ReW: Do you say the truth when you post?

NaOmi LeSS*: 100 percent. Because I work with adolescents, I find that i have to keep myself VERY real, and not say anything I don’t believe.  I also tend to keep it clean – working with youth actually keeps me clean – I know that for many kids, I”m actually viewed as a role model and that weighs on me in a very positive way.

ReW: what’s your biggest succes with your music so far? *

NaOmi LeSS*: Well – I was pretty honored to be commissioned this year by the Cantors Assembly (a HUGE organization for cantors in North AMerica) to write two brand new high holiday pieces. I performed them at their convention with some of my musical mentors from the field in a life concert. I was really the only one who did a piece with a rock band – and it was definitely something different than they’re used to hearing. I was overjoyed when they were all standing, singing with me, with their ipods, phones etc, up like lighters! That was a true high for me!

ReW: Does music pay the bills?

NaOmi LeSS*: More or less!

ReW: In the next year what is your number one wildest goal?

*NaOmi LeSS*: I would like to figure out how to do this and have a baby. That’s pretty wild, right??

ReW: in the next 5 years? How long will you keep this up?

*NaOmi LeSS*” I would like to start programming for girls in a number of cities as well as a series of gender-balanced rock camps across the country!

ReW:i musy say you look more & more gorgeous as time goes on…what’s your secret?

NaOmi LeSS*: You are too kind. It’s odd, i was so ugly as a pre-teen and teen. I think 30 was a huge turn around. Great hair stylist .. great level of confidence in my own style (clothingwise) … great loving sexual partner, and of course, at least two shades of eyeliner. Don’t be afraid to combine!

ReW: Thank u sweeetie..i am ur BiGGest Fan … may all the success u dream for come your way……….any last comments you are eager to say???xxxx

*NaOmi LeSS: You are amazing and a role model to me, Rew!  From the first time I met you at the Go Girls Event, you were an inspiration to get out there and do it – so THANK YOU!!!

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