Elinor Sitrish channels homesickness, heartbreak and unrealized ambition through music
By Michael Aushenker
Singer-songwriter Elinor Sitrish moved to Los Angeles from her native Demona, Israel, in 2007 with a boyfriend and a dream.
The boyfriend is long gone, and the dream continues to elude her.
“I left everything for the music. Came here with my ex. We were both musicians. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said, point blank.
If this sounds like a Pyrrhic victory for the young vocalist, the war is not over yet. From the rubble of her relationship and amid the chaos of missing her family and friends back home have emerged a series of battle cries: “Black Heart,” “Broken” and “Try Not to Fall” — all original songs Sitrish has written and will perform on Saturday night at Witzend in Venice.
“It’s about real life,” she said of her lyrics.
Sitrish, whose voice soars on the songs and who accompanies such compositions as “Hold On” with acoustic guitar, has yet to collect her songs in album form because she has no faith in the format.
“I don’t believe in it right now because everything changed in the music industry,” she said, alluding to an emphasis on singles prompted by the new digital paradigm.
So for now, she continues to perform her songs and, in the case of “Goodbye is Not a Word,” a like-minded tune by fellow L.A. musician Michael Caruso.
Looking for accompaniment on her original songs, Sitrish posted an online ad and met pianist Roy Braverman.
“We became really, really good friends and he believed in my music,” she said. “He was encouraging to continue, not give up.”
Sitrish credits Braverman as instrumental in the songwriting process, helping with musical arrangements. The two later enlisted guitarist Jordan Hemphill, bassist Craig Reilly and drummer Jamie Pabish, with whom they’ve been performing since last November. Gigs at the House of Blues, The Mint, Witzend and Bigfoot Lodge ensued.
“These guys are amazing,” Sitrish said. “They know there’s no budget or money, but they believe in what I’m doing. I’m grateful.”
Back in Israel, Sitrish grew up sharing her middle-school teacher mother’s taste in classic ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. As a child she sang and performed with her identical twin, Maly, today a high school psychology teacher.
“We sang together when we were 9, and we won second place with a song that my older sister wrote and my mom wrote the melody for,” Sitrish said.
With many Moroccan friends in Israel, she grew up exploring Arabic music while simultaneously ingesting the influence of songstresses such as Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Olivia Newton-John.
In addition to her originals, Sitrish is also planning a handful of covers for her Saturday gig at Witzend, including songs by Blood, Sweat and Tears as well as the Animals. During previous Venice gigs, Sitrish has covered “Next to Me” by Emily Sande and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” as well as some bluesier numbers.
Sitrish, who will go on to play the Social House in West Hollywood in August and The Mint in mid-city on Sept. 19, looks forward to returning to Witzend.
“It’s a very intimate place. It’s a bar, but it has a feel of an acoustic show,” she said.
Sitrish admits that she is still overcoming obstacles in her daily life to make it as a performer. However, there are dividends to being a struggling artist.
“When it’s not going well it’s easy for me to write,” she said.
Elinor Sitrish performs at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at Witzend, 1717 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. $10. Call (310) 305-4790 or visit witzendlive.com.