Dida Pelled chats ‘Love of the Tiger’, her winding journey, and feeling jazz through spontaneity



To be dubbed “the greatest jazz guitarist this side of the Mississippi” is no easy feat, and when I saw that line in my inbox, it instantly intrigued me towards Tel Aviv-born and Brooklyn-based artist Dida Pelled. On Friday, Pelled released her album Love of the Tiger, her first collection of songs since 2016’s A Missing Shade of BlueLove of the Tiger’s creation was punctuated with false starts, with Pelled throwing out multiple projects over years of time that just “couldn’t find the right world,” as she explains over Zoom in mid-June. Love of the Tiger is not a jazz record – instead, it’s a stunning singer-songwriter embuing adventurous songs with the feelings of jazz. It’s a thrilling listen that should be on your radar as the summer reaches its apex. Keep reading for our chat with Dida about the record and how she got to this point in her musical journey:



So, I wanna talk about “Melody” a little bit. I loved the description of this — it’s “the make out song” on the album. I would just love to know how that song came together.
Dida: It has a different tale than the others, but it has a tale. Actually, “Melody” is the one song that was written in a very different way than these other songs on the album. I was experimenting with writing in a different way since I didn’t really enjoy, what I was doing at the time. I had a lot of songs that I wrote on guitar that I tried to produce and I felt stuck a little, like, I don’t know, what’s the way to get there? You know, I worked with a lot of really great producers and like were sitting together on a computer trying to make a version of these songs, and it always sounded like “almost.” So I was kind of ready to give those songs up because I felt like I can’t record them well. And then I went to Berlin with two of my very good friends and we said “Let’s try a different approach to recording” — and like, make up the songs to the recording, like kind of what they do in hip hop. If I’ll just record to the moment, it’ll be more organic in a way, you know?

So the song “Melody”, my friend made a beat and I started like gibberishing to the beat. And the song came about kind of, slowly. Instead of that beat that we started with my band added their part, and that’s where the acoustic instruments came from. We kept the vocals, actually, from that Airbnb in Berlin, and the song was just written like that — from a very loose place of just having fun, trying to make melodies to a beat.

That’s so fascinating to me that’s the one that worked a little bit differently. I’m curious to know, you said that there was a time where the songs just like weren’t working – was there ever a moment where you realized “shit, I have an album on my hands?”
Okay — I was in Berlin doing this, this experiment and it led to melodies, like the one song that survived from this experience to this album. But I made two other songs there that are like, very electronic trippy ones that I love, but they’ll be in a different project. I kind of, for a second really was excited about these songs and this way of making music. And I thought I’m just gonna, like, commit to that and let go of the acoustic songs I had, like “Sylvia” and others. And then I came back to New York and I all of my friends just grabbed me and said “Dida, this new direction is the shit.” I went and played a few shows with Catherine Cohen, the comedian, dressed up with like a full costume and like doing this electronic thing — no guitar, just with a SPD, you know—  doing the drums and singing. I really tried to go to that in that direction for a second, but then the pandemic hit and like I had to stop doing everything. Because of the pandemic, I was a little bored, so I got a recording setup at home and I started recording whatever songs I had at home. These songs were the ones that I couldn’t get right with the producers. I started to find that something worked, with just these barebones recordings of me and a guitar – and something was really convincing about these recordings. From there, I sent these recordings to my bandmates, who were all home with extra time and mics, and they added their parts and the magic really hit. That was really that moment for me; I started to trust my band and myself, and once we knocked out, you know, two songs, everything else started to flow.

It’s interesting — I’ve talked to a lot of artists and I feel like everybody had their own relationship with the pandemic and making art. I think that journey from, you know, solitude where you started working on these songs to the moment where you could really like bring a band into it back when we could be together again.
Exactly. So “Melody” and “Sylvia” were actually the first two songs that were like, okay, this is it. We have an album, and we know how to go about making an album.

I love jazz. Um, and like obviously, you know, the bio that I’ve seen a hundred thousand times is that “you’re the best jazz guitarist this side of the Mississippi”.
(laughs) That’s a joke for my friend, but it’s a good line.

It’s fantastic! Jazz is so spontaneous and it moves differently than most other recorded music, but then I listen to, you know, the singles that are out and some of your other releases and while it’s influenced with jazz obviously has like more structure than traditional jazz music. I’d love to know as you’re trained in jazz where does the spontaneity and the free-flowing nature of jazz fit into like what you’re doing?
Consciously, I wasn’t trying to make a jazz record. So these songs kind of live in a world that is “less jazz”. They’re more like singer-songwriters, rock, or RnB. I think the jazz element is in a few ways — one, the fact that it has all these genres combined, I kind of have to play and be fluent in many different styles. That’s like jazz, where you can still be yourself and sound like yourself and like have a personal touch, even though it’s disparate styles, you know? The music we’re playing it’s even though it’s very, like, in a way, simple, it’s really hard to play. I dunno, a lot of musicians that can play like the grooves on “Love of the Tiger.” That’s kind of like a Thai blues song. I feel like my bandmates and myself, we don’t really fake the styles that we’re emulating. We’re just living in those worlds for a song.



Your story and journey through music is pretty remarkable — how’d you get started? What brought you here to this point?
Honestly, I dunno, my family are not musicians or artists. (laughs) They’re just like, I don’t know, more regular people. No, they’re not regular at all. My mom is a magician. She’s the head of the magician’s organization in Israel.

Oh my god, that’s pretty cool. (laughs)
And my dad is a tiger man. The whole tiger theme. He’s got a collection of tiger-themed items, a tiger car, and tattoos – in Israel, people know Pelled as “The Tiger Man”. But no one directed me to play music. I saw the father of someone in my class when I was 10 years old playing at a campfire. And I was like, “wow, I wanna do that.” I asked my parents to have guitar lessons and I really liked it. I went to a really good high school for music and I got obsessed with jazz. And since then, I remained very obsessed with jazz. I just grew and grew and ended up at the New School, but again, that’s an interesting question because no one really pushed me in this direction; I just sort of ended up here.

So circling back a little bit, to “Melody” and its music video. Cassandra Jenkins stars in it — I really enjoyed her record last year. How did she get involved with the music video and where did the music video concept come from?
Cassandra and I are really great friends. So, the first time I came upstate, I actually did another music video for “Melody” with my friend Jenna, who is involved with a lot of my projects. Jenna and I did like a fun bathtub shoot with me and the rapper that’s on the song. It was very sexy and we loved it, but it felt like a little too much. So we were like, “no, it’s not right for the song.” Cause the song is already like, going in that steamy, makeout vibe and something about felt a little too jokey. So we let it go, and then I didn’t even think we would do a music video. Kind of going back to the “moment’ you were talking about, I realized it was a single and we realized that we needed a music video very quickly. We were thinking about how to make a love story, but make it less trying to be sexy and sweeter — something joyful, you know? It was April, and we needed a video, and we went upstate to do the same type of granola lesbian video (laughs). And I thought to myself — “who would be perfect for this?” Cassandra came to mind immediately because she’s always dressed up like she’s going to go on a hike. So we’re like, wow, let’s go upstate. And like do the same granola lesbian video. Yeah. And then like I was thinking, who can I cast to be my love interest? And Cassandra came to mind cuz she always like anyway, dresses up, like she’s going to on a hike. I texted her, and after a lot of laughing, she agreed to do it (laughs). That’s like, her vibe, so I’m glad she took a chance on that idea.

Stream Love of the Tiger here.


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