Music News

Kelli Rudick learned to play in an Israeli bomb shelter

As a native of Israel and now a citizen of this country, Kelli Rudick has infused her roots and experiences into a groundbreaking style as a guitar soloist. With broad influences ranging from Steve Reich to Mozart, she's a completely self-taught musician excelling in composition, guitar, array mbira, nail violin (yes, it's made with real nails) and a whole host of eclectic instruments. Looping her sounds into a potent experience of texture, her first release, No One Knows You're Foreign, has gained a diverse audience. With her second release expected sometime this coming winter, Rudick's success should expand and rise in her well-oiled niche. We recently spoke with Rudick about the inspiration, and perspiration, that informs her music.

Westword: What is this I heard about you learning your music in a bomb shelter?

Kelli Rudick: Well, everyone pretty much had one there — part of the house. We cleaned it out and, reluctantly, my father bought me a drum set, and I would practice and stay there and learn my music there.

Is there something from Israel, something you took with you that speaks through your music now? Something you remember that was part of the culture?

Intimacy. There's this connection to the whole in Israel because of the whole political mass and external pressures. It kept the nation clingy. But there's an intimacy in the culture, a closeness between the people there. There's a depth with Israelis that's been really difficult for me to let go of, and it's not that I don't like America — I love what America has done to me. I was really judgmental when I first moved here, and now I'm able to recognize how it's been great because of this closeness. Israelis don't fear going into depth, to talk about what life means or what you're afraid of. I'm not afraid to dive and explore in my music, either.

What was the biggest challenge of growing up there?

Learning not to hate. Learning how to accept that there's a conflict without involving your own hate or fear. But I grew up in fear. I have to recognize that we're all human and we all have disagreements, and this entity is not out to kill me. It has its own issues and complexities.

Do you think a lot of that fear comes out in your music?

Probably. Everything that's in my music is everything that I am. Everything I grew up with, everything I was born with, my family, my culture — everything that's around me is my music. So it has the fear, love, intensity, hate, everything. I'm hyper-sensitive to my environment, and I've been that way since I was a kid. Absorbing everything as an artist has manifested itself in this way.

— Cicily Janus