Broza draws on old folk-rock and then adds 'urban passion'

January 07, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

David Broza is a folk-rock musician in the truest sense of the term. "When people ask me, 'So who would be your biggest influences?' I say, 'Jimi Hendrix and Woody Guthrie,' " he explains.

Born in Israel, Broza "grew up" on Woody Guthrie. "My mother was a folk singer, and that's what we'd hear in the house," he says, over the phone from Tel Aviv. "Then, when I got a guitar and thought about playing, Hendrix was the big thing for me. Or Clapton, or Cream, or anything the Doors did. Anything electric."

As he got older, though, his enthusiasm for loud, raucous, left-of-center rock 'n' roll began to wane. "I got a little mellower, and I started listening to more folk-rock," he says. "That's what I wanted to play."

Instead of screaming guitars and a sledgehammer beat, Broza opted for acoustic instruments and lyrics derived from poetry. That didn't mean his music lost its edge, mind. As he puts it, "it's urban folk-rock. To me, it's got the urban passion and the urgency and the energy of a city. It's not folky, in a laid-back way. It's very energized."

Unfortunately, Broza's sound wasn't exactly fashionable. "By the time I became professional, folk-rock was outdated," he laments. "In the '80s, there was nobody who would care to review or listen or play. The audiences were there, but the industry wasn't supporting the music."

At least, the industry in America wasn't supporting it. Back in Israel, Broza had no trouble attracting an audience; indeed, he became a major star, playing to packed houses on a regular basis.

But America is the market Broza most wants to crack. "I've been living in the United States for nine years," he says. "I've been touring constantly for the past five or six years. It took me a few years to establish myself."

Why has it been so hard for him? "The American market has gotten used to buying whatever gets advertised, and the problem is, storytellers and singer-songwriters are too small a time for the big Coca-Cola ads," he says. "We're small. It's harder to reach the bigger audiences.

"But once in a while, you get somebody who does reach them. Suzanne Vega. Or Shawn Colvin now. It's only one out of hundreds, but I think now there's a chance."

Particularly now that radio is beginning to acknowledge some listeners really would rather hear literate, intelligent singer/songwriter fare than the latest Top-40 smash. Thanks to the rise of adult alternative radio -- a format designed to appeal to listeners too old to really get Belly or Blur, and too savvy to settle for Michael Bolton and Gloria Estefan -- artists like Broza finally have a shot at regular radio play. And that has made a world of difference for Broza's current album, "Time of Trains."

"Basically, I've come out with this album just at the right time," he says. "Even six months earlier, I don't think my record company would have had a chance at sales. They would have done well at the performing circuit on a smaller basis, but not really anywhere close to what they have now."

Broza knows that there's an audience out there. "Everywhere I travel, I seem to be meeting people who are naturally inclined and attracted to this sort of music," he says. "Music is not just something you listen to in order to relax. It carries messages and stories of your own life. And we're all the same, we who listen to the story, who like a melody, and who will fantasize and romanticize a little bit in life."

Finding those kindred souls takes some doing, though -- particularly in a country the size of this one. But Broza says he's up to the challenge.

"I've got to perform, that's all," he says. "As people become more aware of me in radio, I can do more and more shows. And I don't care how small a place I'm playing in, I've got to do it. It's the first step. If there will be 20 people who'll be sold on it this time, next time we'll come to a 40-seater. Then a 400-seater. Eventually, you'll get there.

"I'm used to doing up to 25 shows a month," he adds. "I have no problem performing without a stop. And I think the record company and people around me are aware of my ability to really create a vibe and impress listeners who are hearing me for the first time. So I count on being on the road a lot."

DAVID BROZA

When: 8 tonight

Where: CoffeeHouse Uptown, Wilson Memorial Methodist Church

Tickets: $7

Call: (410) 235-4251

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