Inbar Lavi made her move to the United States at the age of 17 in pursuit of making in the entertainment business, and has become a prominent name on the acting scene over the course of the last decade. She has landed main roles in shows including Underemployed (Raviva), Gang Related (Veronika “Vee” Dotsen), Imposters (Maddie), Prison Break (Sheba, season five) and Lucifer (Eve, seasons four and five), establishing her a strong presence on screen. Later this year, she’ll star in a new drama series produced by Passage Pictures, Dream Girls, which is loosely based on her life. When COVID-19 hit, she started her own fashion brand, LAVI, with all proceeds going to female-owned businesses affected by the pandemic. An ambassador of The Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and The Make-A-Wish Israel Foundation, and a volunteer at Our Big Kitchen Los Angeles, she leads a packed life. But as of Friday, June 25th, her venture into music officially began. “Puppet Master,” a smooth pop-R&B track about being controlled and manipulated, serves as her debut single – and a strong one at that.
Pop Crave caught up with Lavi to discuss the track and her future plans for music.
Congratulations on the single! I really enjoy it… I listened to it five times today.
“No! Stop it! I love that! I’m still, like, quite new to the whole Spotify Artist page thing and it pulls up the stats… I guess my song has been on the repeat playlist? Which means people listen to it over and over again, and my mind is blown when I hear something like that.” When asked how it feels to have her work met with a positive reception, she expresses that it’s more of a passion than a job: “I can’t even believe it’s my work – it’s not work to me. It’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life out of so much pleasure and joy, there’s no work to it. It’s not an ‘Oh no, I have to go to the studio!’ […] music is still in that very virginal stage where it’s really not a job at all – so it’s amazing.”
Has music always been something you’ve wanted to do, like acting, or has it been more of a recent inspiration that you’ve had to take it up?
“Music has been a part of my life my whole life. I come from a very musical home – not that my parents play or sing professionally in any way – but my mom, when she’s in the house, when she’s cooking, when she’s cleaning, there’s always music blasting, like blasting. Usually Israeli music.” Music has formed part of her connection with her parents, she says, “My dad, he also collected records, I got his record collection, and we really bonded on listening to music and blasting it on the freeway and dancing around in the house. I was so fortunate that they immersed me in it, and took me to piano lessons and got me an organ, and I tried to play the sax, and the flute, and the violin – none of them worked,” she laughs. Writing was where she found herself: “For me personally, I was writing a lot. I always liked to write little songs and poems, I would record it on a cassette. My dad saved all those cassettes and there’s so many songs on there that should never be released. It’s always been a part of my life, I just never thought I was good enough to actually put a song out for people to listen. I didn’t think my voice was strong enough, and I didn’t consider it up-to-par.”
Was there a final push that got you over the edge and like, ‘OK, let’s do this, it’s time to put out a song,’ or did it just feel right?
“Um, to be honest, I was going through a really tough breakup. I was engaged and I ended it. It was a very abusive relationship to be honest, and toxic, and it was devastating and I had all this energy and emotion I needed to get out and I picked up a guitar and played a song. I don’t know what compelled me to record it, but I did, and it was a very rare occasion where I actually released it. I posted it on Instagram and my very good friend who’s in the industry saw it and wrote me. She DM’d me and said ‘We should write an album,’ and I said ‘Haha! Very funny!’ and she said ‘No I mean it’ and she followed through and she said ‘You’ve always written, I know you write, and you have a beautiful voice – you should do something with it.’ And she arranged for a session in the studio and it felt like ‘How have I not been doing this my whole life?’ when I was in the studio.”
It’s a very empowering song, it must’ve been such a cathartic process to get it all out and put it on paper, and then into song.
“It was, it really was. I think that’s part of why I ended up releasing it. I listened to it and I loved it, but all those voices that come to your head, that are all you! It’s all you, fucking with you! ‘Oh, it’s not good enough!’ ‘People are not gonna like it,’ ‘You don’t know what you’re doing,’ ‘Oh, you’re a musician now? OK,’ all these things. I really wasn’t going to put it out. And then thinking about someone like you saying, ‘It’s really empowering,’ made me release it, because coming from a place of feeling rundown and insecure, following that experience, I needed to feel empowered. It was really important for me, for people out there who needed to hear it, to put it out.”
You said that you’ve written an album, or were in the process of, so, is there a body of work to follow “Puppet Master?”
“Yeah! So I wrote ‘Puppet Master’ two years ago!” She laughs, “So there’s been a lot that’s been done since then. And I just kind of decided ‘OK, I’m just gonna put it out, there’s no music video, there’s not much else happening, but I just need to put it out.’ We have another song coming out with an incredible artist, his name is Benji Lewis, he’s Australian and he’s fantastic […] We wrote a really fun, beachy song for summer… Summer vibe, chill, windows down, wind blowing. So that’s the next one – that’s in a couple of weeks. And then there’s a lot more coming, but I don’t know. Don’t put any pressure on me!”
Will there be a music video for “Puppet Master?” Will we get some more visuals? And what can we expect if there is?
“I would love to do a music video, I’ve had a few directors reach out to me and say ‘Hey, I have a vision, we should do this and that.’ I’m in the middle of filming in Michigan right now, a movie, I wrap tomorrow, and then I have another movie, and then I have a wedding in Israel… so I don’t know where I’m gonna shove a music video, but I’m gonna try! I would love it!”
You’re balancing acting with music at the moment: do you think one is going to take a backseat or are you going to try and do them both at the same time? Do your priorities lie more heavily with one or the other going forward?
“It really depends. The nice thing about acting is that it’s not constant, right? I mean it can be if you want it to be or if that’s how it is for you. But for me, I try to be very choosey, and I’m very grateful to be able to choose my projects, so there’s always windows of time. It just so happens that right now I’m kind of slammed. But, a lot of times, you do have down time and you do have a few months that can pass, even longer sometimes if you choose. So whenever I have time, I love to dive fully into music. […] It especially depends on the project – the next project I have coming up is really consuming and it’s really important that I have full focus on. I wouldn’t go and shoot a really emotional scene on set and then find myself in the studio until four in the morning – it’s just not going to happen. It’s a balancing act.”
Do you find what you’re shooting can give you different inspirations for your music? If you’re shooting some sad scenes does that put you in the mood to go and write sadder songs, or are you able to separate your mind when doing music and acting?
“Yeah! I think everything affects you. You can have an emotional day at home and that will be carried on into the studio. And I can have a really inspiring session in the studio and have the most incredible scene on set because of that, so I try to be really present and attentive to everything that surrounds me. If I’m lucky, I can get inspired and affected in a way that translates into my work.”
Are there any artists at the moment that you’re really inspired by, and possibly in the future want to work with?
“I have so many favorites. So, Ashe, who wrote “Moral Of The Story,” she actually wrote a song that I picked up. She wrote it with K-KOV, who is an amazing producer, they both wrote it together and pitched it to me. I said ‘Oh! My god! I gotta do this song,’ and it’s one of my favorite songs that we collaborated on. It would be a dream to actually do a duet with her and work with her, I think she’s fantastic. Billie Eilish, obviously. She’s a genius and a god. FINNEAS, her brother, is my dream producer to work with to be honest. I keep having these visions of me and Britney Spears on stage doing ‘Puppet Master’ one of these days. I just want her to be released and free and happy and I want, at the end of that trial, I want her blasting ‘Puppet Master’ in her car.”
It’s such an appropriate song for her situation.
“Maybe 10% is for Britney in this song. And I honestly pray to God that she finds peace.”
Her testimony was so heartbreaking to listen to. How can a judge keep saying that she can’t be released from it?
“Or at least, like, find some common ground! There’s no clearer way for her to say ‘I’m drowning. Someone help me.’ […] She’s one of the most talented, iconic performers, artists of our time and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that.” Lavi confesses that she’s been a fan of Spears from the beginning: “When I was 16 I would force my best friend to do music videos to all of her songs. Like, I have a version of ‘Oops!… I Did It Again,’ jumping on my bed in my bedroom. I made my girl friend dress up like Britney and I played the guy who comes and gives her the ring. […] One day I might share it,” she laughs. “I feel like me releasing music now, I’m putting out music that my teenage-self would want to listen to.”
That’s the best thing. And I need to see you going from “Oops!… I Did It Again” video in your bedroom to performing “Puppet Master” with Britney Spears.
“Oh my god! I think I’ll pass out!”
Inbar Lavi’s debut single, “Puppet Master,” is out now.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Roei Sarusi (@roeisarusi)
STYLE: Ran Habari (@ranch_ds)
HAIR/MAKEUP: Ariya Raz (@ariya_raz)
@drorkontento – Dror Kontento