On the surface, Gatro Yehonathan, or Yehonathan as he prefers these days, seemingly had it all: a successful career with many adoring fans. But there was something missing – his desire to sing about the truth. And that truth included coming out. With Yehonathan’s first ever North American tour just underway we caught up with him to talk about his coming out and the path that has led him to appearing at this year’s Vancouver Pride Festival.
“I think keeping secrets is very easy,” said Yehonathan. “People don’t want to know the truth sometimes and if you cover it up well they will go along with it, especially teenage girls.”
Even when rumors started to spread about Yehonathan’s sexuality, his fan base remained loyal and chose not to believe it. And while today he looks back and characterizes it as “sweet” he also admits that at some point you’ve simply got to “man up and tell it as it is”.
In 2002 Yehonathan escaped to Los Angeles to study acting. For him he remembers it as a very positive experience where he was able to be out for the first time. He looks at it as his “growing up trip” where he was forced outside his comfort zone and to look after himself.
Eventually, Yehonathan had a burning desire to return to his home in Israel and his music but, full of his new found confidence, he wanted to return and pursue music on his own terms. In 2006 he released the first single from his album Kore Lecha (Calling You), a gay love song that soon went on to top the Israeli music charts.
Despite what one might think, Yehonathan recalls this musical coming out as more liberating than difficult.
“After years of trying my best to be something I was not I finally was able to say ‘screw you’ and just follow my own heart,” he explained. “Though the press and radio in Israel were not that kind, I figured that’s fine. Who wants easy, right?”
With the success of his first album and new found sexual freedom, Yehonathan soon signed on to the steamy Israeli television show The Ran Quartet and then to the recording studio with back-to-back English language albums.
With the second of his two English language albums, Remember When, just released, Yehonathan and his long-time producer (and ex-boyfriend) Lyrik have just set off on their first North American tour starting with a show at Portland Pride and ending with a performance at Vancouver Pride on August 1st.
“My intention [with Remember When] was to create a non-stop dance fest,” explained Yehonathan. “I hope listeners will find the album uplifting and thought provoking as well as fun. It includes ten up-beat dance tracks that I really had fun doing. After a very difficult period in my life I wanted to lighten up and the album shows a lighter side of me. I think the first album was more intense and personal.”
As he embarks on the tour he wonders how American audiences will react. “I think it is very different from many things that are very mainstream pop/dance in the USA. I hope audiences will get what we are about and be moved by us and dance throughout the show,” he said. “On a personal level, I really want to enjoy myself and celebrate the work me and Lyrik have been doing for half a decade. I can’t wait!”
And with influences like Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, Eurythmics, George Michael and Cindy Lauper, we can’t either.
Vancouver Pride Festival @ Sunset Beach
1 August 2010
The festivities continue after the Vancouver Pride Parade with a line-up of local and international talent on the main stage from 11am to 6pm including a headline performance from Yehonathan. Visit http://www.vancouverpride.ca for more details.