INTERVIEW: Musician, Producer and Songwriter Sean Hurwitz
Israeli-born guitar pro Sean Hurwitz has toured the world with Enrique Iglesias and Smash Mouth, and played with Anna Nalick, Judith Hill, Jordy Towers (SomeKindaWonderful), Gin Blossoms, Chris Wallace and many more. Hurwitz studied sound engineering in Tel Aviv and by 21, he was a popular audio engineer and stage tech, working with some of Israel’s hottest artists. The very busy and creative Hurwitz recently spoke to SoCalMusicToday to discuss his prosperous career and how he left Israel to escape terror and make a successful life for himself in Los Angeles and has been literally living his dream ever since.
How did you get started in music in Israel?
When I was in my mid-teens, I used to frequently play at a place called “Bayeet Ham” (“Warm House” in Hebrew) with different bands. It was a bomb shelter that was converted into a rehearsal spot in downtown Jerusalem. One of the counselors was a musician named Avi Tal.
Avi saw some potential in me and took me in to be his “In House” studio session guitarist. So, other than rehearsing and learning the art of playing in a live setting, I also learned ALOT from working with Avi through his studio.
While recording for many artists and productions at that time, I learned about producing, working with a click, and controlling your instrument in a very different way than a 16-year-old would do in a live setting. That was my main starting point as a musician in Israel.
Do you come from a musical family? Did they influence your interest or pursuit in music in any way?
Yes and yes! My whole family is very musical and we had music all around us at all times. Both my parents play guitar and love music. My father even taught me my first few chords on the guitar at age 11. They always encouraged me to follow my musical endeavors. I’m very lucky in that sense.
At a young age they supported me when I wanted to learn the keyboard. But just as important, when I wanted to stop and focus on other things in my life, they didn’t make me continue as so many parents often do. They let me find my own way in the music world.
Over time, I’ve also realized that having parents who followed their dream to move to Israel (from NY) and raise a family, was very inspiring to me in my pursuit of my own dream: to be a successful musician in the U.S.
Can you tell me or describe to me how you wound up leaving Israel and the circumstances behind that and your journey to coming to the U.S.
Well I always had that dream – moving to the U.S., being on a video on MTV (well, dreams change as the years go by, haha), touring the world…my goals were much bigger than only playing music in Israel.
In April 2003, during the Second Intifada (your basic daily terror attacks in Israel), a suicide bomber blew up a music bar I knew in Tel Aviv called Mike’s Place. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I heard it all go down on the radio as it was happening.
For me, that was the breaking point. It was time to make the move. Only time would tell whether I would sink or swim in the big ocean of musicians that I now call home. But, I had to try! And so, two months later, I arrived in L.A. and started my new life.
How did you wind up touring with the some of the biggest acts in pop music and how did the opportunities present themselves? Also working with Israel biggest acts?
I got most of my bigger gigs through some wonderful relationships I’ve built over the years. Two specific names that come to mind are Randy Cooke (drummer for The Stars), who got me an audition with Anna Nalick and got me into my first tour with Smash Mouth back in 2011, back when he played with them.
My other friend is Eddie Caipo, FOH Engineer for Smash Mouth back when I joined, and currently acting as Monitor Engineer for Enrique Iglesias for the last few years. He got me the opportunity to audition for Enrique. I attribute most of my music career here in the U.S. to some amazing people who believed in my abilities to do the job right. Without them, I wouldn’t have had these opportunities. I’m very thankful for them.
Regarding big gigs in Israel, between the ages of 17 and 22, I kind of left music on the side and followed my Audio Engineering career very passionately.
So yeah, I worked with ALL of the big acts in Israel. But I wasn’t playing with them; I was tech’ing for them in one way or another… and I loved every minute of it!
But one faithful night, when I was working as FOH and Monitor engineer for a friends’ band in downtown Jerusalem, my mother’s words, “Remember? Didn’t you want to play music? Do you see yourself schlepping gear at 35?” – clicked.
I remembered, ‘I DID want to be a musician!’ And so I decided to follow my passion for music once more.
Is it true you write and collaborate with various artists? Can you tell me about that creative process?
Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate with MANY talented artists and writers over the years. The creative process changes from session to session. It’s really about the goal of the session and who you are working with.
For example, some artists, maybe Katy Perry for instance, might be looking for new songs for her album. Well, maybe in this case, my friend Rinat Arinos (fellow Israeli and owner of PinkSharkCues.com) will hit me up and we’ll write a song for Katy. Then I’ll go record and produce it and Rinat will pitch it to the correct people. If Katy wants it, great! If she doesn’t, no big deal…we’ll either try to get the song placed in shows or we’ll pitch it to other artists. No material goes to waste; every song will find its home.
In other cases, sometimes you write WITH the artist for their album. And then in other cases, you’ll just get together with some friends and write some songs just for the sake of writing songs. Like I said, it depends on the project and who you are collaborating with. That kind of dictates the vibe and direction of the session.
How and why did you get involved with the charity called The Jerusalem Sobar Music Club For Youth?
Back in the “Bayeet Ham” days, I also frequently visited another establishment in Jerusalem called “Hineni.” One of the counselors there was Raquel Sanchez.
YEARS later…when I toured with Smash Mouth and we had a show in NY, I reached out to a mutual friend and reconnected with Raquel.
At the time, she was involved in this project and thought that my presence and guidance might be of value. I was happy to help and jumped right in.
What advice would you give young, aspiring indie musicians wanting to break into the industry?
In simple terms, I’d recommend extreme focus and having the “whatever it takes” attitude (actually learned that one from my days in Guitar Center). So…figure out what needs to be done, focus on it and follow through!
Also, find people who have been there and done that (whatever it is you are looking to do). Meet up with them and see if they’d mind giving you some advice from their personal experiences. I do that all the time.