Ori Naftaly sees his experience in the United States through the greasy, smoky, and possibly cracked lens of Memphis.
"When we came to Memphis, we were very surprised. For me, it was the first time to be in America. And to be in Memphis is kind of a miracle," Naftaly says.
The Israeli blues guitarist had a pretty dang fortuitous adventure in getting here.
"I grew up near Tel Aviv, next to the beach," Naftaly says. "Pretty normal. I started playing when I was 5. My dad being a big jazz and blues fan, I listened to a lot of those records. I didn't know pop or any other kind of music until I got into high school. Just jazz, blues, and soul: A lot of Memphis music, but I wasn't aware of it."
- Ori Naftaly Band
Naftaly met singer Eleanor Tsaig when they were in middle school together.
"She grew up right next to me," Naftaly says. "We knew each other since middle school, went to high school together, and we went to music class together. She's been singing all of her life and plays guitar and cello. She writes most of our songs. She is a brilliant songwriter."
After a romp through the 2013 International Blues Challenge to the semifinals, the band felt at home in Memphis and decided to stay. Their sound is evolving as they wrap up their third album.
"We were never strictly blues, you know," Naftaly adds. "But it doesn't matter what I play. I work with other musicians and bands. Whatever I play is just bluesy. All of our new songs are soulful and funky and our version of R&B. But it's bluesy, and I can't get away from that."