ARIA-Award winning singer-songwriter Ilan Kidron is the writer and frontman of Australian dance music pioneers The Potbelleez‘ most catchy dance anthems including Don’t Hold Back and Are You With Me.
He has written songs for Rita Ora, Chance the Rapper, Kygo, Ricky Martin and Tina Arena, amongst others, and is the artistic director for Dunera.org.au, a website that finds and creates content for the elderly care community.
The 44-year-old, who writes over 100 songs a year, is also working with non-professional musicians as a songwriting mentor and most recently has written a song called Nothing Is Impossible with his group the Glassbreakers for the Choice Foundation.
The Choice Foundation helps to raise awareness for people living with disability in our community and to employ, support, and celebrate differently-abled people.
“My involvement with the Choice Foundation in this track is for people on the frontline,” Kidron said in an interview with The Latch.
“There are a lot of unsung heroes in our community and the parents and workers need to be honoured in some way. The space that you more often read about is not the nurses or people doing the real work.”
Even though he has had huge global success within the music industry, Kidron and his son Gabe experienced an unimaginable loss when his wife, actor Samantha Rebillet, took her own life in 2017.
“For a while, I couldn’t do anything. I could hardly breathe let alone go out when my wife passed away,” Kidron said before later adding, “Look, I was wracked with guilt and some days, I still am, but you realise that there aren’t answers to all the questions. I’m not God.
You can’t make someone end their life. Relationships are complicated and mental illness in a relationship is even more complicated. And mental illness itself is something that I can’t imagine. I’m very lucky that I’m quite stable and happy. You have to be strong, you have to carry on. The world is a strange and beautiful place.”
To help with the grief of losing his wife of nine years, the musician wrote an album, Chaos and the Nightingale, which is a collection of songs he and “Sammy” enjoyed together plus a few originals. An album he will release once he can start touring again.
Here, Kidron talks about his involvement with the Choice Foundation, what his life was like during the height of The Potbelleez and how the music industry has suffered during the global pandemic.
Anita Lyons: Hi Ilan. It such an honour to chat with you today. Talk me through your involvement with the Choice Foundation and the track, Nothing is Impossible.
Ilan Kidron: Since coming back from Los Angeles, I have been working in areas that I never expected to. I found myself challenged in ways that I also didn’t expect to — lots of things came up.
I reignited a friendship with Taryn Boyarsky who runs the Choice Foundation and it was a really big challenge for me.
It’s easy to say that this song just flowed out but it’s not easy to write something about something that’s so complicated and has so many different angles. I’ve found that everyone has strange reactions to someone’s physical appearance. It’s a complicated thing to write about it.
My involvement with the Choice Foundation in this track is for people on the frontline. There are a lot of unsung heroes in our community and the parents and workers need to be honoured in some way. The space that you more often read about is not the nurses or people doing real work.
AL: Have you had the privilege of meeting some of the people that the foundation assists?
IK: I want to do more. I want to have more direct experience with it. But, I have met them and suffice to say, their currency is more often than not, just love.
“I have met them and suffice to say, their currency is more often than not, just love.”
AL: Why do you think it is so important to showcase the disabled community and to support them?
IK: I think people get caught up in the disability, maybe? I think it’s really important to showcase people’s abilities. It’s also important to look at the businesses who take the initiative and look at employment. We need to bring out the good.
AL: You’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity yourself and I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. What has that been like for you and how did you cope with such a loss while being in the public eye?
IK: Luckily for me, I’m not one of the more recognisable types, so I did disappear. For a while, I couldn’t do anything. I could hardly breathe let alone go out when my wife passed away.
But then, as a parent, you realise that there is a beautiful little boy who needs someone. Although I was able to be vulnerable in front of him, I’m not going to shy away from that.
You have to be strong, you have to carry on. The world is a strange and beautiful place. There’s nothing else to say.
“You have to be strong, you have to carry on. The world is a strange and beautiful place. There’s nothing else to say.”
AL: Did you ever write about it?
IK: I’ve actually written an album which is called Chaos and the Nightingale which I’ll put out when we can tour again. It’s a collection of songs that Sammy and I used to listen to but also has some originals that came out of it.
AL: I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. How did you push forward?
IK: Look, I was wracked with guilt and some days, I still am but you realise that there aren’t answers to all the questions. I’m not God. You can’t make someone end their life. Relationships are complicated and mental illness in a relationship is even more complicated. And mental illness itself is something that I can’t imagine. I’m very lucky that I’m quite stable and happy.
I guess the question is, how can you enter an experience with someone that sees the sky as black when clearly, to me, it’s a bright, sunny day. No matter how much love or support we give, we don’t have the power to enter someone else’s experience who is suffering so heavily inside.
I unintentionally just leave it and then it can hit you when driving or a piece of music can trigger it or just looking into your son’s eyes.
AL: Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I also wanted to chat with you about your incredible career, starting with The Potbelleez. Apart from what we’ve already touched on, how has your life changed since releasing Don’t Hold Back in 2008?
IK: (Laughs) That’s a good question. It turned my life into ultimate and unexpected chaos. Being on tour, especially a band of Irish lunatics like The Potbelleez, it was a spaceship that took off very fast that’s very tricky to land and so much fun to fly.
Meeting the guys and writing that song very early in our relationship together, it was like a shotgun wedding. You know, it’s like you’re in Texas drunk and there’s a priest there. And then it’s just like, you’re married now and then you wake up and it’s something like The Hangover. You’ve got to find your way back.
It was a hilarious time and lots of fun but all of a sudden you’ve got a hit and off you go. The song should actually be called No Turning Back because once the truck is hurtling down the hill, it’s very tricky to stop it.
AL: How old were you when that song came out?
IK: I wasn’t too young. I was in my early 30s. The thing is, success like that can come later on. There are no rules anymore.
AL: The industry is such a different place to when you were in the band.
IK: It changes every week.
AL: The entertainment industry has struggled so much this year due to COVID. What has it been like for someone like you, an ARIA and APRA winner, and see it struggle so much?
IK: It has been really painful for so many. I’m the lucky half with the glass half full but so many peopled have suffered. Considering that we are an industry that supports so many other industries, people do, in my opinion, take us for granted.
I do think that we live in an incredibly lucky country and it feels like we’re at a turning point.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.