When Inbar Lavi moved to New York as a wide-eyed 17-year-old in 2004, she took an incredible leap of faith. Leaving behind her childhood home in Israel, she came to the Big Apple to make her dreams of being an entertainer a reality—17 years later, Lavi is a powerhouse actress and international star, known for gripping portrayals in some of television’s most popular programs, including roles on Imposters, Lucifer, Prison Break and more.
But, beyond acting, Lavi is an adept performer—surrounded by dance and other creative arts since she was a child, she’s always had a particular love for music. Now, she’s finally getting to share that love with the world—on June 24, she unveiled her debut single, “Puppet Master.”
While Lavi’s launch as a recording artist may come as a surprise for those who only know her for her acting, to her, a poetic urgency to write songs has been in her heart all along. “Music has always been a huge part of my life—I grew up in a very musical household,” she tells American Songwriter. “I always really loved to sing and write. I would write little poems and make up little songs. Then, at some point, I even started recording my songs onto cassettes that we had, just making up gibberish and musical ideas.”
But when Lavi got to the United States and her acting career started to take off, she knew that she had to let that take precedence. “I felt really strong with acting—I was like, ‘Oh, I definitely have something here that I could turn into a career.’” she said. “With music… well, I listen to a lot of the greatest singers of our time, like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and I knew that there were pitches I just couldn’t hit. So, I figured ‘Well, I guess that’s not for me,’ and I let it go.”
That’s how things sat for years—Lavi got her acting gigs, made a name for herself and reached a life-changing summit of success. But, through it all, she never let go of her love for music. Even if she wasn’t able to pursue it the way she wanted to, she still had the passion burning bright in her heart. Then, one day, she made a relatively trivial decision to post a video of her doing a little performance to Instagram—it wasn’t too long until a friend from the music industry reached out saying, “Hey, we should write an album together.”
“At first, I was like ‘Of course haha,’ but then she was like ‘I’m not joking,’” Lavi remembered. “She really followed through—20 songs later, here we are.”
See, once encouraged to give it a try again, Lavi quickly fell back into the same creative grooves she found herself in as a child, recording little songs onto her family’s cassettes. Empowered, she found herself feeling more confident and articulate than ever before. Then one day, on her way to a writing session with JT Roach, she started thinking about the #MeToo movement and all of the changing dynamics of gender and power in the modern world. When she got to Roach’s place, the idea was already brewing.
“It was when the #MeToo movement was at its biggest—it was really inflamed,” she recalled. “I pulled up to JT’s house after getting off a really heated conference call related to an acting gig I had at the time. At the same time, I was also in a very abusive relationship, my mom was getting a divorce, the #MeToo stuff was blasting on the radio and we were getting all the details on Weinstein. When I pulled up to JT’s house, I walked in and he was super chill, hanging with his dog—he asked ‘Do you have any ideas you want to start with?’ and I said ‘Yes! I’m so sick of all this shit!’”
That moment was pivotal for Lavi. “I think JT really opened up the floodgates when he asked me if I had any ideas—that’s what I needed to hear at the time,” she explained. “I don’t think people understand how much having a voice—an opinion, a say—really matters. That’s all everyone ever wants, really. You don’t have to accept my opinion, you don’t have to use it, but at least hear it out. So, we wrote that song very quickly—within a few hours, we had the demo, which ended up being the final song.”
Then, a few more years passed—she still worked on music, but between all of her different acting gigs, she didn’t have much time to think about actually doing anything with her songs… until COVID hit, that is.
“During the pandemic, I wanted to release my first singles,” she said. “We even shot a music video for another track and everything… but then I just got cold feet. I decided I wasn’t ready, that I wasn’t good enough and the music wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want to release anything that was anything less than ‘amazing.’ So, I decided to not try music.”
But then, something wonderful happened. “I really don’t know how to put my finger on it, but something switched—something changed in my mind in the new year,” she said. “Maybe the pandemic has a lot to do with it, but I decided to stop giving a fuck—it really doesn’t matter. So, if it really doesn’t matter, then who cares if it becomes the next “Drivers License” or not? What does matter is that I’m proud of it. I love blasting it in my car and I couldn’t wait to send it to my girlfriends to listen to—I felt like people needed to hear it.”
And now, finally sharing her music with the world, Lavi feels euphoric. “Now, I feel liberated and very at peace with myself,” she said. “I’m really excited for what’s coming next. I’m shooting a movie right now in Michigan, then I get to go home and see my family. I’m getting married this summer too, so there’s a lot to look forward to. I also have more music coming, which I’m excited about. So, yeah, I’m just really excited about everything. Oh, and I also hope Brittney Spears finds her way out of this really messy situation. I’m a huge fan and, in a way, I kinda feel like this song is for her—so, I hope she finds it and it makes her smile.”
Inbar Lavi’s debut single “Puppet Master” is out now—watch the lyric video for it below: