“You win from time to time, collecting every dime. This kind of life don’t last forever, but it’s pretty cool on the ATP Tour.”
Those are the lyrics buried into the blues ballad of the song “Life on the ATPTour” by the Gilad Bloom Band, whose lead vocals are sung by, as you may have guessed, Gilad Bloom. The former Israeli tennis star who enjoyed a long, successful professional tennis career has expanded on his love of music in his retirement from playing tennis.
The Gilad Bloom Band was formed in 2007, and for the last 14 years the group has been playing shows in and around New York City, performing original music written by Bloom himself.
“It’s been such a pleasure, and it’s also challenging. But I love it,” says Bloom. “We play shows about once or twice a month, and it’s always the highlight of the month for me. I get to do something a bit out of the ordinary, and get out of that mundane routine of life. It’s been a real pleasure for me, and has helped fill the void that was left by tennis when I retired.” The Gilad Bloom Band
The Gilad Bloom Band
Bloom’s love of music began many years ago when he was a kid growing up in Tel-Aviv. His older brother brought home a guitar one day, and together the two of them would listen to their favorite music and try to emulate them on the guitar. They would practice songs from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and more.
The guitar was right-handed, and that’s how Bloom learned to play. Despite being a left-handed tennis player, his first tries playing a guitar were right-handed and that is the way he developed his skills on the guitar. Playing the instrument, Bloom says, is the only thing that he still does right-handed.
“That’s the first time I ever picked up a guitar, and I was probably around 10- years-old at the time,” recalls Bloom. “I started to learn a few chords here and there. The big moment for me came on my 16th birthday, when my father took me to a shop and bought me my first guitar. It was an acoustic guitar, and it was a great day for me.”
By that time, Bloom was already an accomplished junior tennis player and had turned professional. He had his love for tennis, and his love for music, the latter would help out the former as he set out on his own to compete on the ATP Tour.
For a young player, the grind of traveling and competing professionally can take its toll, especially in the days before the internet and social media. So Bloom made sure to take his guitar with him on the road, and it became an important outlet for him.
“In those days it was very valuable for me because there is a lot of free time when you’re traveling as a tennis player,” said Bloom. “When you’re in a hotel alone in some small town in Italy or Germany, and you have a few days to kill, it’s important to have a hobby. The other options were either read a book, or go out on the town to look for adventures, which was fun too but not recommended if you want to do well in the tournament. Playing music really kept me busy during those down times, and it gave me a chance to explore and naturally teach myself how to play guitar.”
Bloom brought along some books to help learn as well, studying the music of Dylan, Pink Floyd and other bands and artists he grew up listening to. He slowly would get better, while at the same time putting together a successful tennis career, competing for 13 years, representing Israel in both the Davis Cup and the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, as well as facing off with some of the greats of that era including John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and more.
By the time Bloom had retired from the tour, his musical talent had improved, and he was playing cover songs from bands he liked, but the next step was to write his own music.
“A good friend of mine, who was a great guitar player, told me to put the books away and start playing from your ear, playing from your heart,” said Bloom. “If you want to play a certain song, figure out the chords on your own. As soon as I started doing that, I began writing my own music.”
Bloom’s brother sent him a book of his poems that he had written, and Bloom would take the melodies and music he wrote, and use his brother’s lyrics over that. Those were the first original songs Bloom wrote and composed.
He moved to the United States at the turn of the century, arriving in New York City in 2000, and continued his coaching career which started in Israel after retiring from the pro tour. By 2001 he had his own Academy, Gilad Bloom Tennis, where he was teaching high-performance tennis. During the recession of 2007, he had many people coming to him looking for a job teaching tennis, one of whom was the aforementioned Robert Mitchell.
“He was a good player and a good coach, but I was really looking for a high-performance coach, such as a former division I or professional player,” recalls Bloom. “He was a good player, but it wasn’t going to be a good fit.”
It turns out, though, that Mitchell was an accomplished musician, who had a lot of success conducting big bands and producing music. He agreed to listen to a few of Bloom’s originally-written songs, and much to Bloom’s delight, he enjoyed them, and the two would eventually get into the studio to work on the music.
From there, the Gilad Bloom Band began to come together. Bloom had an assistant coach friend who played lead guitar, Mitchell knew someone who could play keyboards and saxophone, and they found their drummer through a note on the bulletin board of the studio.
“We started jamming together, and the more we played together, the more songs I began to write,” said Bloom. “We rehearsed for a few months, and had some songs that sounded decent enough that we wanted to play live at local bars or venues. I lived on 104th street and Broadway at the time, and there was a bar named “The Underground” near me on 107th that had an Open Mic night on Sundays. I would go there sometimes and sing a couple of acoustic songs, just to get some practice and perform live in front of people.”
The band has continued to play monthly for the last decade-plus, and have really found their style and camaraderie together. Bloom also records songs in Hebrew, and tries to play a show in his native Tel Aviv every time he goes back there. He has projects in the works for both the Gilad Bloom Band, as well as his music in Hebrew with an Israeli music producer Tom Mochiach.
Bloom is still incredibly busy in the world of tennis, and still runs Gilad Bloom Tennis up in The Bronx and raising four boys with his wife Michal, an avid tennis player herself.
“My wife supports me in this journey which makes the whole thing even more fulfilling, she comes to my shows and in fact has been an inspiration to many of my songs. What gives me the most pleasure is that my shows got my kids into music, they came to some shows and know most of my songs, it’s a beautiful thing to have, this connection through music.”
Tennis and music are his loves, and he feels incredibly blessed to have found success in both worlds.
“When you retire from being a pro tennis player, there is something you miss about going out and performing in front of people. To me, sports at its highest level is a form of art, and the feeling before a tennis match is similar to the one before playing a show,” said Bloom. “You get the butterflies, the anxiety, the fear of failure, but also the desire to go out there and do something that makes people smile, or makes them react. Whether that’s the clap and standing ovation after you hit a winner on a passing shot, or whether it’s the crowd moving their heads and engaging in your songs. That part is really similar, and I’ve loved being able to do that.”
You can listen to more of Bloom’s music, and learn more about his band and their upcoming projects by visiting GiladBloomMusic.com.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org