An Interview With: Chanele Fellig

How did you get started?

While neither of my parents were in the entertainment business, I grew up in a musical family, and Jewish albums (yes, on the record player) were always playing in our home. I took a few years of guitar lessons as a pre-teen but never considered myself a serious musician, even though I participated in many musical projects as a star soloist, choir head and camp theme-song composer. It was only when I began recording as a hobby that I discovered the depths of my talent and my true passion for songwriting and performing. Recording music helped me develop my songwriting skills and forced me to refine my compositions so they were polished enough to release to the public. My first songs were distributed on bootleg CDs to my friends, but soon enough Sameach Music reached out to me and offered to print 1,000 copies of my debut album on the condition that I would release a follow-up the coming year. I am proud to share that twenty years later I am still writing music, and recently released my seventh album, Don’t Let Go, to my beautiful fanbase, many of whom have been listening to my music all these years.

What made you go out in the community and sing?

My background is Chabad, and as a Lubavitcher, I was immediately invited to communities around the world to perform my songs. I took every invitation and sang for very little money. My reputation as a professional and inspiring entertainer spread by word of mouth, and before I knew it, I was singing four nights a week around the world. Every gig left me inspired, and I continued to write new songs that would be appropriate for the all-female audience I was presented within so many different cities. My career snowballed, and there were years I was single-handedly supporting my family with the income from concerts and album sales.

What’s your background?

My paternal grandmother, Miriam Fellig, may she live and be well, is a Holocaust survivor from Poland who listens to my music until this day. My grandfather’s sister is the famous and beloved Morah Blanca who composed the Mitzvah Tree albums we all grew up listening to.

My maternal grandparents are Chabad Chassidim, and my great-grandmother, Sarah Simanovitch, was a published Yiddishe poet and prolific painter. Lots of yichus, baruch Hashem!

I see that you compose. How long does it take to do this?

It depends on the project. I tend not to sit on projects too long, and I have tremendous creative energy. I recently wrote lyrics for Berel Solomon’s upcoming film, Orthodoxed, and when he called, he said, “I hear you wrote The Book on Songwriting”, referring to my masterclass on songwriting. Needless to say, the pressure was on, but within twenty-four hours I wrote the theme for the movie, and he was thrilled with it.

How do you deal with the kol isha part of preforming?

Kol isha is the essence of my music. For years my catchphrase was ‘Singing to you, for you and with you’, and it has been my honour to write and perform for the beautiful Jewish souls I have encountered throughout my career as a singer. My songs support and inspire women, and I’ve never struggled with kol isha. Thankfully, today there is a beautiful community of female entertainers who support each other, and each has their own supportive fan base that appreciates their contributions to the Jewish music scene. I’ve never struggled with this, and although some women find it restrictive or limiting, I’ve found my voice within these halachic parameters.

As this issue is all about how the saddest moments in our life turn into uplifting times, can you explain how you personally feel you can help achieve this through your music?

Ah, well that is essentially the most important aspect of what I do: uplifting sad neshamos to reconnect with their emunah in Hashem directly through music. Last month I released a song and music video called ‘Don’t Let Go’, after my aunt and uncle who passed away in the Surfside building collapse. The chorus of the song is:

There must be something there.

It’s not in the heavens or at the end of the world.

So much more is still before you.

Don’t let go; you’ll find it

If you just don’t let go.

The song and video really struck a chord with many, many women who connected with the idea that no matter how tragic life becomes, there’s always something more to look forward to. That has always been my message, and I continue to find strength from my own music in my personal life as well.

Where do you live, and have you always lived there?

I have lived in Israel for the last four years. We made aliyah and currently reside in Beit Shemesh. I love Eretz Yisrael—I even wrote an entire song about it: ‘I Am the Land’’—and I’m currently in the process of touring every inch of this beautiful country. Eretz Yisrael inspires me in my music, and I try to express that passion as much as possible in all my projects. I just hope we can put on a huge all-women’s concert here in Yerushalayim in health, wealth and happiness very soon!

Social media has brought an entirely new dimension to the Jewish women’s music community. The support for each other is across the board, and we have a WhatsApp group where we discuss collaborations and schedule releases so they don’t overlap. I have a personal relationship with all the girls, and I truly believe we are all blessed to have these meaningful relationships flourish as we create our music side by side.

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Chanele Fellig

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