Music from the heart

Local singer/songwriter Rami Feinstein prepares to release his first album in English.

Rami Feinstein (photo credit: GIL BEN-HUR)
Rami Feinstein
(photo credit: GIL BEN-HUR)
Rami Feinstein loves music with a pure passion that is at once refreshing and inspiring. This pure love comes through in every note he plays, every line he sings. A talented guitarist and singer with three studio albums and a solid fan base under his belt, Feinstein is preparing to release his first album in English. His Jumpstarter campaign to support the new album goes until August 21st. Feinstein sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss the heartbreaking story that led him to putting out an English album, viewing his fans as musical partners and speaking “Hebrish.”
When did you first learn you were a musician?
I came to it later in life. My father was dean and head of Jewish studies at NYU and Columbia. My family were all musical but also very into academia. I was going in that direction for a while. I thought I was going to get my master’s and doctorate, and that I would make a career of lecturing and researching in history and sociology. But I thought I would give the music thing a year and see how big it should be in my life.
So I took a year off after I finished my bachelor’s degree and took a few courses at Rimon Music School. I was 27 at the time. I had been writing songs since I was a kid, but I never thought it was what I wanted to be in life. But it hit me during that time that this is what I want to be doing. Then I started a whole journey that brought me here.
What precipitated the decision to release an album in English? I
come from an American family. I was born in the States and moved to Israel when I was two years old. We speak ‘Hebrish’ at home, ‘Pass me the melach [salt].’ I always thought I could be articulate in English, but that I could be more accurate in Hebrew. A head of a record label in Chicago heard my music through a friend and he really liked it, so he asked if I wanted to come and make an album with them in Chicago.
This is actually the story of the album. I took a year, working hard to support my family. I would write songs on the bus on the way to work, really looking forward to recording this album. I wrote it in English because I thought I would give it a try and I was really happy and surprised by the outcome. The songs are simple and upfront.
So we went to Chicago last August for a month, and although we had a contract and everything, it became clear that he was not in a position to fulfill what he had promised. I was obviously very disappointed and maybe heartbroken. We came back to Israel and I was called to have a segment on the sports channel on this morning show where I would play songs. That kind of took my mind off of what had happened and I took some time and went back into the studio. I decided that this is an album I really wanted to make and I think other people will like. I’m working on it now.
How is the crowdfunding campaign for the new album going?
It’s going well. I’m using Jumpstarter. We’re up to 55% and have a few days left. Hopefully we can get a nice push at the end and get it done. But there’s a lot of support and people who really want this to happen. That’s more exciting than the amount of money. Of course I would love to get the right amount to finish the album, but the support of people who know me and my songs and have been coming to shows for years is really moving. It’s been such a good experience to receive all of that support and love.
For me, music is a way of connecting to people. That’s happening now, so this has been a really positive experience. I just hope to reach the goal and get this album done. Sharing my story and my music, and the way that I do things in general, is to try to create a partnership between me and the people who like my music and want me to do more of that.
The situation with the music industry right now, maybe not huge successful artists, but those of us who are just making music, so many stop because it’s so hard to be rewarded for that or to even pay for the costs. It’s a way for me to say, ‘Hey, this is what I do and if you like it, help me keep going.’
There was a nice kosher bagel place next to my family’s house in New Jersey. Crowdfunding is like that. It’s like having a small business next to you and one day you discover that it’s about to close. But let’s say the shop owner sends you an email and says for him to continue providing this for the community, if you buy some bagels in advance at a better price than what you usually pay, it will help him stay open and continue his business. You have the choice. Maybe you don’t care. But if you want this small business to keep going, that’s the offer on the table.
I really believe in that. Musicians have to be honest with their followers and I try to do that. Telling the story of what happened to me is painful, but it was an easy decision that I should tell it. Hopefully people can be inspired and overcome things in their lives.
Did you have any concerns that the audience you’ve built up from your Hebrew music wouldn’t be able to switch to English as easily as you?
From the reactions and feedback that I’m getting, I’m not worried. I share some of the work in progress with my fans and I know they like it. I’ve also been touring the US and performing in Jewish communities for a few years now. I’ve been asked if I would ever do anything in English, so I think some of my fans have been waiting for this.
Rami Feinstein’s Jumpstarter campaign can be found at: