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Talia Billig, 31
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JEWISH COMMUNITY36 Under 36 2020

Talia Billig, 31

Tuning in to Judaism

What you do:

I am a songwriter, singer, producer and record label owner. 

Unexpected fun fact

I once beat an entire bar at 30 Rock trivia by myself! Also I type 160 wpm.

How you got here:

For years, I made music that was … just … fine. I had a solid career, but something was missing.

While I was living in Los Angeles in 2017, a collaborator of mine pointed out that although Judaism was deeply a part of my identity, it wasn’t anywhere near my own music. With the help of Rabbi Susan Goldberg, I began to revisit the Jewish building blocks of my life; the melodies, the stories and the values that live in my heart.

I have generations of powerful, badass Jewish women pumping in my veins and I want to honor them in my art. And so I made my first album, which married Jewish melody and harmony to an American pop and songwriter landscape.

How does your Jewish identity/Jewish values influence the work that you do?

My Jewish identity informs my every movement. My face, my mannerisms, my harmony are all inextricably tied to my Judaism. My lyrics reflect the questions that so doggedly chase many Jewish minds. Everything I create, whether explicitly Jewish or not, is with a deep love for us.

Failure or disappointment you overcame:

In 2016, I had a disastrous vocal cord injury that led to a painful surgery. I wasn’t able to speak, let alone sing, for months. The recovery took one full year of expansive speech therapy and vocal rehabilitation to return. But when I returned, it was with a love of music I didn’t even know I had in me.

What do you consider unique or innovative about what you do?

For non-Jews, my music’s minor harmonies, layered vocals (made to emulate my family on Shabbat), emphasis on claps, breaths and body feel left-of-center and foreign. For Jews, my music’s lack of liturgical deference often throws them. It isn’t klezmer. It isn’t Idan Raichel/world music. It’s … mine. I don’t know that I’d call that innovative, but it is unique enough that we’ve had trouble finding me another person to, say, open a show for in the genre.

Best advice you received:

My mentor [famed record producer] Don Was once told me that when you create, right before you put out the work, you have to take a full 24 hours and listen to what you’ve made. “Put on blinders,” he told me, “and make sure that you fully stand behind every part of it.”

Follow me: www.taalimusic.com | @taalimusic (Instagram, YouTube) | @taalitweets (Twitter) | @musictaali (Facebook)

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