Compartmentalization, Woodstock, etc
Hi, my love.
I bet you know how I am.
(You may be somewhere close to the same.)
Spent the week simultaneously dazzled and devastated.
Devastated by the obvious. More on it later, to the extent that I can stand.
Dazzled by the possibility of Rainbow Blonde, our community, our potential.
(We finished two new albums in three days this week in Woodstock)
(The energy was fervent and centered and electric)
(Superstar RB vibe director [you get to pick your own title when you’re on the RB collective, and have you ever heard a better one!?] Brett Sanders took the below photo)
Brett somehow visually captured the way my dream record label looks.
And I’m the head of it!
Dazzled by the brilliance of José performing Bill Withers’ music to 17,500 people at the Hollywood Bowl with Bill’s daughter Kori and a killer band.
(Bills’s spirit was everywhere)
(The whole audience dancing, singing, connecting)
(I sat next to Bill’s wife Marcia and cried a lot of times)
A wild dance of somewhat effective compartmentalization.
The morning the news broke José and I were at a fun new peak of exhaustion, having just finished those super secret super good Rainbow Blonde albums. The day’s docket included packing everyone up, then driving from Woodstock to Harlem back up to Tarrytown then to Newark.
To fly to Los Angeles.
(Even for me, a lot.)
I was sort of staring at the wall as José aimlessly packed.
And then the news broke.
And the whole morning went into slow motion.
Surrounded by well meaning men who could have no idea what it felt like. Surrounded by a team of humans who had just spun gold in very few minutes and were deservedly ecstatic about it.
(“How are you, t"?”)
I tried to explain and ended up choking on my words.
(There’s no way to explain it)
(No real point in even trying)
(Words aren’t always our friends, after all)
So I compartmentalized. Never been too good at compartmentalization, but somehow that day it worked.
We called my step daughter for her 9th birthday, reveled in the sunlight of her perfection.
I texted a few key ladies in my life.
Then packed up that car and started the first leg of the drive.
As always, I have no answers.
I know the danger of a platform, know that pesky little part of me that wants to speak loud. That part was encouraged in the many well meaning worlds I traveled growing up. An endless war of words, a sharpening of intellects, a competition to be the most profound (albeit in status and declaration rather than any sort of real action).
I know better by now. I don’t indulge that voice.
Not because it’s not worth hearing mine, but more because when it comes to anything other than songwriting I am simply not the best or most qualified to speak on much. My voice shakes and cracks when people start listening. The words and sentiment I want to share come from ego and/or insecurity and ultimately serve only as a distraction.
There are actual people whose voices don’t crack, who come to important issues with purpose rather than ego. Those are the people who should be doing the speaking.
While they do, I try to quietly do the right thing, support the right causes, amplify where I can. I keep doing what I do best: Crafting melodies, converting complex feelings into compact rhyming sentences and trying to build a world where the people I care about have the power, voice and agency they deserve.
A world where, for example, you get to hear about Ebban Dorsey, an absolutely epic saxophonist that JJ discovered on Instagram. She sat in with us at the Blue Note last week, the second set ringing in literally (!) her (!) 18th birthday.
Ebban comes from a brilliant family, her brother Ephraim a young sax legend in his own right and her mother Bernadine a fountain of wisdom. Ebban herself, beyond her blisteringly fresh tone and endless melodic ideas, carries both the infectious excitement of youth and the humility/grace of a woman thirty years her senior.
I tried my best to impart my advice at one of her very first (!) real studio sessions. But you know what, my love? Just watching her inhabit the studio was a lesson for me as much as her.
Building a new world.
A world where, for example, we get to talk about Céline Hollenbeck, my absolutely badass attorney/friend. I met Céline while I was living in Los Angeles. We were at an unbearably trendy party in an all white house that truly looked like a 70s porn/cocaine palace.
I am not very good at parties, but I am very good at singling out the few actually genuine people at a party (and promising to bring them pie). Celine and I became instant friends. I invited her to sing as part of the lady choir on Hear You Now and she has expertly guided / helped me to build a world where I am both creatively fulfilled and protected.
She is also the coolest lawyer you will ever see, okay?! Look at the universe I live in, where the baller fashion icon in the middle is one of the best / most high powered attorneys in the music business.
Building a new world.
Céline, Ebban, José, etc. When the space outside my bubble increasingly feels like it’s falling apart I put my blinders on, give money and time where I can, and stay focused.
They want us dead, ideally
(It really is that dark, I’m afraid)
But they’ll settle for us exhausted, scattered, completely broken.
So we take care of ourselves and keep going. This morning we got to LAX early and spoke to Big Yuki in an airport coffee shop about his future, the industry, where he fits and where he can grow.
All of that knowledge, pain, the lessons we’ve learned. Put into practice, spun into some sort of gold.
Dazzling, devastating, imperfect and perfect.
I’ve been writing taalitalk for almost two years, and I’m pretty sure I’ve typed “I don’t know the answer” upwards of ten times.
I still don’t. But I’m grateful, thirty some years in, to have the capacity to live in the gray area with you.
(Also if you have any answers please share them, I remain not a fan of gray areas)
(And I love you.)
More next week.