Friendly letters, your opinion, etc
Hi, my love.
A gorgeous/rare blue skied February day here in Amsterdam. I’ve got wild news and a request for your feedback coming up later, but an update before we get into all that:
The album has progressed considerably this week (perhaps the universe got wind of my neuroses)! And that is pretty great news.
At this point I’d say the mixes are a little over half way done. I listen to them in my favorite chair in the apartment, whose bay windowed view you’ve seen often over the past year and a half.
(Man. Our brilliant architect landlords got it just deeply right on the chair.)
When we first looked at photos of the apartment I emphatically told José, “It looks perfect, but that chair is absolute rich person nonsense. It’ll look great and be extremely uncomfortable. 10/10 we will never sit in it.”
(José likes to tease remind me about that tirade.)
(And I absolutely deserve it, now that my body has become surgically attached to the most comfortable non nonsense chair on the planet of earth.)
The perfect, perfect chair.
I have read in it, cried in it, learned my new Yamaha MODX synth (thanks, yamaha fam!) in it. I do morning pages in it every morning.
These days I use the chair for mix listening. The entire album was made either in motion or dreaming of motion, written with the dream of an unobstructed view of the sky. I sit in the chair, stare at the clouds and listen to individual mixes. Then I work on the album’s sequence while biking through cobblestoned Amsterdamian streets.
It’s happening, my love. When Bender gets it 100% right on the first try, I color the Google cell green and reference some golf.
He’s 9 hours behind me in LA, so every morning I wake up, refresh the mix folder and see if there’s a new beauty in there for me. Sometimes, like this morning, it’s a bop that he hole-in-ones (wings pricking at my shoulders! written with you! i can’t wait for you to hear it!). On those mornings I sail into the kitchen.
But the album only has two bops on it. Those bops are surrounded by eleven other soul searching meditations on life, loss, and reflection, written within and beyond the pandemic.
In other words: The album is heavy. I love it, but those are simply the facts. The other day I asked José why I’m not listening to it more. Why, unlike every other album or EP I’ve made, I’m not returning to these mixes and bumping them 24/7.
My darling partner reminded me that hey man, if you write an album about the worst shit that’s ever happened to you in your life, perhaps you won’t be blasting it 24/7.
And I guess he’s right. Carrie And Lowell or Blue, though they are in my top ten albums of all time, probably aren’t moments Sufjan or Joni feel like revisiting themselves.
Instead I listen to the mixes to approve them, cry a lot, and continue going on with the whole record label head business. I’ve spent the week deep in Rainbow Blonde business, squaring away four years’ worth of statements and getting our affairs into good, organized order.
This is important to me: I realized recently that by delegating our accounting to an outside party I had been trusting someone else to understand and accurately catch the myriad charges coming into us and our artists. That, beyond other things, if one of our artists called me I wouldn’t be able to explain a charge like the below on their statement.
Said charge, by the way, isn’t even one of the difficult ones from my spreadsheet of 968 different costs I couldn’t account for over the four years of physical and digital statements.
(I’m not even remotely exaggerating with you, my darling: I’ve calculated something like 200,000 individual excel cells.)
(My hands hurt.)
Our absolutely saintly distributor rep got on the line with me and sat, for an hour, while we combed through all of the unexplained charges. Some of them felt hilariously unreasonable, like a gag straight out of Spinal Tap. But at least I can now confidently explain all of those spinal tap charges to our artists, should they ask.
This is an extension of my relationship with Bruce, who we talked about last week. I’m so grateful for the real on the ground knowledge I learned from him, and for the ability I have, with today’s technology and possibilities, to build out a business where I can give unprecedented transparency.
My goal, moving forward, is that with each new artist we sign I walk them and their team through their first statement on a screen share so that everything is clear. Answer every question, explain it all, so the power is in their hands.
In any event, that’s been the week. Combing through my inbox, attempting to get it back to the beautiful zeros I used to be able to brag about, and narrowly avoiding a new tendonitis flare.
Midway through my comb this week I found an email with the greatest idea in the history of ideas, from queen Kate, a subscriber to these here t-talks (hey, queen!).
It showed up at the bottom of the email.
Here was my response to Kate’s very good idea.
Kate explained that she didn’t mean that, but rather meant that I could read you these here ttalks.
Which would, I think, make this LITERALLY. TAALI. TALK.
I was not satisfied with just that excitement, of course, so I also shot the below off.
I remain as excited about Kate’s brilliance as I was on February 8th.
The idea, I think, would be that moving forward if you’re a paid subscriber here you’d have access to the audio version of taalitalk.
I think this means that I read these out loud?! I’d likely also put little fun things, previews of the album, or new songs I’m working on?! I mean the possibilities just ABOUND.
And that’s where you come in. I have some questions for you, my love.
(1) I’m not sure where to price this, or really what the interest would be in it. So I am very welcome to your feedback on that.
(2) I’ll likely record all the ttalks including the backlog back since the first, but are there other things you want to hear me ttalk about?! Does this even seem like something you’d like?! Do you love your ears?! Do you hate your ears?!
(Tell me everything.)
Audio ttalk next week. For now, let’s get back to ttalk in the writing.
I’m gonna close this one out with a rumination on this here country I live in, and how much I adore their beautiful, friendly, logical magnificence.
To help you understand, allow me to explain to you what your mailbox looks like in The United States of America.
Say, for example, your name is Taali. You’re a singer and stuff. Your house smells like pie, excitement and anxiety. And despite being someone who sends letters and postcards to every human on the planet of earth, your mailbox is a barren wasteland. You get a rusted key from your realtor when you take the apartment, and after that your mailbox becomes a tumbleweed factory, except for when it houses your bills and threatening letters.
These bills and threatening letters, if you have ADHD like me, begin to stack up. And once a month you take on the stressful task (likely with a sugar reward) of opening them.
Here’s how they go:
Hi, and fuck you right off the bat. Do we have that straight? Listen you owe us money, which is great news for us. When you got the service we’re writing about we didn’t tell you anything about this charge, and fun news: There’s absolutely no recourse for this fact. Here is an enormous table of things that are impossible to decipher that supposedly justify this charge. You could try and log in to our incredibly cumbersome portal: That’ll sign you for a mailing list that we’ll send marketing emails from, but will not allow you to pay this balance down or understand further. Or, hey, you could try calling us! You’ll wait on hold for 6-9 business days, speak to someone who will have no interest in helping you and eventually be disconnected.
You have 6 minutes to respond to this letter, otherwise the amount you owe is tripled. No recourse for this fact, either. No matter when we receive the money, your life and your credit is ruined.
Pay us or don’t, we’re getting rich either way,
The United States of America
PS: Since the moment your eyes met this paper the interest is accruing.
PPS: Yep, still accruing.
PPPS: We wish you the worst of luck.
You stare at the paper for a while, remind yourself that you don’t take pills anymore to conquer feelings, and then pay the letter writer.
It … is a lot. By contrast, allow me explain to you what your mailbox looks like in The Netherlands (aka, spoiler alert, the land of friendly letters).
Say, for example, your name is Taali. You’re a singer and stuff. Your house smells like pie, excitement and woodbürner. You bike everywhere now, because you live in a city that feels like the pilot episode of a future Disney meet cute, and, I don’t know, values physical health over the mass consumption of metal, gas, and desperation.
Your “mailbox” is actually just a cloth satchel directly in front of the wood for the woodbürner, because the neighbor downstairs is the cutest human alive.
You get home, reach into the cloth satchel, pull out two letters.
You feel the familiar tinge of absolute panic.
But hey man. You just biked. You’ve got tulips in your hand, probably. You can open this shit, right?!
Every the frack time you do, here is the tone of a Netherlandian letter, taken from two actual things I’ve gotten in the cloth satchel.
The insurance “reverse shake down”
Hi! So sorry to bother you, and we truly legitimately hope you are doing wonderfully.
So here’s the thing. We’re a humane society, so everyone has healthcare here. But when you got here, you didn’t sign up for it? We don’t really know why, we were really hoping to help you stay healthy, but like we said, absolutely no worries.
The thing is, even if you don’t love your body? We do. So this whole time you were living here, you were actually insured. So you kind of owe us some money now?
Man, it sucks, we know. We would love to talk to you about this further and figure out a plan. Is there a phone number we could call you on? We can work out a payment plan with no interest. It can be anywhere from 5 months - 10 YEARS. Or we can talk about helping you figure it out if you truly can’t afford it, because man do we just hate debt.
Yours in functionality,
The IND “sorry to bother you”
Listen, we know this is probably a drag, but you kind of did your residence permit application just … entirely wrong? Again, NO worries, but as far as we can see, you’re on a wife visa and you and your husband are… not married. Is this a mistake on our end? Probably! Just could you let us know? We’ll give you the residence permit and all, but it would be great if you could go to the clerk and prove you’re married. You’ve got three months to do this, but you know what if it needs to be six, you just let us know, okay?
Yours in stroopwafel and charm,
Land of friendly letters, bringing my blood pressure down one point at a time.
And, despite my not fitting in with the overall culture (the Dutch still truly hate it when I yell “OUTFIT!” but I will never stop complimenting them), this is also the land of friendly people.
Two of those friendly people decided, this week, to send me a package and make my whole ass year.
The package came from the parents of all around legend Tisha Smit, whom you’ve heard about often on these here t-talks. An absolute superstar bassist, vocalist and composer who I immediately scooped up from the pop school to be in my band.
Turns out Monique and Aart are readers of these here ttalks (hello!) (i love you!) and mailed me a real life land of friendly people/letters package with a note and Dutch biking gloves.
(For the winter!)
(For my cutie hands!)
My new Dutch biking gloves are the BEST. Monique and Aart, please forgive me, I put them on backwards in the below photos. But the photos do encapsulate all of the real deal absolute ebullient joy I felt upon first seeing them on my bike handles.
In the time since these photos I have indeed put them on the right way, and now I bike around like the cutest little Dutch woman.
With very warm hands.
(I’ll never stop yelling “OUTFIT!”)
(But I do hope friendly Dutch letters and wonderful bike gloves get into my psyche a little.)
That, wherever I end up next, I’ll be a little cuter and softer and more like Monique and Aart and my cutie neighbors.
In the meanwhile, the album is halfway mixed.
And, starting soon, I’ll be reading these to you.
Please do let me know what you think, my darling… send over a friendly comment about it. (For example: Is it called “taali talk literally”? “taali actually talks”? “taali talks to me?”)
Rest assured your favorite now warm handed amsterdamian songwriter will get to happy work on it. And loves you very, very much.
Till next week.