Relics, demos, etc
I’ve been thinking about Orchard. The home I built there, the community you joined with me, these Orchard portraits over the years.
And I’ve been thinking about songs. How broad and all encompassing and multifaceted they can be.
Songs can be therapy, they can be storytelling, they can be relics of a space. My beloved Joni Mitchell, a creator of canons if ever there was one. Ladies of the Canyon as so profoundly Los Angeles. Hejira as a love letter to the West Village.
I’ve done storytelling, I’ve done therapy, but I haven’t necessarily done relic. How, even, do you achieve this when you’re in a global pandemic and frantically shifting every minute?
We’ll see, I suppose. The new album comes in spurts and starts. Both my new morning routine and a recent re-pick-up of the Artists Way have allowed me to be less precious and more forgiving with the process. I have a Google Doc going. The format more or less follows the below:
We also have set up a weekly artist call for each artist on Rainbow Blonde. This was my idea - I’m delighted and want to talk about every artist on the roster, but I always forget that … I’m one of the artists, too.
That I’m less amped for.
Last week the dreaded Taali call arrived. I finally sat down with José (Thank GOD for creative partners), to prep what we’d discuss on the call. That’s when we realized that through last year’s completely wrenching and seemingly dead 365 days, I actually wrote hundreds of songs.
I can’t tell if any of them are good. I no longer trust my inner critic, I just make things and keep a few trusted people around (key word: FEW) to run them by. But in case you think I’m feeling myself, here are some excerpts from the Google Doc of those hundreds of songs:
I mean… it’s not not true. I love my Jewish chords. And as much as anything else, I’ve decided to honor my Jewish/musical/all over self by writing down exactly what I think, biting hijinks and all. José watches me type these live on the Google Doc and is very tickled/sometimes horrified by my mean / snarky Jewish critiques.
This song below I’m really, really into.
Snark aside, I’m leaning toward incorporating what you and I talk about every week here into the new album. Navigating a fully new life, pandemic, growing, expat-ery and all.
The thing that’s grabbing me most at the moment is my allegiances to cities.
If you’ve been with me long enough, you know I really truly thought I was going to die on Orchard. A lot of you have asked what prompted my exit, maybe someday I’ll write more about it. For now let’s just say that after 12 years, the natural time came to leave. I fought it tooth and nail. I kicked and screamed, literally and metaphorically. And then the day came. I have two photos from it. One is this one, that my dad took of us in our kitchen while we ate Petee’s Pie on the floor.
The other is from a disposable camera that I didn’t realize was about a decade expired. Deeply obsessed with the fact that “storage” changed to “rage” and that that’s really all you can see with the degradation of the film.
Relics, mementos, etc.
As we left I was driving my car, Iris, who was filled to the brim with kitchen stuff. That rage/storage truck had all our furniture. José and my dad had another carload full of fragile things. Even with every sign pointing to this being the right decision, I’ll never forget that as we pulled away from my beloved Orchard, I wept and thought, “I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Turns out I wasn’t supposed to die on Orchard.
Though I maintain my love for it, I had pushed my rage at its gentrification and Disney-fying too far. And as soon as we got back to my childhood neighborhood of Washington Heights, things bloomed. I wrote a whole new EP. I even mentioned the new digs in the lyrics for “What Are You Afraid Of,” a practice of on the nose / honest lyrical accounting I rarely do.
I knew, somewhere in my heart, that eventually I’d do the same to Pinehurst Avenue. Deify it. Decide I could never leave it. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
Sure enough, when the pandemic had pushed us to the brink, when all I could feel in those walls was death and fear, I fought just as hard. We built a studio in our house. We each made Patreons. For a second, I thought we’d ride it out. We’d hold on to that home.
And then it hit again. And it was time. And there was Iris, again, full to the brim. We moved out in a pouring rain storm.
Convoluted cities. Cities that feed us, that we pour our lives into. Are they really just backdrops? Or do they live alongside us?
That’s what’s slowly morphing into my new album here in Amsterdam. I’m writing now at our enormous studio desk, looking out at palatial windows that New York could just never make happen unless I had Gigi Hadid money.
My family moved out of New York City to a New York suburb when I was pretty young. After that, we lived in the same house my whole life. When I left, I modeled this: I lived in the same apartment from 19-31 years old. Often, this childhood instinct and my soul reality fight each other. These days, I’ve warmed to the much truer idea that José and I are even more fluid than I ever thought we could be.
In the past year we’ve lived in three different locked down locations. I hope that when we inevitably move from here, I’ll allow my heart more space than the last two times.
But judging from history, I can’t make myself any promises.
There’s no rush, though. That’s the best part of Rainbow Blonde: We allow each other space.
This album is moving at the pace it needs to move. On good days, I’m soaring. On difficult days, I deeply deeply miss collaborating. I’ve never had an album move forward so … solo. José doesn’t like to co-write the way I do, and he’s the only person I’ve got here. He’s really trying, but we haven’t gotten quite into a groove yet. So mostly I just do it by myself, then play it for him. And now, I think, while I marinate on these hundreds of little song babies, I’m going to open them up to you, my other album collaborators.
Sending you love, whichever convoluted space you may find yourself in,
ps: If you’re new here, we do these very week. Free, and always from the hip. Feel free to join us: