Taali an interview

Taali has an electric sounds that plays on her Jewish heritage as well as influence from the moving and changing world. Her songs and voice makes me think of Enya, Alanis Morissette and Regina Spector. Compositionally the blended and body moving songs make you want to get up and dance in any club or coffee house. Taali’s music has diversity unlike I’ve heard in years with this kind of talent you’ll be lucky to see her perform live for a beautiful concert of colors and high energy music.  

 Her first full length debut album is set to release March 22nd, 2019. 

There are already a few shows lined up in April in both Philadelphia and New York City. 

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Taali, and I'm a singer, songwriter, and producer. As far as what I "do," beyond those platitude titles, I like to think of myself as a teller of stories, and cultivator of community.

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

What made you want to start a record label? 

I've existed in the music business for a decade. I worked at Blue Note Records for five years, and learned from the best: my mentor/boss Bruce Lundvall and mentor Don Was. That being said, I certainly never had any grand plans to start a record label. I used to look around at the office floor I was on in Manhattan, see the clear gender divide in executives and their assistants (I was one of the latter), and think that I had no desire to put in the time and energy required to switch that paradigm for an industry in which I barely believed. Plus, once I left Blue Note, I was pretty comfortable with the idea of writing songs for other human beings and expressing myself that way. 

Taali - photography by Mcabe Gregg

Taali - photography by Mcabe Gregg

But the thing is, when my own music was at stake, I just knew too much about how exhausting the process of "shopping it" was. In Los Angeles, that process involves taking hundreds of meetings that rarely go anywhere, where you perfect an elevator pitch (I am so terrible at elevator pitches). You then try and present why your art is more sellable than the infinite amount of other art to a more often than not white cishet man who is jaded and tired of hearing about music, despite it being his job. Especially with a song like "Hear You Now," which is based on my extensive past history of trauma, I couldn't stomach it. So I proposed the idea to José of he and I beginning our own label. 

Once we had committed to this idea, though, Rainbow Blonde blossomed into something much larger than what we ever dreamt. It became a landing space for our values, ethics, and art, and that is a blessing I never could have foreseen. It allows me to hire and celebrate the people I really believe in, humans like Kristin Lee, our baller business manager who doesn't get nearly the spotlight she deserves, or Brittany O'Connell, our superstar publicist at The Syndicate. And, it turns out, José and my collective expertise is pretty well suited for having a record label! So we're trying to break down barriers one step at a time. There's a lot to learn, and we're making mistakes (which we quickly learn from), but it's ours. I cannot tell you how rewarding that is. In the end, real talk, this industry isn't built for us, so we're making it for ourselves, and bringing our epic worldwide collective along for the ride. 

What is this #IAmHereTrip, and where did the idea come from?

The #IAmHereTrip was a cross country road trip with a team of like minded individuals. As with many of my favorite things, it was born of both necessity and art. I needed to move back to New York City, and I've always wanted to do a cross country road trip. So I called my dear friends Karston Tannis and Elena Flores, and we decided to make art at every spot we found along the way. With the help of our amazing partners Cadillac, W Hotels, Hard Rock Hotels, Primland Resort, Loews Hotels and Bode Hotels we were able to sail across the nation and make beautiful art! A miracle. 

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

What was an awesome moment from the #IAmHereTrip? 

One of my favorite moments from the #IAmHereTrip was in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. We were staying at a place called Primland, which should probably change its name to 'HEAVEN ON EARTH'. It's this spectacular lodge 3,000 miles atop a mountain. It's gorgeous. It's awe inspiring. And the staff there was spectacular.

At some point, Karston had the idea that, amidst this stunning snow and fog, he'd like to see a horse. This seemed like a pretty far fetched idea to me, but I let him ask the team, because I've learned at this point with Karston: You just have to let his genius mind create. And lo and behold Queen Julee and King Alex of Primland did bring up a horse for us. The horse was named Rocky, and his glorious handler Jeff was amazing and really gentle with me (I don't have any experience with horses). We got some pretty spectacular photos of us with Rocky, including one that is now the cover of my single "Star" (featuring José James!). I just love that moment where people are willing to leap. Every single being is always part of the art, and that day that included Alex, Julee, Jeff, Rocky. 

What do you love about collaboration when creating music? 

Collaboration meeting music is like cookie dough ice cream: Two of my favorite things making each other infinitely better. I love everything about collaboration in music. That nascent moment when you're writing or producing with a collaborator and you have just a silvery beginning of an idea. The moment where you click into a melody, hook, or lyric, and see where you're headed. It feels like after chiseling at a piece of granite, you finally see a nose. The moment the melody gets lyrics, and the song blossoms into something even bigger. The sequencing of the album, where you get to have a choose-your-adventure process of how to tell its story. Phewwwww. I'm getting excited just typing. I could clearly go on, but I'll stop! 

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

How did you meet your cofounder José James? 

I met José James while I was working at Blue Note Records. He had some trepidation about signing to the label, and we got coffee to mash it up and talk shop. It was clear immediately that we were going to be dear friends, but we didn't collaborate until years later, when I wrote for his album "While You Were Sleeping," and he invited me out to sing background on the world tour for two years. The rest, as they say, is history! 

What inspired you to make the interlude “For Michal”, which will be available on your upcoming album 'I Am Here' out March 22? Are there any other songs on the 'I Am Here' album that are inspired by stories of the past? 

I'm so excited you asked. The interlude "For Michal" came first from the song "Right Sized". As I was finishing the lyrics for "Right Sized," our country's government was putting children in cages at the border. This struck a deep, deep traumatic chord for me as a Jewish woman and descendant on one side of Holocaust survivors. I cried for days. It felt so trivial, writing music as my country literally did that which lives in my blood as something so painful and visceral. Eventually I arrived at the idea that in these times, along with working to dismantle these oppressive systems, we all need to hunker down and focus on what we're best at. That is our contribution. So I penned the lyrics, "Let them break our backs on walls of despair / Rising up I'll meet you there." 

I thought on all of the powerful women who had come before me in my lineage. My mother Marcy, a self made woman and literal superhero. My grandmother Hemda, an immigrant and powerhouse. My aunt, Miryam, a genius writer. I wanted to hear their voices alongside mine. At the time, I didn't actually know anything about Michal. But I had José go to my grandmother's house in Washington Heights and record a conversation between us while I was in LA. My Savta is a life force. A hilarious, spectacular life force. Midway between her hilarity, she came out with this story I had never heard, and it knocked me off my feet. You can hear me audibly gasp in it. I kept that on purpose. 

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

Taali - Photography by Karston Tannis

In essence, the entirety of I Am Here is the continuum of a story, a family, a lineage. It is my identity as it exists in past, present, and future. 

How would you categorize your music?

I call my music Jewish Contemporary Pop Music. 

Do you have any other road stories you’d like to share? 

There was a beautiful moment where we had to sneak into White Sands (because our government was shut down). When we first learned it was closed, there was a collective sigh and pang of rage. But then, in full Woody Guthrie glory ("And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." But on the other side it didn't say nothing,"), we jumped the fence and partook in the glory of that monument. I'm aware that many people used this privilege and did horrendous things to our national landmarks during the shutdown, but I like our story because it's more about the beauty of experiencing it, thanking it, and celebrating. 

What are your thoughts on L.A.? I deeply resonated with your song "Los Angeles", as I spent five years there working in the post production industry in films. 

I'm so happy to hear it resonated! "Los Angeles" for me is less about the city, and more about the moment of clarity where we realize that we get to control our narratives. That being said, I grew up, by leaps and bounds, in L.A. As a songwriter, the scene out there is just turbo speed. There is more work, and more frequent writing. I wrote the song "Los Angeles" the first moment I got there, and, oddly, the place where "it wasn't really hard for me to go" from was NYC at the time. In the two years I spent there, this concept morphed a bit. 

I try hard to not make blanket statements about cities, especially when the stereotypes we most likely hold do not apply to that city's actual native residents. And so, I'll just say, that Los Angeles to me was a beautiful place to grow and learn myself as a writer and human being. 

Fun questions

1. If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you want with you? (No rules) 

- Unlimited glorious food and a kitchen to explore cooking it (you said no rules!) 

- Chemex + unlimited coffee beans. No sense trying to live, no matter how short of a time, without coffee. 

- A synthesizer with a really good piano sound so I get both the ability to  have piano and also infinite exploration ability 

- My life partner 

- Seymour: An Introduction (my favorite book)

If you could collaborate with any musician who would it be?

So many, but I'd put it as a toss up right now between Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. Gasp. 

How do you make your coffee or tea? 

I am a lover of ritual, a creature of habit. I brew every morning with Caffe Vita (my ride or die) beans, using a Chemex 8 cup Classic. My favorite mug is from a set of two, handmade, that José brought back from Copenhagen for us. I take a splash of milk, because I'm just not cool enough to rock coffee black yet.

If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be? 

So many things! But let's just say in my life, so we don't get into Back-To-The-Future precedent. I would go back in time and tell myself to speak my mind more honestly, and fear less. 

If you had a super power what would it be? 

Breathing underwater! Every happy memory of my childhood involves salt water. I free myself and come alive under water. I'd like to be able to stay there (without an enormous and terrifying SCUBA apparatus) for as long as I'd like.