Making An Album When The World’s Gone Mad

Hey. It’s been a while. Since the last time I made a blog post a lot has happened. A global pandemic. George Floyd’s murder and The Uprising against ongoing police brutality and racial injustice. White supremacists staging an insurrection in an attempt to overthrow the US government. Multiple ongoing wars bringing us closer and closer to nuclear disaster. Climate crisis after climate crisis. Economic hardship and woe. The fall of Roe v. Wade. Attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and safety around the world. Attacks on women’s rights everywhere. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Rising antisemitic violence all over the world, both online and in real life. The growing threat of Christo-fascism in the West. And more. It’s been a very difficult time and it often feels like the entire world has gone mad. Yet I’d argue that it’s in the darkest of times that we most need the solace that music brings us.

In 2020, right before the pandemic began, I released Ain’t No Power, a 6 song EP with a mix of covers and original protest songs which never got the public celebration they deserved because of the public health emergency, instability, and lockdowns that came with COVID-19.

So in mid-2022, after spending the previous 2 years songwriting to cope with the worry, fear, violence, and anger, I set out to release an album. Not just any album, but my first full-length album. Tales of the Diaspora. Part of writing and creating the album admittedly was for myself, to help me process some of my own experiences as a Jewish person living in the diaspora. Part of it was to share something with my community that might help anyone listening feel seen and not so alone.

I reached out to my friends GIOIA and David Robinson because I knew I could not do it by myself. What started as conversations over video chat culminated in GIOIA flying out to Minneapolis from Philadelphia in early July to spend 12 hours a day with David and I in the home recording studio in David’s basement for a week straight. Afterwards, the three of us decided some of the tracks needed a little extra Jewish flavor that only other musicians from my community could provide, and so we contacted 3 talented musicians, klezmer violinist Danny Lentz, local folk and klezmer powerhouse Sarah Larsson, and Yiddish folk-punk musician Izzy Buckner, to do some session work. The result sounded better than I ever could have imagined. After 7 months of coordinating, recording, mixing, editing, laughing, and crying, I sent the tracks off to Bruce of Microphonic Mastering to be mastered. And thus Tales of the Diaspora was born.

The night of the release show was one of the most incredible nights of my life. I’d spent the month and a half prior contacting press, being interviewed on KFAI, running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a musician stipend fund, rehearsing, and being very stressed. The night of the show, I remember being so surprised at just how many people were there! After a delicious dinner of pho at Lucky Dragon Restaurant following sound check, getting ready in The Hook and Ladder bathroom, and being irrationally convinced that Izzy was locked out of the building, I watched the other musical acts I’d invited to perform. It was important to me as a mixed-eda Jew that the entirety of the diaspora (or at least as much of it as I could include in a 3 hour show) was represented in the music being performed that night. Not just the parts of the Jewish diaspora that already get a majority of the representation the few times Jews are included and represented at all. So I reached out to Sarah Larsson long with the Sephardic-Jewish music group Voices of Sepharad to share the stage with me. Sarah played with her trio and was magical to watch. Voiced of Sepharad was amazing and their percussionist, Mick, played the greatest tambourine solo I’ve ever seen in my life. He totally upstaged me and I’m not even mad about it because it was awesome! Then it was my turn to take the stage with the musicians who had agreed to be in my backup band: GIOIA, David, Izzy, and Danny. I was so nervous but I gave that performance 110%. And then, just like that, it was over.

I was exhausted but also floating on cloud 9. I’d dreamed about releasing an album since I was a little kid, and while releasing an album of primarily Jewish music with Jewish themes was not a plot twist I’d expected, I’m grateful to be here.

Honestly, it still feels surreal to be on the other side of this process. I keep thinking to myself, now what? I still don’t have an answer, but I do know this; I’m only getting started.

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