One of the greatest and most consistently valiant musicians working today, Rickie Lee Jones, is in New Orleans recording a new album. She funded it on PledgeMusic and so we have the extra advantage of her online updates which are a marvel of insight and clarity about navigating the complicated and modern world of performance and collaboration. I hope she doesn’t mind me posting one of her updates, but I think it is so very gentle and brave and illuminated by the light of our city, that I thought many of you would also be warmed by it too:
Now we enter the last week of John Porter being here in New Orleans. He is a hard working man, and his knowledge and experience are, well, awesome. He’s also a gentleman, and he hugs me a lot.
We changed rooms yesterday and now are bearing down on some details of tracks we’ve chosen. He is a old school guy, that is, he does Everything by Himself, and you would not know what he did, only that things sound better. That has been a bit of a challenge for me, for I am used to, for so long, not only being a part of it, monitoring it, but being in charge of it. I am NOT in charge. I have some veto power, but even then it’s… more of a negotiation than an absolute. That has been a challenge for me as well. I cannot tell if it’s a girl thing, a Rickie thing, or just a wise thing. Or misguided, that I do not say, “hey wait a minute, slow down, let me see what’s going on!”
We are on a rollercoaster of events here and I’d just like to process it with my aesthetic. Slanted, not capital. But that’s not what’s going on this time. And it’s beyond me, why no matter what record I make there is a hurry up aspect to it. I realize now how very ‘princess’ I was making Pirates. My producers going where I wanted, when I wanted, waiting hours for me, working on passages with me, small groups of moments I wanted to get right. And they made sure I did what I envisioned.
Well, in 1982 that record cost $250,000. I don’t have that kind of money as a company or as a person to do that anymore. But I suspect if I did that again, spent that kind of money and time, I would make a very unusual event. And yet, reading about the creation of the universe this morning, I realize that no one can control the creative event. The event, the verb, is a form of I AM, it is a HERE, ICI, now, the manifestation. It moves at the pace it moves at, from one perspective perhaps it takes two years, from another two weeks. Great records have been made in a couple weeks. Those are about catching the spirit of the singer. And budget. Great records have been tedious and long in the waiting. Those are about the expression of the artist, like a flood, upon every aspect of the manifestation. There are places in our lives where our ego cannot only withstand that, but demands it. Other times we are just too humble or worn out to extend our self onto everyone we meet. Or…too wise.
At this point in my life, I know a couple things. And the things are always changing, because you wake up every day, and sometimes the universe is a bit different than the one you went to sleep in. Ever notice that? I do. The couple things I know are that I DO know what I am doing. I have doubt when I am with men who treat me like they are tolerating me, or like they really wish I would be quiet. I work almost exclusively with men, and musicians, and that’s a group that can be extremely critical, dismissive, whatever. For the most part, I have their respect, but add on now my ‘age’ and I get a kind of ‘old darlin’ attitude that’s hard to bare. And then again, I may totally be projecting my own self image onto the face of someone. Okay, that’s doubt, all that is doubt.
The other thing I know is that others have something to offer me. What makes life worthwhile is being in the world full of others, and I know this now. I want to listen more than I want to be listened to. This is my moment to sing, and I will sing to you all that I have heard. Here are my feelings carved through the images and sounds of trains and rivers, how they speak to one another all night long when we who live near them can hear them clearly. The crow and the mockingbird, hard to tell that mockingbird sounds like the crow, the light through my old windows, my determination, my despair, my love of humans.
What I most want is for this music to make people happy, to lift their hearts, and to make me lots and lots of dough, in that order. I believe it is going to be a record I am proud of. I hope that my tiny infrastructure of the four or five of us who work on my career can make it fly. It’s going to take a lot of good will and effort from fans, I think. That’s the kind of thing kids do automatically for their fav group. But we get older, we don’t do that anymore. This is a word-of-mouth kind of business now, and more than ever, fans are going to have to take a second to make sure someone else hears it. If they do, I bet they will like it a lot. One thing for certain, the New Orleans aspect has washed out any affectation. It’s streaming through my own filters, I am not dressing it in the style of. There is no pretense here in the Crescent City. People really are wearing animal masks and dancing with umbrellas. Like Tahiti! We ARE our Music.