The Orchard Sessions: Volume 8
Volume 8: The Back Story
Michaela Anne and I were both students at The New School once, but somehow never met. So we were part of that lovely New School web; we knew each other, said hi at parties, never hung out, never made music.
But Beto had expressed a desire to have a really intimate session with just a singer/guitarist and me. So when Michaela posted a video of her playing for a radio station in Washington, I knew she was the one we wanted. I reached out to her and the rest is history.
Michaela Anne is a brilliant, brilliant, bluegrass singer/guitar player. I had listened to Michaela’s music briefly and was really excited for this session, but let me tell you something: You MUST see her live. Her voice is just contagious. It’s full, and emotion driven, but not forced. It’s natural, smooth and it just cuts you to the core. Look out for her new material soon!
This is Gavin’s second session with us. Gavin does our sound and he is a badass at it. He is really bringing a whole new element to the project, and I’m so excited to have him on the team.
Beto Vargas is one of my dearest friends and partners in crime. He keeps me grounded and inspired at all times. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Excited to move forward in 2013!
It’s a new year, filled with new possibilities Thank you for fueling us and for pushing me to put out another session. We can promise you big things for this year!
With infinite love,
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 7
Volume 7: The Back Story
Camila Meza and I went to school together. Like most people that had the pleasure to witness Camila while at The New School, I was completely blown away. She is a staggering talent on guitar and voice.
I reached out to Camila months back when we were dreaming up the concept of The Orchard Sessions. I really never thought she’d write a song like this. This is the first song she’s EVER written of this sort, and that just blows my mind. When I get back home I’ll upload the PDF of the first lyric sheet she wrote out for me!
Camila hails from Santiago, Chile and that makes me want to go to Santiago, Chile and thank everyone in that city. She is effortlessly talented and an amazing hang. I kind of like her a little, in case that wasn’t abundantly clear.
I had never met Noam before this session and yet 15 minutes in it didn’t feel that way. Noam is skillful, relaxed, and just on top of the situation. Plus he stayed for the awesome-after-hang which brings him up to 200% in my book.
Elise Linder is my favorite kind of Orchard Session Story. I. love. this. girl. I found Elise through a long chain of benevolent and wonderful musicians beginning with Kate Davis (of Volume 6!). I called Elise at 1:00 pm on Saturday, for a 5:00 call. She was at SUNY PURCHASE, but made the trek down to grace us with her wonderful presence and musicianship. I am thankful for her generosity and for her beautiful addition to this session.
Rodrigo is another person I had never met before September 29, 2012, but whom I hope I see often afterwards. Rodrigo had no idea what these sessions were, but lent his awesome energy and percussion skills immediately. He is also one hilarious man. It was a great pleasure to sit next to him!
Before I close, I want to acknowledge some different things in this Orchard Session.
(1) We have a new youtube channel for The Orchard Sessions, at www.youtube.com/theorchardsessions. Volumes 1-6 are still on taliabillig, but moving forward this will be the channel!
(2) We are delighted to invite Gavin Skal into the fold as audio engineer. He was a magnificent addition and I’m so, so excited to move forward.
I have typed all of this with a goofy, goofy smile on my face. From Elise to Gavin to Camila finally being in a session this was one of my favorite sessions to date. I feel thankful and blessed and happy. Love to you all!
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 6
Volume 6: The Back Story
I reached out to Kate Davis months ago after hearing just a small teaser of some beautiful singer-songwriter material of hers. She was out for the summer, so as you can imagine I have been waiting a long time to do this session. On Friday she came over to my house with twelve demos of her new songs. I listened through and was taken aback at the hauntingly beautiful material she has up until now kept to herself. Each song was more beautiful than the last, though “Movie” seemed our obvious favorite.
So we decided to do the session for the very next day, with just Kate, myself, and Nick Jozwiak on cello. Turns out Kate and Nick did a summer program together nearly a decade ago, and so the reunion was really nice!
You don’t meet musicians like Kate that often, and when you do you feel thankful to be able to make music with them. I met Kate through my dear friend Maddie Deutch many years ago and since then have been keeping tabs on her budding career as a jazz bassist/singer. This song is a marked departure from that world into my world though, and I fully support that.
Remember Nick? The love of my life from Volume 4 who killed it while playing the bass LYING DOWN? Yeah. Kate hadn’t seen Nick since a summer program nearly a decade ago, and had fond albeit absurd memories of him. So we brought him in to play cello and lend his powerful beautiful spirit. He killed it. Learned it in under five minutes, played it in one take.
With two months behind us I’d like to raise my internet glass to my partner in crime, Beto Vargas. Infinite love.
Happy two months to The Orchard Sessions! Happy no longer summer (sob)! Happy everything!
On seasons changing
Hey! Are you wearing white? Are you excited for Labor Day? Are you going to a barbecue? I hope so. Unless you hate barbecue or labor. If that’s the case, I’m sorry.
I usually hate Labor Day because it drums up feelings of a fading summer to me. I never have done well with season changes, specifically when it means impending cold. But today I’m feeling pretty optimistic.
Because this summer has been really, really special.
The Orchard Sessions are officially two months old today and I feel extremely fortunate to say that. We have filmed five sessions with over twenty amazing New York musicians. I have the next four slated.
Tonight we’ll be filming Kate Davis, a friend I met long ago through the brilliant Maddie Deutch. Kate is a jazz bassist and singer extraordinaire, but she also writes songs. It will be the first time that she has put any of this gorgeous music into the world (besides this ADORABLE video for the lovely Jake Goldblas and Kate Christopher’s upcoming wedding).
That is what these sessions are all about and so I feel absolutely at peace that this eventful summer is drawing to a close. Every time we finish an Orchard Session I feel like my world has expanded exponentially. Every one of them is a gift. I know tonight will be no exception and I’m excited to share it with you.
Thank you for your support, for sharing the videos, and for sharing your energy with us. Cheers to a new season, more art and sessions with sweaters, cider, and goodness!
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 5
Volume 5: The Back Story
I recently ran into my friend Mike Maher while he was playing trumpet with Banda Magda, an AMAZING musical project headed by singer/accordionist/magician Magda Giannikou. The session was overwhelming to say the very least. Mike and I got to talking afterwards about his new record of singer-songwriter material, under the moniker “Maz.” We filmed this Orchard Session mere days later, with these amazing musicians, all from Snarky Puppy as well as Banda Magda.
Maz (Michael Maher)
I run into Maz in New York a lot. This is probably because he is one of the most skilled and capable musicians in this entire city. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a compete sweetheart. I usually call him to play trumpet, but as mentioned above he recently released a record under the “Maz” name with him singing. It is a sweeping work. Volume 5 features an acoustic rendition of one of the songs off said record.
Mike League is one of those musicians you hear worlds about before you meet them. And then you meet them and are surprised at the fact that they’re just as much of a goofball as you are. I met Mike a few years back at a show for Franky Rousseau’s amazing big band. Since then I have experienced his virtuosic bass playing and stage persona with starry eyed admiration every time. He is the mastermind behind “Snarky Puppy,” an electrically exciting band that involves every musician on Volume 5 except for me. It was an honor to finally have had him in the living room.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Justin may be the sweetest person ever to come in for an Orchard Sesh. Okay. Hyperbole over. Justin and I had never met, but his laid-back demeanor and subtle sense of humor pretty much convinced me that we’ll get along swimmingly in the future. Also? His playing was so natural and organic that it felt like that lovely piano was made just for him.
I met Bob Lanzetti at the opening party for The Bunker Studio, where I recorded my record back in October. He was so understated and humble about the music he made that I never could have imagined just how skillful of a guitarist he is. Hearing him on acoustic guitar was also a real pleasure as he normally slays the electric guitar.
Hope you enjoyed. I certainly did. We’re shooting Volume 6 on Wednesday with an old, dear friend. Excited.
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 4
Volume 4: The Back Story
If you guys don’t mind (and you would have no way of telling me, so ha! in your face!), I’m going to take a little more time out in the explanation section this time because this was such a pure and joyous session. I wrote this song in light of the past few months. It has been a life changing summer for me, during which many of my oldest friends have fallen by the wayside. Out of this emptiness a coterie of legendary and unique humans has emerged. Last Sunday I went cliff jumping with a few of these new amazing friends. And so, the next day, when Beto and I were just casually drinking wine, I played him an idea I had where I said “That was the summer when, it was decided then, there was a drop off, and I was falling.” We experimented with changing the lyrics so as to use no first person pronouns/articles in the entire song, since I realized that the message was a fairly universal one (at least for quite a few people with whom I’ve spoken this summer).
I then tried to weave a song throughout that ushers in that message. I invited in my dearest friends and the first musicians that I met in New York to come through. Because these are musicians of an immensely high caliber, I had them create the harmonies on set rather than write anything. I feel the result is a beautiful tribute to the lyrics, which you can find in entirety at the end.
I met Sarah E. Charles in my first semester at New School. We were in what is called a “Vocal Rhythm Section” course, which is pretty much hell on earth. Even then Sarah was worlds ahead of everyone. Her voice is absolutely sensational. Her ears are pristine. She exudes pure soul. And you know the best part? Sarah is the sweetest, most genuine human on the planet.
Daniel Ellis Ferris
I often creep Daniel out because I am such a fan of his. I met Daniel in the same Vocal Rhythm Section course, and was impressed even then by his courage and conviction. Like Sarah, Daniel’s ears are amazing and his creativity is inspirational. He is always down to try out new ideas and listen to my material when it is in its infancy stages. His range and technique are ASTOUNDING. I can have him sing in literally any range (including farrrrrr higher than me). Finally documenting a session with him is a dream come true.
Nick Jozwiak is one of the most joyous, uncompromisingly creative, and exhilarating musicians with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work. Nick plays the bass, cello, and has an amazing singing voice for harmony. When I watch Nick make music I remember why I do it. Great example? While we were trying to make the shot work in the beginning Beto jokingly asked Nick if he could lie down and play the bass. Without flinching, Nick said, “Yes of course, I used to do that when I was doing out of body experiences a few years back.” And then I thought, “This person is…. MY SOULMATE.”
When June arrived all eyes were raised to meet her
And now exposed they ran in line
Another summer for a friend to show that she’s only the fair weather kind
And now alone, the heat our home, we struck out; into a city block this time
And we found solace up on heights in Croton
And sorted through our troubled minds
That was the summer when
It was decided then
There was a drop off and we were falling
The water an abyss
Each splash a healing kiss
Eyes open up to the sky
And new beginnings are a funny hapstance
We only long for what is old
Fighting against uncertain circumstances
We try to regain a foothold
And when we slip we simply pull up harder
And say that we can bear the load
But still she’ll leave you and she’ll mention nothing
When they find someone for that role
That was the summer when
It was decided then
There was a drop off and we were falling
The water an abyss
Each splash a healing kiss
Eyes open up to the sky
And falling back again
Back into fear
Yellow paint underneath
Days into years
And still we all rely on someone near
Until we plunge to new frontiers
This was a spiritual experience. I hope you all feel the same!
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 3
Volume 3: The Back Story
I first heard this song while doing a video shoot with Jesse Scheinin in March. I fell in love with the harmonies and the blissful calm of it. Jesse’s lyrics are effortless and simple and perfect… this song’s a dreamy ethereal tribute to a summer in Santa Cruz (Jesse’s hometown), and every time I hear the line “From the cliffs we watch the water rise, and in a kiss the truth becomes a lie” my face just squeezes up from the truth of it. And then we get to sing. And singing with Jesse is a real, real pleasure.
I met Jesse through our lovely mutual friend Jake Sherman (organist/pianist in the Jesse Scheinin Band). I shot an absolutely delightful video with him in March in Central Park. Keeping in theme with Volume 2, Jesse is a former jazz saxophone player that now writes absolutely stunning songs. I sing with him a lot and he was a really clear choice for Volume 3.
I didn’t know much about Julia Easterlin when she stepped into my living room yesterday. But singing next to her was an absolute pleasure… she sang the low part and her tone is glorious and wonderful to harmonize with. I went and checked out her stuff and mannnnnn you should too. Looking forward to working with her in the future.
I met Vishal through Jesse (he is the drummer in the Jesse Scheinin Band). Not only is he an amazing and sensitive drummer, he is also a wonderful hang. Hilarious and easygoing and all around fantastic. Also, he’s playing with us in Boston on July 28th! So, some serious love to Vishal.
Kenji is the sort of person that holds a band together. He has an unparalleled calming energy and just keeps the vibe in a room mellow and lovely. He also plays in Jesse’s band and his playing is perfect… subtle and melodic and just about my favorite.
I met Ilan through Jesse and then found out that we have a hilarious mutual friend in Isidoro Hamui, who did a video with Ilan in Mexico a few years back. Ilan takes the solo in Volume 3 and also contributes all around excellent effects.
I sing with Shelly on most of Jesse’s gigs and she’s a fantastic singer as well as a really down to earth and excellent human. I was so happy to have her in the house/on an Orchard Session.
Andrew came in with Julia because they were playing a gig mere moments after we finished this session. He learned the part in about three minutes and was super chill and wonderful.
There’s my Beto again, killing it as always, filming up a storm. This was the easiest session we’ve filmed to date. It’s starting to get really fun and relaxed and next time we promise to experiment with some crazy new angles!
Stay tuned for Volume 4. I’m off to sing with Jesse at Evan Shinners’ new cull XIV. Much love!
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 2
Volume 2: The Back Story
After a delightful and successful first run at The Orchard Sessions (see below), I felt inspired and ready to make the next one. When I saw Matt Simons’ absolutely incredible CD release this song shook me and I knew he would be perfect. We pulled together the musicians extremely last minute and I owe them all big time for showing up and handling my silliness.
What can you say about a musician like Matt? Tell the story about how he got a BFA in jazz saxophone and then did a 180 and began writing absolutely stunning songs with poignant lyrics and beautiful harmony? Explain what an awesome hang he is, not to mention a supremely inspiring friend and cohort to have? Well, that’s what I can say. I met Matt at a party of our dear friends (and amazing musicians!) Jeni and Sam uptown. After hearing his gorgeous record release at Rockwood Music Hall I knew I had to bring him in to sing this song for the sessions.
Matt brought in his friend John to sing the lower part on this song and not only did he kill it, but he also showed up with three glorious cousins who became our first ever “Orchard Sessions audience!”. John is an incredible singer and a really great human being. What a pleasure to meet/work with him.
Terrence is exactly what I love about New York, music, and what I’m trying to encapsulate in the Orchard Sessions. He was referred through my very new (and wonderful!) friend Greg, who recommended him after only knowing me for about two hours. Terrence came in to my living room and absolutely blew ALL of us away. His musicianship is pristine and he is a fantastic, fantastic human being. Looking forward to bringing him in more in the future.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to write about Beto again (since he films every Orchard Sesh), but I decided that Beto deserves to be written about always. Beto filmed and edited this and had it up on th’youtubes in less than 24 HOURS. He is a revelation.
This was such a joy to play/make and I hope you liked it. We’ll be back with Volume 3 in 2 weeks! Special, special guest coming in.
The Orchard Sessions: Volume 1
Volume 1: The Back Story
I originally wanted to call this “The Living Room Series,” but decided against it since The Living Room is a well known and well branded Lower East Side music venue. Regardless, the sessions had been an idea I’d been throwing around for a while. I emailed my dear friend Beto Vargas and we set a date to film the first session.
This was the initial idea I had while on a 1 train uptown to my best friend’s house. I had just visited my older brother — a brilliant poet and fellow roamer — in New Hampshire and was feeling this weight of not quite knowing where on earth I was headed (which I feel like…. ALWAYS). In any event I got home and fleshed it out on the piano and ended up with “Waiting for a sign.” Of course the ACTUAL song only got finished when everyone arrived, since I can’t finish anything unless there’s a time constraint.
I met Jessy Tomsko through another brilliant songwriter and dear friend Aurora Pfeiffer. She suggested we might get along and so we went out for cupcakes and discovered we were pretty much in love. We’ve gotten on like a house on fire ever since.
Dan has been my dearest musical friend and the bassist in my band (and other formations) for all of my years in New York. We went to The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music together and I can’t say enough good things about him.
I met Sean at The New School in an Indian Music Ensemble. We weren’t the best at that ensemble, but we DID figure out that we were really good at singing old country songs in four part harmony with our friends Daniel and Alena. Sean is a fellow free spirit and has been roaming the world like a rockstar, but he happened to be free when I called him and showed up within half an hour. Learned the part in 5 minutes. Love him.
I met Neal through our friend Meghan Stabile who runs the Revivalist Series (a huge inspiration!) and connects people like a goddess. Neal runs The Harlem Arts Festival and also is a fantastic musician who plays too many instruments to list here. We have been hanging out and seeing art around the city.
Eric Read is an amazing drummer. He is also an amazing humor creator and is quickly becoming a good friend of mine. I asked him not to bring any actual percussion instruments to the session and he raided my kitchen/living room instead. Quite possibly my favorite part of the session.
Beto Vargas and I met in a computer lab at the New School when I was doing a Kickstarter for my debut album, The Ripple Effect. In true Beto fashion, he approached me and asked if he could donate (he later did his own successful Kickstarter for an amazing MegaMedia showcase). We turned out to be real kindred souls. He is astoundingly talented, efficient and inspiring.
Hope you like! Stay tuned for Volume 2, featuring amazing singer songwriter Matt Simons.
Introducing: The Orchard Sessions
Hello. Good evening! My name’s Talia Billig and I’m a New York based singer-composer. I enjoy ice cream cake, Joni Mitchell and puppies (especially husky ones). I’d also like to announce to you that tomorrow I’m launching an exciting new project.
It’s called The Orchard Sessions.
The Orchard Sessions will be a bi-monthly video series shot in my living room on The Lower East Side of Manhattan. I will be inviting in my dearest friends and favorite musicians in New York to participate. The performances will be virtually unplanned, off-the-cuff and spontaneous. We will do whatever my guests feel like doing that day. My immensely talented friend Beto will be filming and editing.
Since I started my own life in this city I have been extremely passionate about creative families. Thankfully over the years I have become a part of a vibrant and wonderful community of singer-songwriters and artists who share that passion. I want The Orchard Sessions to exemplify this world. I want to be able to bottle the feeling that I get when I am making music with my best friends in my living room. I want you, wherever you are, to be able to feel like you’re there.
We shot the first session (Volume I) on Saturday and it was a joy. Volume I features a new original song of mine, with three part harmony and unconventional instrumentation. I invited a few of my loves in and taught them the song minutes before we shot the video. It felt fresh, it felt real, and it felt exciting.
Then yesterday Beto came over to shoot stills for the introduction of the video, specifically of the Orchard street sign outside of my apartment. We waited on the curb for the light to get perfect and for his shot to be ideal and well focused. It was so delightful to watch this brilliant person work, and I thought:That’s how these sessions should be. Free, easy, artmaking with my friends on Orchard Street. Can’t wait to share the video with you all tomorrow.