Letters from Idina ’97-98
Way back in 1997 and 1998 while Idina was recording her debut album Still I Can’t Be Still, she wrote several letters to her fans through her then-record label, Hollywood Records.
The following letters were collected by Erin L., the creator of the first Idina fansite (no, our site wasn’t the first, nor was it our previous webmaster Erin!), and since her site is no longer maintained and could be deleted at any time, we don’t want to lose them forever! So, here they are for posterity.
Subject: Greetings from Idina Menzel
Date: October 1997
I just wanted to check in, say hello and let you all know what has been happening. I have been having a blast in the studio making this record. My producer, Milton Davis, the band and I have been working like dogs but it’s feeling great to finally put all these songs down!!
This week was very special because all my friends from Rent came up to the studio in Woodstock to sing on the track “Simple Song” which is a cover of a Sly And The Family Stone song. It was amazing having Anthony, Gwen, Fredi, Shayna, Byron, Aiko and Marcy all there laying it down on this funky cut. I will have photos on the site in the very near future from this day as well. It was even filmed for CNN and I think it’s going to run on October 2nd at 5:30PM EST so check it out.
We will be all finished around the first week of November so check the site for song clips shortly after that. There are plans to shoot my first video in December so more news on that soon.
Well that’s it for now cause I have to go in and put down some vocals on a track called “Minuet”. I really love this song cause it’s about….hey wait, I’m not going to give it all away yet!
I’ll write back soon.
Subject: Hollywood Records
Date: June 1998
I can’t believe how many of you have responded to our Online Fanclub–it’s been great getting your messages and I really want to thank all of you for your support. You guys are awesome!
I’m feeling very bittersweet these days, as I’ve left “Rent” to pursue my lifelong dream of recording my own music. While it was incredibly difficult to leave the show, I’m so excited to be embarking on my own album projects. I go into the recording studio September 1! We’ll be working in the historic Bearsville studio in Woodstock, New York, where artists like The Band, Natalie Merchant, Bob Dylan, and Phish have all made music. We’re going to be working really long hours, but I’ll do my best to keep you all updated via this site. I hope to eventually offer some sound clips for you to listen to, but in the meantime you can check out some new photos and a quick video clip on the web site.
Finally, I must ask for your help. If you’d be interested in starting an Idina fanclub in your area, please send a letter to Kevin Gasser at Hollywood Records 500 S. Buena Vista, Burbank, CA 91521.
Subject: [Original] Idina Fanclub
I just wanted to personally thank you for stopping by my web page. I am in the middle of writing songs for my album and expect to begin recording in August. I will try to keep everyone posted and hope to get to each of you soon.
Stay in touch…Idina
Subject: Still I Can’t Be Still
I just wanted to drop a note to make sure you know how much your support means to me. Life is about to get a little crazy with the release of my new album, but I will always remember those of you who were there from the start.
Thank you! Bless you! Thank you!
Please keep writing. I love to hear from you. I gain a lot of strength from your letters.
Look out for a more informative, “official” letter.
Speak to you soon,
All My Love,
Subject: Still I Can’t Be Still
Date: August 1998
Hey Guys, It’s me Idina!
How are you? How did you enjoy your summer? I’m desperately trying to return all of your fan mail, but I know I have missed some, so I thought I’d write one long letter to everyone.
First of all, I need to thank each person who has expressed their support over the last two years. Your positive reinforcement has rescued me from some pretty discouraging days – more times than I’d like to remember. I mean, there have been days when I was left wondering if I made a mistake leaving RENT. Will people like my music? Am I selfish for wanting to move on? What is my calling, etc. And yet all of you have been so incredibly positive and measuring. For this, I am eternally grateful. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for not forgetting about me. Thank you for supporting my decisions and thank you for sontinuing to listen.
Now, on a less serious note, it has been an extremely exciting time. My first single, MINUET is starting to get on the radio. MINUET is a song about the hypnotic dance between the heartbeat and the breath of the one you love…and all of those aspirations and dreams that come to mind as you are rocked to sleep by its rhythm. More simply, it’s just a song about my boyfriend, Taye Diggs. Oh, what if we break up and it becomes a hit song??? I’d have to sing it for the rest of my life! And he’s in the video. Guess we’ll have to stay together. Just kidding, we’ve been having a blast!!! The making of the video was a landmark day for me. As a member of the MTV generation – a video is everything. I have always dreamt of making one. It takes place in a carwash. Although you can’t see it in the video, I was constantly getting drenched by soapy water. The VW bus I was in was so old, the window wouldn’t shut all the way. So how can I describe it??? You know those times when you’ve been alone in your house and you dance around naked singing to yourself in the mirror? Come on, don’t pretend you never did that! Well, I have 4 minutes in a carwash where no one can see me, so I just sing my heart out and occasionally daydream about me and my honey in the backseat (That’s where Taye comes in!). Let’s just say, it’s a “steamy” carwash.
Upon completing the video shoot, I was off to Lilith Fair in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This was the best!!!! Aside from meeting Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Bonnie Raitt, Des’ree and many other wonderful artists… I got to meet so many of you! Do you know how good it feels to be in a strange city and realize you have friends out there? The first time I stepped on to the “village” stage and heard some of you cheering was very emotional for me. I thought to myself, “Wow, it’s been a long time, but they have stuck with me!” Thank you to all my buddies who showed up and drove long distances to be there – especially all of the crazy people who stood in the rain at Hershey Park. I can just see the tabloids now with pictures of us all water-logged. Idina on the worst dressed list, “What’s with that Hefty bag poncho look’ or the ‘towel on the head look?” None of that mattered because I was having so much fun. The rain didn’t bother me a bit.
If you can believe it, in between my 1st and 2nd Lilith date, I flew home to NYC to shoot Spike Lee’s upcoming film, SUMMER OF SAM. I only had one scene (6 lines to be exact), but the shoot lasted all night long. I think all of downtown Manhattan heard me screaming. I played some raving lunatic girl in the midst of hurling all of her boyfriend’s belongings (including his guitar) out a 3rd story window. In a hard New Yawk dialect, I screamed, “You suck as a musician (blah, blah, blah) and you don’t f*** like Jimmy Hendrix either!!!!” It wasn’t a pretty sight. I think I resembled something of a heroine using, mascara running, crazy woman. If the scene doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor, it may be pretty memorable.
Well, with practically no voice left and no sleep, I flew back to Cincinatti in time for Lilith and prayed for my adrenaline to kick in.
Next, I went out on what they call a promotional tour. Everyday I visited at least one city and about 4 radio stations. I performed either on their live morning show or in their conference room over danish. You can’t imagine how vibey a flourescently lit conference room with a bunch of suited executives eating bagels can get! (It kinda reminded me of my old wedding and barmitzvah days, where I would sing Whitney Houston ballads to drunken people eating their salds. Actually, it was rather fun. I got to meet all of these DJs, tell them RENT stories and try to win them over, so that maybe they will play my music. Enclosed in this mailing, we included a posting of these stations so we can bug the hell out of those people. My pals Erin and the folks at my label tell me that many of you guys are out there really working for me. The stories of your efforts have blown me away. I can’t tell you how big of a difference you are making. I can never thank you enough!!! As you know, anything new takes a little longer for people to accept. So your phone calls are greatly appreciated.
I can tell you, what you hear on my album is the real me. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible. I hope that by baring my soul, I may strike a chord deep within you. STILL I CAN’T BE SITLL is about the search for inner peace. Although I do find my moments, I’m forever striving to satiate the world within. In this album, I hope to have found a balance between abrasive reality and hopeful idealism. I offer an album created by fragile strength, raging vulnerability and most of all unconditional love.
Thank you for your loyalty!!! I hope you like it!
Peace and Harmony, your friend – Idina
P.S. If you live in the South, you might hear MINUET with a few words bleeped out. They wouldn’t let me say “piss” and “sex”. Can you believe it?