You are unequivocally everywhere, yet you are nowhere. My eyes still wander for you while making my morning coffee as a hummingbird appears outside my window. I still spend my days chasing glimpses of you in the grocery store as a little boy who looks to be about four years old crosses my path. I search for you in the impish eyes of Quinn, the stoicism of Liam, and the mischievous giggles from Poppy. I desperately beg for you to make an appearance in my dreams, but you never do. Instead, I find myself having the most vivid dreams about things like freeing the Orcas at SeaWorld, your old Oncologists, and situations in my life that feel very unresolved or out of control. My dreams are never about you, and I still don’t understand why when you are constantly on my mind. Last night I went to bed thinking about a phone call I received earlier in the day and the email that followed. Because the email was on my mind as I drifted off to sleep, I spent most of the night dreaming about our friend, Taylor Swift. I woke up the following day in disbelief at the reality of what had occurred the day before.
“A number I don’t recognize called my phone and left me a voicemail. From somebody named Tree. I don’t have any idea who that is.” I looked up at Mr. Sparkly Eyes, and yes, his eyes still sparkle. “My darling, call the number back.” This came from the man who answers every phone call from every unknown number that rings him up. “Ok. Maybe. I’ll call back in a bit; I’m going to look through my emails first to see if I was supposed to talk to someone that I have forgotten about.” He kissed the top of my head as I got up to get to the appointment I was running late for. I did a quick search in my emails, but nothing came up from anyone named Tree. Maybe it was a newly bereaved mom I was supposed to speak to? I’ve been doing a bit of that here and there for Dr. Jo, and a couple of them I hadn’t heard back from. I decided to call back the number from my car, and a woman’s voice answered the phone.
“Hi Tree, it’s Maya Thompson returning your call.”
“Maya! I’m so happy to hear from you; I wasn’t sure if this was still your number.”
My internal dialogue was running wild. Shit! This person knows me, yet I can’t place her. I decided to give it another few seconds to see if I could figure it out.
“It’s still my number; how are things?”
“Great! Taylor has an email she wants to send you, but before she sends it, I need to make sure your email address is still the same.”
Taylor. OMG. It’s Tree. As in Taylor’s everything, Tree. That Tree! I tried to keep my composure as if Taylor contacting me was a daily occurrence. We spoke for a few more minutes as she confirmed my email address, and we said goodbye.
I pulled my car over and called my everything, my New York City, Little Rachel. She picked up, which I was so thankful for because it was the middle of the day, and I knew she was more than likely having sessions with her patients.
“Taylor’s sending me an email,” I blurted out as soon as she picked up. “What?” She squealed with excitement. “What is happening over there?” I told her the back story, and we went over the endless possibilities of what the email could potentially say. I continued refreshing my emails, but nothing new had come through. We chatted giddily for a few more minutes, and I promised to call her as soon as I heard anything. I somehow made it to my destination safely, and as I pulled in, I checked my email.
Taylor’s email was there, but I won’t be sharing her entire email publicly. She is and will always be one of the things I hold dearest to my heart, and her beautiful words will remain private. I skimmed the email. Tears sprang to my eyes. I went back and reread her words, slowly this time as I tried to comprehend what I was reading.
Let’s back up for a bit. In 2019 it became public knowledge that Taylor was being screwed over in the worst way possible by Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and the disgusting Scooter Braun, who must be from the pits of hell. I watched from afar as her life’s work, her blood, sweat, and tears, were stolen from her by vile men because, at the end of the day, when you have an unscrupulous soul, greed is the ultimate decision-maker. You can read Taylor’s public letter below as the cliff notes to the unraveling of the painful betrayal.
“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.
Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.
Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.
This is my worst-case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term’ loyalty is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says, ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.
When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words’ Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.
Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.”
Sad and grossed out,
I remember reading Taylor’s words and how nauseous I felt after. I had so many sleepless nights during the next few months. I worried about Taylor’s heart. I wondered what would happen to you. You are my life’s work. You are my blood, sweat, and tears, and now somebody other than Taylor “owned” you. I vented on my social media accounts about the unfairness of it all, not knowing if anyone was listening to what I was saying. There started to be chatter on the internet of Taylor re-recording all her old albums so she could own her OWN music again, which was such a bloody smart move. Taylor soon confirmed she was going to do so. I felt so proud of her upon hearing this news, and I let the happiness of that carry me through my grief of letting our song belong to people who didn’t deserve it. ‘Ronan’ was always going to be a charity single, never attached to an album of hers. In my mind, there was no way she was going to re-record it, and I understood why. Knowing that Taylor had taken the most horrific situation and had found a way to get her art back made my wounds hurt less. I was just thankful she had done the most incredible thing for us in the first place. That was more than enough. It was always going to be more than enough, and I had let go of wishing it could be any other way.
Now back to a part of her email that I received.
“I’ve recently completed the re-recording of my 4th album, Red. It’s really exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and one of those ways is that I thought it would be appropriate to add ‘Ronan’ to this album. Red was an album of heartbreak and healing, of rage and rawness, of tragedy and trauma, and of the loss of an imagined future alongside someone. I wrote Ronan while I was making Red and discovered your story as you so honestly and devastatingly told it. My genuine hope is that you’ll agree with me that this song should be included on this album. As my co-writer and the rightful owner of this story in its entirety, your opinion and approval of this idea really matters to me, and I’ll honor your wishes here.”
It took me an hour to absorb the words in front of me. I shared the news with your brothers, Poppy, your daddy, Mr. Sparkly eyes, and a couple of my dearest friends. I cried while sharing the news. I called Tree back and spoke to her for a few minutes about what had just occurred. I told her of course, Taylor had my permission to put ‘Ronan’ on Red. I tried my best to articulate how much this meant to me through my tears, but there are not enough words in the English language that will ever be able to appropriately convey my feelings about this. Taylor has anchored you to this world so you will never be lost, and now she has ensured you will forever be safe in a new, permanent home. She is once again giving a voice to the often voiceless, bereaved parents of the world as well as childhood cancer which deserves so much more funding than it gets.
“Red (Taylor’s version)” will be out November 19th and on that album, there will be you. It is the most perfect album for you to be on as it represents so much heartbreak, love, and pain.
I have so much more I want to talk about and so much more I want to write about, but I’m under a book writing deadline that I need to get back to.
I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
My dearest Taylor,
I love you.
My words of thank you will never be enough. Thank you for keeping Ronan safe. Thank you for never forgetting him. Thank you for breaking rules and breaking free. Thank you for that heart of yours that is made of pure gold. You are a constant source of inspiration to me in so many areas of my life, and there is nobody in the world I would rather have Ronan with than you. I’m going to write to you separately about this but for now, thank you.