I’m honestly a little surprised with myself that I haven’t written this article sooner, especially considering the number of interviews I conduct on a weekly basis. Understanding how to do a proper interview is a key aspect to any musicians career and whether its in person, on the phone, or written there are some fundamental truths that run across all forms. That being said – there are also some more specific ideas I would like to dole out as we delve into this topic – one that I feel far too many musicians don’t get a decent grasp on until its late in the game. A good interview can rocket you to popularity, a bad one can make people disavow your music forever – which do you want?
The first thing you need to realize when doing an interview is that it puts you directly in control of the narrative. No matter what form we are talking about, your answers are going to shape future questions in the interview and questions in future interviews. You need to make sure that your answers are representing not just you, but how you want people to think of you. The easiest way to do this is to give even smaller questions long and in depth answers that help to show exactly what you stand for. Beyond that – you need to make sure that your answers fit into an overarching narrative of who you are. Once you know what you want to represent even the most curveball question can be turned into an advancement of your specific narrative.
A huge part of this that I don’t think many artists fully understand is that the best interviews are those where the artist rambles on, tells stories, and helps you, the fan to understand what they are all about. If you don’t like doing interviews because ‘it’s all the same questions’ having more interesting answers is going to help to provoke more interesting questions in the future. Yes most interviewers suck, I know this from bitter experience, but there are a few diamonds in the rough. The more you give in interviews, the more diamonds you are going to be able to find. You can help to make your own interviews a more interesting experience for everyone.
In my experience the best interviews are almost a collaborative process – after all they are supposed to emulate a conversation right? If you listen to someone like Terry Gross, or even the excellent interviewers Chuck & Godless over at the Metalsucks Podcast you’ll notice that they reveal parts of themselves in the interviews, expecting the artists to listen to them and feed off of that. The interviewer isn’t the only one who should be doing the work – you need to be giving off even more of yourself, after all, this is about you and while yes it is hard to talk about yourself because so much of our society tells us otherwise, talking about yourself is the entire point of interviews!
Beyond that – as you progress you will find there are three distinct types of interviews, text, phone, and in person (Skype interviews are still pretty rare in my experience) Most people, both artists and journalists dislike text and phone interviews. Yet – if you are warm and personable you can make a text or phone interview enjoyable for both parties. I know this can be hard – especially during major press surges when you have to handle dozens of interviews at a time, or worse have an interview day where you do one fifteen minute phone interview after another. However, if you can maintain a positive persona the journalist, and your fans will appreciate it and want to come to you in he future, helping to generate more positive press. Remember – this is a way for you to directly interface with the people who make this possible, if you’re not doing you best to charm and intrigue them you need to revisit your priorities.
In person interviews are a whole different beast, and an even more important one. In an in person interview, assuming it happens at a concert (As they usually do) I strongly encourage you to give the interviewer a t-shirt. This will help to establish a positive relationship with the writer and encourage them to cover you in the future. Otherwise- if you are given the chance, try and make him feel like ‘one of the guys’. The band who do this and are personable are the ones that journalists love to cover. It pays to be one of those bands since it ensures you will get long term media support. Furthermore, if you can get someone to like you in Santa Cruz you know that not only will you probably get regular coverage in Santa Cruz, but also that he might tell his other journalist friends what’s up and get you coverage elsewhere. Interacting with journalists at shows is one of the few times you as an artist really get a chance to become friends with the tastemakers – and you need to take full advantage of that.
Long story short – I know that interviews are hard, and even seasoned artists can have a hard time. Even super established musicians, like the dudes in Slayer or Anthrax have professed to me that they occasionally have issues with interviews – for no other reason than that sometimes you are worn out and don’t have it in you to really go into detail and make your interview great. This is by no means an exact science and it’s something that can only be mastered with practice. Even if you are face to face with a lazy interviewer who did no research you need to give it you all and realize that all of this is helping to build up your own personal legend.