Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Music Writing #4

Lesson #4: Don't ask for autographs, CDs or anything with someone's name on it.

Famous people can be famous by the stupid virtue of being famous. They don't even have to be any good at what they're famous for. Paris Hilton, for instance, is famous because of a sex tape, not because she was particularly amazing in it. I haven't seen the tape, but friends of mine have described it as "old people sex," which makes you wonder why she bothered to bring a camera. Where was the rawness, the heat, the excitement? Where was the monkey?

Anyway, in meeting semi-celebrated peoples, I take another line from my occasional mentor Andy Ridenour who said, "Don't ask for an autograph when you're there for the interview. You just look like a douchebag."

He's right. I've watched other writers, reporters and newsy types show up to ask questions and made a comfortable conversation suddenly awkward by asking for something that wasn't on the menu.

If you need a CD or tickets, get them from the publicist or agent. They get paid to handle the business details and the finer points. They get paid a lot. It's ok to make them earn it.

You want the person you're talking with to have their guard reasonably down. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to help them get their guard down and feel comfortable. Few musicians enjoy sitting down with strangers to go on the record about anything. Potentially having his or her life put out in front of them for judgement or dissection is not pleasant.

Sometimes there is no way to make the other person feel comfortable. I've seen people literally twist themselves into knots in front of me because their nerves were so frayed. You can establish some kind of rapport most of the time by sharing a little bit of who you are. I take my time setting up for the interview and just chat, ask about their kids or if they've read anything cool lately. With Greg Brown, we talked about gardening. I even got some gardening tips. Odetta and I talked politics. Buckwheat Zydeco told me about how he hated driving, but why he had to fire his bus driver.

You let them know early that you're not really there to go for some kind of kill. You're not hunting them. It's not a quiz show. It's not oral boards or a performance for an audience of one. It's a conversation. Don't ask them for an autograph, but if they want yours, I guess that would be okay.

1 comment:

Evil Twin's Wife said...

When I was two, my parents and I were at the same hotel as Johnny Cash. They loved Johnny (as I later learned to love him) and ran into him outside the elevators one day. They decided to play it cool and speak to him as a regular person and did not ask for autographs. He held me and chatted with them for quite a while. I think people (famous people) appreciate it when you treat them like regular folks and not fan club on them like a dork.