Lesson #6: Learning to love the idiot.
Smart people do not make great interviews. Articulate people make good interviews, if they're in the mood to talk. But dumb people can be articulate, too and most of the time they're not just willing to talk, they're eager to run their mouths. The ability to speak your mind clearly and concisely is not just given to people with big brains. Idiots can make themselves understood very well, even if what they're saying is nonsense, moronic or just plain horrible.
This often means you're not getting much to advance your personal perspective of the world, but what you get will come out okay on paper.
My favorite interviews always fall into one of two categories: There is the kind where I walk away with something I get to keep, some greater understanding, some small piece of wisdom I didn't have before. For example, I ask a lot of travel questions because I'm fascinated with what the rest of the world is like. Nikki Giovanni, Bob Mould or Odetta were good ones because they told me something I didn't know or they colored in some spaces for me.
The other kind is the purely entertaining interview. Every now and again, you get someone who isn't going to tell you a whole hell of a lot, but is still charming and fun. Brad Paisley is a good example of that. I didn't learn much, except a little about William Shatner, but it was a pleasant experience. He came off as a swell guy and the time went smoothly. I enjoyed talking with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace wasn't wearing any underwear, which was kind of a bonus, but the band dynamic (everybody trying very hard to keep Grace from doing something stupid) was fun to observe. The guitarist from Saliva was good, too, but not because he was brilliant, but because he didn't censor his experience. He was having too good of a time and he knew it.
The idiot is a good story. At his worst, he's a cautionary tale. He's the guy who shows up to the interview stoned then talks about how much he thinks about Miley Cyrus. She's the singer/songwriter who seems more interested in finding a couple of playmates for the evening than doing the show. At their best, it's an accidental tour behind the scenes to a world you're not supposed to see.
The downside is you can't always print what you see.