One of my favorite movies to this day is Almost Famous. It follows the dreams of a teen journalist, William Miller, set out to interview his first band for a Rolling Stone article. It’s his deep-rooted passion for music and writing that really connected me to the character. In almost a naïve way, I wanted to be in his place. It’s music journalism week in TYWI’s Nonfiction camp, and I’ll be sharing tips and steps to finding your first band interview.
Before we begin I should emphasize I’m from a very small-town, as in I-live-behind-a-cornfield kind of small town. So, it’s likely unnecessary to search through all the resources I provided if you live in bigger cities. Of course, I could be wrong, follow the advice that applies to your situation. Now onto some preliminary advice.
1. Write with Passion
You see, I had a connection to a guy that interviewed local rap and r&b artists on his podcast. That's where I got the idea to go to him to do something collaborative, pretty smart right? Well, it would be if I knew anything about rap, but I don’t. So I put this here as the first tip: write about a genre you’re passionate about.
Sounds like common sense, but a recurring theme in this is that I was so excited to start I threw all common sense out the window, which ultimately made me stop in my progress. If you’re versatile in different genres and feel both confident and passionate enough to write about something, then go ahead. If that doesn’t sound like you, which isn’t a bad thing, then I’d say it’s okay to skip until you find what you’re looking for.
If you do find an artist you’re interested in writing about, make sure to really listen to their music. I’d suggest at least one whole album, and sprinkle in songs from others if they have more than one. As you could imagine, listening to their music gets you a better feel of their music style and can actually help to formulate questions specifically tailored to them.
Pay attention to how many views their song gets, length, instruments, and lyrics as a starting point. Also make sure to write down anything that makes them stand out to you.
Remember your school essays? Don’t treat it like that, but follow similar thinking. Learn the background information of your topic before you go right in. Learn about how they started, what motivates them, watch or read interviews featuring them, maybe follow their socials. Essentially, be a dialed-down stalker — that’s a joke, please don’t stalk anyone.
4. Learn the Genre
We all know how hard genre labels are. But, It’s likely you’re not entirely sure what differentiates one genre from another. So, as a continuation from the last tip, also learn about the artists genre.
For example, a punk-rock band likely has themes of police brutality or corrupt governments in their songs because those are staple characteristics of the punk genre. If you want to write more technically, go into the music theory of a genre. Not only will it help you understand why a band is labeled a certain way, but it’ll also help you realize what makes them stand out. For a better analogy, it’s like reading literature. We all know fantasy is going to have magical elements in some way, but every book tackles these elements differently.
As I said, those were some preliminary steps that apply to any band or artist you’re looking to write about in any way. Keep in mind, music journalism is a fairly broad category that doesn’t necessarily require interviewing musicians.
Now we’re onto the more vague steps of finding and contacting bands. As I expressed earlier, I had to do some deep digging to find local bands. Of course they don’t have to be local, the internet is a tool that can connect you to underground bands from around the world. I’d only argue looking within your city or state first because it shows a contribution to your community and sets a commonality between you and the artist: home. That’s not to say you can’t try larger bands later, but for getting your feet wet, underground is just the safer choice in terms of rejection and first-time interviewing.
5. Find the artist
Sounds easy, right? Personally it wasn’t, so I had to give up for the time being. That’s the thing, the specific results you’re looking for will definitely limit your options in terms of writing material. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be picky, sometimes picky is good since it’ll be easier finding music you’re eager to write about. Here’s some good google searches that’ll aid in this process.
I’ll admit, my search for band interviewing had to be postponed until the summer, so I haven’t gotten this far. But as I said, the internet is handy, and I almost couldn’t believe it but there’s a Wikihow article for this exact step. And, to further my luck, Julieta, a TYWI nonfiction camp counselor, has experience with contacting musicians so I went to them as well.
is a high school sophomore with aspirations for digital storytelling. She always seemed to understand things better if she could read it, versus videos or lectures, so English and History quickly became her favorite subjects. She volunteers for both Juven and The Meraki Organization to tell stories.