Sometimes being a musician is really hard. You drop a new album, or you're about to embark on a huge tour, and the big, bad publicist at your label drops a bomb: you have to do an interview. For some artists, both new and old, it's no problem to hold a conversation with a stranger. You promote your music, are cordial and funny, and the call is done. But for others, talking with a journalist is so horrible, you sabotage it at any cost. This list is for you. These are all things I, as an interviewer, have experienced, and they can really drive a journalist crazy.
1. You give us 10 minutes or less
We've done our research. We've written out 20 questions to ask. We really, truly want to get to know you on as much of an intimate level as possible, even if that means we're not even meeting face-to-face. Anything less than 15 minutes makes us lose out on the opportunity to really get to the nitty-gritty. And really, you don't need that extra five minutes of sleep when you're already planning on getting up at noon.
2. You over-share
If we're interviewing you about your music, we don't need to know that you just peed, or that you love to have sex with your girlfriend, or that your only hobby besides performing is smoking pot. Well, unless your publicist isn't going to mind if we use that quote. (But she will -- and she'll bitch at us for making you look dumb and shallow, even if that's what you gave us.) It's also probably not a good idea to go off on how much you hate a certain peer band, only to later retract your statements because you somehow got on tour with them. (Again, we'll use what we get, so make imagine your publicist is listening in on the call, even if she isn't.) When you're talking with us, focus on us. Don't tell us that the guy sitting next to you in the van just passed gas.
3. You close yourself off
If you're a musician, face the fact that you will probably have to do interviews with strangers at some point. Unless you just get some huge you don't need any free publicity. Press gets people to your shows, which ups your exposure and makes you money. Even if you're painfully shy, let your guard down, and don't just give one-sentence answers to complex questions. If you agree to do the interview, at least have the respect to actually talk and open up a little bit.
4. You make certain topics off-limits
If there's a nasty picture of you covered in semen floating around the Internet, don't pretend that you don't know about it and refuse to make a statement. Interviews are your chances to clear things up or acknowledge that you made a mistake, and you're looking to move forward. It's not fair to keep the public and your fans wondering about something. And for gosh sake, if you're going to get personal in lyrics, be prepared to explain them. If you write a scathing song about your ex-boyfriend's substance abuse but don't want to give any background, it makes the song start to lose some meaning.
5. You're more than 15 minutes late
When interviews are scheduled more than a day in advance, there is no excuse to be tardy. Stick to the schedule, even if the interviewer before me is really fun and flirty, or have your publicist build in some cushion. Make sure your cell phone is on and you're ready to answer. That may mean you'll have to use an alarm clock to wake up. It may mean that you'll have to kick the groupie off the bus. It may mean that you'll have to cut your trip to the local Hot Topic short. We're busy people, too, so don't waste our time.
6. You hand the phone to someone else
If you have an interview scheduled, no matter how much you don't want to do it, never give your phone to someone else to do the interview. It makes you look like an idiot and a punk when the interviewer calls the other person out on it, and it completely negates any seriousness of the interview. It also makes the interviewer lose respect for you really, really quickly.
7. You're under the influence while you're talking
You may think that you're the best stoner who can totally pass off as sober, but believe me, it's totally obvious when you are drunk or high. We can hear you slur your speech, and when you start dreamily talking about stardust, it's pretty evident you smoked a joint before you got on the phone. Some people claim they're the most honest when they're tipsy or high, but you can also come across as looking really stupid. Again, we'll use what we get, so be prepared for that and don't blame us.
8. You go on your computer while you're talking with us
Yes, we can hear your keyboard clicking. We're the ones, if anyone, who are supposed to be typing during the interview, and it's pretty deflating when we can tell you're updating your Twitter while you're talking with us. Go into a neutral space where the only thing to focus on is the person you're talking to. It will make your answers more clear and will make the interview go more efficiently.
9. You talk in the third person
We don't care if you're the baddest, most thug rapper alive: talking in the third person is obnoxious and pretentious. There is no one in the world who should be talking in the third person, and that includes you, you 90's one-hit wonder, you.
10. You eat during the interview
We can hear every disgusting chewing noise you make, and oftentimes it makes you impossible to understand. Put down the sandwich for 15 minutes, don't slurp on your drink, and speak clearly.
11. Your reception sucks
It really bites when you're saying something really juicy, and then all of a sudden the call ends. We then have to call the publicist back up, who then has to call you back up, and by then we've probably lost you to eating tacos because you were high to begin with. Get a clear signal and stay in a place where the call won't be dropped. Or, hey, go old school and use a landline in your hotel!
12. You talk to us in a crowded room
Standing off to the side of the stage while your opening band rehearses is not the best place to do an interview. We don't want to hear muffled three-chord progressions, we want to hear your voice, and that is it. Go to the dressing room or wherever it's quiet enough where you can talk without yelling and we don't have to ask you, "What was that?" after every question.
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