When I started doing reviews and interviews for Blogcritics about two years ago, as a way of continuing to read and write despite having left journalism behind as a career, my plan was to focus on books. Later I decided to also do movies. And later still I joined Newsvine and now I don't even write for Blogcritics anymore.
Soon I started to see albums and think, hey, I'd love to interview, say, The Polyphonic Spree. And so I did.
I was supposed to interview them for the next album but that never panned out.
Before long I was getting sent, unsolicited, artists I'd never heard of, some of them quite good and only a few clunkers. But it was through one such unsolicted mailing that I got to know the music of Bob Schneider, who I now consider one of the best songwriters around as well as a fascinating interview.
My horizons were being expanded, my open mind was getting still more open.And If I got to interview Stewart Copeland too, well, that was just icing on the cake.
Just as I face my public speaking fears head-on by reading my fiction and memoir pieces aloud at open mic nite I decided to also deal with my issues with music criticism. I wrote here about how I struggled and failed as a music writer in college. I find writing about music to be a bit like the classic line (of debated origin): "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." So, yeah, it is in a way pointless but on the other hand I do like to read other people's musings about music so whatcha gonna do?
There days I seem to be faring better. An inordinate amount of my music interviews have been with children's music artists. There are two reasons for this. Well, three if you factor in that the publicist for many of the musicians is so easy to work with that if I just frown at the right time she seems to sense it and mail me a new cd to check out so I'll smile.
Anyway reason #1 is that these musicians seem particularly open to interviews – my preferred mode over reviews – and answering my questions including those from the left field.
Reason #2 is that I can pass the albums on, after the interviews, on to my sister and my nieces and I like to be a good brother/uncle that way.
Besides, I believe in keeping the kid in me alive (and I think those who know me will agree I've succeeded in that goal) and listening to children's music can help with that.
In doing these interviews I've learned some things. For instance, I had a stereotype of children's music as simple inspid stuff. Instead I found some of it quite thought-provoking.
Take this from Peter Himmelman, for example:
My Father's An Accountant" is one of the cutest, sweetest songs I've heard in months.
(My father's an accountant and I used to think that he was boring
I'd tell my friends about his job and I could see them all start snoring
Maybe one day they'll see what I see,
A man strong enough to be true
Dad I just want to tell you
I see the hero in you.)
I've written about how I don't cry nearly as much as I think I should but this song brings me near tears and that's a good thing.
And then there is deeper stuff:
Boris the bull had questioned the meaning of life
Why are some cows happy
and others full of strife?
Must we go through each day
Simply looking for another bite of hay?)
Some are so catchy that I've used their lines in conversation. When I interviewed Trout Fishing in America I even confessed this to them:
Scott: I want your absolution for something. I confess to having borrowed the line/song title "My Hair Had A Party Last Night" to describe hair problems while working as a journalist and a teacher without giving proper attribution. Do you forgive me?
Trout Fishing in America: Yes. If you feel further guilt you can send the royalties to Trout Fishing in America world headquarters.
And then there has been the Putumayo label which is quite educational.
While the label is designed more for children and families I saw no reason why i, a bachelor,
coudn't also learn about other cultures and musical genres, both through the very detailed
cd notes then by the interviews of the artists involved. So I've writen about music from Asia, from Brazil and from all other places across the world. I don't travel much but I feel like I'm traveling to other cultures and getting to hear how they sound.