It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for nearly five years now. What started as a mere creative outlet has transformed into steady freelance work and a stable job doing what I love — writing about music and interviewing bands. I never would have predicted the start of You Sing I Write would develop into what it has today and further my career as a music journalist but every day I’m continually grateful.
This past month has by far been the most exciting of my career and every week I woke up in disbelief that things could get any better. I’ll explain to you just why in this post’s May wrap-up which includes interviewing Darius Rucker, covering my first music video shoot with Gaslight Anthem and meeting John Mayer.
Early in the month I got word that I’d be interviewing Darius Rucker for CBS. In order to understand my complete excitement I have to take you way back to the summer of 2009 when my love for country music began. My best friends Wendy and Deana had been talking about visiting Nashville for quite some time. It just so happened that every June the city of Nashville is transformed into country music heaven as thousands of fans and artists descend on the city for the CMA Music Fest, what used to be known as Fan Fair.
For four days country music fans are treated to live performances and exclusive meet-and-greets with their favorite country artists. The three of us booked our flight and festival package and I wound up covering the nightly press conference and days events for Marie Claire. An outsider to country music, it was also my first time attending a press conference. While I knew the major artists like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Reba, each night I was introduced to new acts. My first night in the press conference was intimidating to say the least. Not an exceptionally outgoing person, I soon learned that in order to get your question in you usually had to yell out to the artist onstage. The first artist in the room was Darius Rucker. The Hootie & the Blowfish frontman recently released his debut country album and would be performing on the main concert stage later that night.
Being my first time in the press room I kept raising my hand in hopes to get my question answered. When the last question was asked and the publicist started to usher him off the stage he pointed in my direction. “You’ve been so patient this whole time,” he said. “What’s your question?” After looking around and realizing he was talking to me I was shocked and thankful to be given a second of his time. So, I asked him how his Hootie fans have reacted to his leap into country music and he told me they’ve embraced and supported his career in country music. Still stunned he pointed me out in the crowd I instantly knew country would become my new favorite genre.
So, early this month I finally was able to interview Darius one-on-one about his career, writing process, transition into country music and what it’s like working with Lionel Richie. I also filled him in on the fact that he’s pretty much the reason I decided to start covering country music and he actually remembered that time in the press room nearly three years ago. You can watch two of my video interviews with him here and here.
This interview was also a long time coming. I actually used to work with drummer Benny Horowitz of New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem in college. While attending Rutgers University I was Features Editor for the college paper, The Daily Targum. As editor, one night a week I had to proofread the whole paper before it was sent to the printer. Benny was the Night Pro editor and always talked about the bands he was in. Little did I know a few years later he’d be sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen and touring the world.
In 2008 during my internship at Rolling Stone I was flipping through the magazine and was in shock when I saw Benny’s band featured as a Breaking Artist. At first I didn’t think it was him, but sure enough once I read the photo caption and contacted all my former co-workers I realized it 100% was him. For four years I tried interviewing the band for various publications but for some reason it just never worked out. My friends would always joke with me that I could interview Taylor Swift and Pat Benatar but not Benny, who I actually knew.
Flash forward to last month. My boss tells me, “This next email is going to make your day.” Truthfully, I thought it might be John Mayer related. When I read it I gasped and said, “I love you!” Turns out Gaslight Anthem were filming the music video to new single “45” at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park and she wanted me to cover the video shoot. This is the band I’ve been listening to for years and determined to interview one way or another and now I’d be able to hang out with them at their music video shoot — something I’ve had on my bucket list for years — and interview them!
I’ll be posting my music video recap in a few weeks once the video is released but being behind-the-scenes was truly a dream come true. While I learned video shoots aren’t as glamorous as I had previously thought (a lot of waiting around and continuous re-takes) it was still cool to be backstage and witness the excitement the fans had for being part of the live concert element of the video.
Afterward, I interviewed Benny and frontman Brian Fallon and found out some facts no magazine feature could ever reveal. Truthfully, personally knowing someone who followed his dreams even in the midst of countless obstacles and witnessed success is one of the reasons that has kept me perusing my own passion. When you actually know someone who has succeeded in the industry, you can’t help but think, “I can do that too.” And that’s exactly what Benny has done for me. Knowing that his band could make it into the pages of Rolling Stone made me realize that I too, could make it writing for Rolling Stone. Why not? The sky’s the limit.
He has been an obsession of mine for quite some time. My former co-workers at WebMD and colleagues at JANE Magazine, heck all my friends, family and acquaintances know of my love for John Mayer. He’s one of those artists who has been such a major part of my life that the idea of meeting and interviewing him was so full of anticipation and high expectations. My dream interview, I’ve been trying for years to get a shot at interviewing him. I even got the okay from RollingStone.com but unfortunately he hasn’t been doing many interviews as of late.
So, when I got the email that he’d be signing autographs for fans in New York at a pop-up store I just knew I had to cover it. When I got to the pop-up store location and realized I wasn’t on the press list I instantly felt defeated because with nearly 3,000 fans lined up to meet Mayer too, there was little chance I’d get inside. Luckily, some co-workers started talking to one of the men by the door and it turned out he was John Mayer’s photographer who had traveled with him and had photos on display at the exhibit. After I interviewed him about his experience working with Mayer he was able to get us inside. The photographer asked if I was going to talk to John and I suddenly became so shy. This singer who I’ve grown up listening to was standing 10 feet in front of me.
Of course I had to at least say hi, right? After purchasing an album for him to sign for a friend along with something for myself my friend Wendy and I approached the table where he was signing. “Hi, I’m Annie” I said reaching out my hand for him to shake. He looked at me inquisitively and I couldn’t help but wonder if no other fans in line shook his hand. After much coaxing from Wendy for John to take a photo with me he apologized that he wasn’t able to take photos with fans since the line was so long. As the manager clearly wouldn’t let a photo opp happen I assured Mayer that I understood and it was no big deal (although of course I wanted a photo!) As we were ushered to the door he turned to me and said, “Thank you for being so understanding, Annie.”
That was it. I didn’t ask him any burning questions about his music I’ve wondered for years or say anything witty. I simply introduced myself and got something autographed and was ushered out of the store like every other fan in line. No fireworks, nothing remarkable to report. I walked out of the store indifferent and realized — here’s the shocker — John Mayer is just a person like the rest of us. He’s not some musician who should be worshiped or idolized. He’s just another human being working at making a living doing what he loves.
I think I grew up a lot in that brief moment of meeting him. While I will surely always admire his music I realized that I’m a professional. Sure, I would have loved to chat with him more about the meaning behind his lyrics and what his life is really like, but maybe it’d be better off if I didn’t know right now. We’ll just save all that for a future interview.