I stress out over every interview I do. Every single one. From the moment it’s confirmed until right before it happens. It’s usually then that it all goes away. It’s almost always fun, too, but, still, I stress. There’s no good reason either. In fact, you’d think that after seven straight years of doing interviews, that I’d feel like I would have it down by now. It’s not a confidence thing, either. Not so much anyway. I guess there is always a sense of striking out, but I know the game well enough to know when to pivot, how to miss awkward obstacles, when digressions can work and when they’re going down a dead end road, so I’m usually confident that I can navigate well enough to get to the finish line.
So, what’s been on my mind lately, is why I put myself through the ringers multiple times a week? Honestly, I’m surprised I don’t have an ulcer over this little routine I have. I get all excited when I see that an artist is available to talk — or alternately, I get a call saying they would like to be interviewed by me, a huge honor that I never take for granted. It’s usually five minutes later that I start to worry. About the research, about the angle or themes that I want to shoot for, about the setup and execution. Really about anything and everything. And, if it’s a legendary artist, forget about it. Those are usually set up a week or more in advance, which means that I’m a complete waste to anyone around me who needs me to focus on whatever we’re talking about.
To say that I’ve been a wreck for the past week would be an understatement. A few weeks ago, I wrote about diving into the back catalog of Iggy Pop, and not long after that I get a call from his people asking if I’d like to talk with not only him (which would have been monumental by itself), but also with his tag team partner on his latest project, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. I’ve talked with Josh a few times before, but that doesn’t take the pressure off. If anything, it only adds to it. Now, I’ve got a guy who’s vouching for me to a guy who basically invented a genre. My instant reply on the email was a resounding yes! The first thought in my own mind was “gulp.”
So, why do I still react this way? The somewhat silly answer I feel I can blame on my southern upbringing. I’m a pleaser. I want to make sure everyone is comfortable. If I host a party, I’ll spend the entire time working the room and making sure everyone is good. Going into an interview, I stress out about wasting their time. It’s a complete head game that probably doesn’t make sense, but on the other side, it’s also possibly what has afforded me to continue to be able to talk to artists that I’ve long admired. I suppose what I’m saying is that we all need something that continues to light the fire under us. An actor will tell you that they still get nervous before a show they’ve done dozens of time, and it’s those nerves that keep them on their feet. So, maybe my own fear is what leads to doing the hours of extra research, the mapping and planning, and eventually the conversation.
Which brings us back to Iggy. How do you interview someone who’s been asked it all before, in just about every way? The trick is to really want to know the answer yourself. I combed over his backstory and recent interviews, and every time something popped out that I found myself curious about, that went onto the page. And I stressed, and I sweated, and I worried, and the minute the mic went on, it was like nothing was ever wrong.
So what’s the takeaway from this? Believe in yourself? Work hard? Stay thirsty, my friends? Something like that. There’s a line from the Stars song “Hold On When You Get Love” that I carry with me: “Take the weakest thing in you, and then beat the bastards with it.” Find ways to keep that fire lit in whatever you’re doing and let the process work for you. Crave the answer. It feels really great when you get it. •
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Speed of Sound.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.