Shut Up and Sing

This is a story about personal accomplishment. It’s the story of my 2017, a year spent behind a microphone, in a room and usually alone, except for a distant voice coming through my headphones. It’s a story of a year where I spent around 15,000 minutes thinking about and preparing for what would, most of the time, be about a 12-minute conversation.

And it all started with boredom.

In December 2016, I had just started my two-week vacation. I’m not good at vacations, but I’ve realized over the past decade that by the end of the year, my eye starts to twitch, and I get jumpy, so some self-imposed time off is the best way to grab a reset before it all starts again. Ideally, I relax and come back refreshed. Ideally. The truth is that I last about two days and then start scheming on something that I could get into, or launch, as soon as possible. So, knowing this, I had decided to bring my mini-sound board home with me so that when I started to get anxious, I could just do a few interviews to pass the time. You do board games — I think of questions.

Unfortunately, since it was holiday season, there were no managers or record labels to reach out to. They were all home, not thinking about work. But yet, I wouldn’t give up. I started crawling around Twitter to see who was active and chatty, like an addict looking for any kind of hit — even if it meant I had to sleep in the nastiest of opium dens of the musical world, I was game. Still, dead ends. By the time January rolled around, I was fiending so bad that I had resolved to try something I had only toyed with the notion of for the past few years. I would interview every single person all the time. A bit much? Boredom does funny things to a person.

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Once the gates to the industry were back open and phone lines were live, I started reaching out immediately at a pace I had never before attempted. For most of the last few years, I had kept steady at one or two interviews a week, but I was now gunning for six to eight. I didn’t want the research to lack, so I had to push other things in my life to the side, like having any kind of social life. It was like cramming for a college exam (something that I never actually did), but nearly every day for an entire year. And all genres were fair game. The 1980s metal band Slaughter? Sure, why not. Classic-rockers Styx and The Moody Blues? Let’s do it. Joe Scarborough? Sounds fun! And lots of legends from Nancy Wilson of Heart to Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, St. Vincent, Gary Clark Jr, Corin Tucker, Dan Auerbach, Depeche Mode, Sheryl Crow, Marty Stuart, Feist, Peter Frampton, Tori Amos and on and on.

It was a really good year.

The loose idea was to keep it about the art, to not go for the tabloid-style interviews. We would be talking about their new project and what it meant. If that seems simple, this is also the year of #trump, so in talking about the music, we were going to be talking about a lot of larger subjects. Every day was filled with discussions on human rights, minority struggles, feminism, global warming and climate change, the importance of love and of listening — the need for more human interaction in the digital world. If it was happening in the news, it was being written about by our favorite artists. Of the many show ideas that I keep tucked away, one is called “Shut Up And Sing” (an ironic title, to explain the joke). As it turned out, I was already incorporating that idea every day due to the nature of the art being produced. And in moments throughout the year when the darkness felt overwhelming, it was the optimism from these musicians that kept me on my own feet. I didn’t know that would be the case when I set out, but in a year that may remembered as #resist, I can’t thank them enough for their art, for their words, for their time, and most importantly, for their songs. Boredom and an obsessive personality may have put me here, but your music got me through.

Now, who wants to talk?

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