So you’re an awesome musician, either on your own or part of a cool band, and you’ve decided to take a step forward in hiring a publicist to begin telling your story and generating media opportunities. This means you’ll probably have to start doing the thing that causes a lot of artists unnecessary anxiety – getting interviewed. Oh wait, you’re an established artist with a long history, a sizable fan base and the media already drools over you? This is gonna help you too.
As a veteran music publicist I’ve worked with many bands of all success levels and their interview skills often need at least a tweak or two. Allow me to share some tips and philosophies that will not only get you comfortable with interviews, but will make you way better at doing them and able to get the most out of every one.
KNOW YOUR HISTORY
Make sure you have all the basics in the front of your mind before you start doing interviews. Go all the way back to refresh yourself on when and why you started doing what you do, how you met your band mates, first songs you wrote, first gigs, etc. If you have trouble recalling the essentials you’ll be stumbling and you don’t want to end up sounding like a knucklehead.
When you become an established act, the ability to articulate your history will become even more important because journalists will be able to Google reams of information about you before an interview and can catch you off-guard with obscure questions.
Everyone knows being a performer is probably the most ego-based decision one can make, so be sure to keep the arrogance in check. Even if you think the questions are lightweight and tedious (which they often are) don’t give the interviewer that impression.
Keep your enthusiasm up and be respectful whether you’re big or small. The journalist often doesn’t need to be talking to you, so appreciate the opportunity even if you’re bored to death.
DON’T WASTE TIME
There was an acclaimed artist I once worked with who just couldn’t stop talking about comics and sci-fi. That made him awesome to hang out with, but he short-changed some interviews because of this. Several times I had writers ring me up to set up a second interview because they didn’t get all their questions answered the first time around.
You may feel like buddying-up and getting chatty with the journalist, but don’t distract from the agenda – they will end up with less to work with which can result in a watered-down story. The clock is ticking so limit the personal interest talk and stick to what you’re promoting.
Decide in advance the point you want to make and drive it home. The best example of this is a politician running for office. They give up only what they have to regardless of the question. Your mindset should be that the journalist is there for YOU to use, not vice-versa.
LESS IS MORE
Anything you say to a journalist can be used. Be as succinct and direct in your answers as possible. The more you digress and wander in your responses, the more information you offer and therefore the more likely it is that your quotes will be taken out of context.
NO BAD BLOOD
Have issues with former band mates? Other bands? Your manager? Your record company? Keep it to yourself. You may think you’re undermining the other guy but it almost always backfires, often making YOU look like the jerk, or worse…
One time I had an artist who used an entire interview with a national magazine to bad mouth the label. The writer called me up to tell me what happened and that the interview was unusable. The feature was lost. I told the A&R guy who then told the big boss, and later that day the artist was dropped.
Seek your justice behind the scenes or use your songs as the rage outlet. The media is for promoting your works, not your feuds.
Keep in mind that journalists are often intimidated by artists, particularly talented or successful ones. Be precise, but be yourself.
A journalist is not your friend, priest or therapist. They’re not there to validate you to other critics or the public at large. Don’t seek reassurance from them, don’t apologize for anything – this weakens you. Consider an interview the means to an end and nothing more.
Always remember that interviews are all about perception. The impression you give is more than likely the impression the journalist will take away, which is especially important as the journalist always has the last word. Decide your message and implement it.
And at the end of the day, don’t sweat your interviews. Someone is interested enough to want to talk to you about your music, so be proud. Have some fun, and don’t ever take anything in the resulting coverage personally.