I met Rebecca on Twitter last year through mutual friend Carrie Clardy as well as a shared love of music. I started looking forward to the weekly offering on her blog page ‘Read between the lines’. I really like her style of writing and the friendly interaction she has with each singer and band she interviews on there.
I thought it would be interesting to interview the interviewer so asked if she was up for it. She said yes and asked if this was part of a featuring women thing. It wasn’t going to be but thinking about it later I realised I know quite a few strong and inspirational women connected with the music industry….so…this is the first in a series of interview with those women (you all know who you are!)
Tell me a bit about yourself and what your background is
I have always loved writing and loved music. Growing up, I liked to write poetry and short stories. Becoming a journalist was a natural career choice for me. Music was also always a big part of my life. My father is a big fan of American music, so I learned to love Elvis and the Beach Boys early. As I got into my teens, my cousin Randy, who lived next door and is only several months older than me, introduced me to The Doors, The Beatles and The Sex Pistols among others. As my interests grew, I started listening to the hair bands and alternative, including Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Cars and so many others.
After high school, I followed my journalistic nose to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a short drive from home, and majored in journalist and minored in communications, concentrating on photography. I interned at The Indiana Gazette and stayed — 28 years until this spring. In the 1990, I was able to interview and do concert reviews for major bands playing in Pittsburgh, our nearest major city.
My interest in music journalism was sparked by a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, Jane Scott. She wrote about every big band to pass through Cleveland, and it was her interviews of The Cars that helped seal my fate — I wanted to do what she did!
Thanks for that. My next Q was going to be “what song / album or artist first got you interested in indie bands from the UK” but you’ve kind of answered that above so tell what is it about them that makes you want to interview them in particular?
There we so many great English alternative artists in the 80s and working for the paper, I got to see any concert for free just for a review! My all-time favourite UK band will always be Depeche Mode. There is something about Martin’s song writing and Dave’s delivery that just gets me every time. I don’t see them as a dark or goth band at all, but very romantic. Thank goodness they are working on a new album right now!
What really got me into the new indie scene was my foray into Twitter last summer. I haven’t been writing music reviews for a while at the paper — times had changed, but my interest was again sparked when I offered to help a young Canadian musician (Ryan Kelly) get noticed by interviewing him. He in turn gave me the idea to start the blog … Then I turned my attention to other bands …the first being Foreign Affairs NI. At first, I just wanted to get them noticed … then it snowballed and I’m still trying to help them build, but I’m also discovering so many more bands throughout the UK that I want to help too.
So how do you find the bands you interview?
That’s the funny part — sometimes I happen upon a song on my own or a recommendation from a friend, or they follow me and I listen … but more and more they’re coming to me! They’ve seen what I do and want featured too.
What’s the music scene like in the US and why don’t you interview bands / singers from there too?
My ear is drawn to the other side of the pond, primarily. There’s something different coming from the UK that is not like the US. I have found so far several bands from here that I plan to feature, but the English bands are the ones tugging at my ear right now. So many big festivals going on over there right now that focus on indie bands — most big festivals here are littered with charting mainstream acts. That just doesn’t do anything for me. I love the gritty raw energy and intensity the indie bands are filled with.
That’s fair enough, sounds like a visit over here for next year’s festivals should be on the cards! So how do you balance everyday life with the interviews and social media stuff?
I would love to make it over there for some festivals. I’m making so many great friends, it should not be a problem! I stick to a once a week post for my blog to keep it fresh and not overwhelming. Several weeks ago I had 4 interviews planned for one week to get ahead. One ended up needing rescheduled, but they were all so different and fun. I’m spending this summer at home with my 7-year-old son, Shane, something I’ve not done since high school! I am also currently doing online training for a new job at a women’s shelter, which will be quite new and different for me. The social media aspects fill in the remainder of my day. I’m tired at day’s end!
Busy woman but it sounds like you wouldn’t have it any other way. Being a bit of a FB & Twitter guru what would you say is the biggest mistake artists make on social media?
Yes, I am always multitasking! I think a lot of the artists don’t spend enough time engaging their followers, be it on Twitter, Facebook or wherever … They need to post more, get into conversations with fans, treat them as friends. The best thing about social media is the immediacy of it. Back in the day, I had to jump through so many hoops to get interviews scheduled and today it’s as easy as sending a tweet to ask.
Also, the artists need to avoid the trap of the accounts offering to sell them followers and follow backs for follows. These accounts will cause too much trouble. Best to grow their fan base by using elbow grease and interactions.
I couldn’t agree more about them interacting as much as possible with fans to grow a real fan base! Ok I’m going to put you on the spot now….you can come to the UK for one night only to attend a gig of a band / singer you’ve interviewed, who would you choose?
Tricky question — if its Ireland, its Foreign Affairs NI hands down … I love those lads’ music with a passion! They are brothers from other mothers. If we are talking England, I’m demanding a triple bill of The Barmines, Brightlight City and The Dangerhounds. Each is so unique, but filled with dynamic energy and stadium- quality tunes. That would be quite the party!
Good choices, not really picking just one…but I’ll let you off! 😉 Congratulations on your recent award, what is the award and what’s it for?
I was recently named co-winner of 2016 The Teen Clash/Punk DIY Indie Media Award by Kathy DiTondo, co-author along with Keith Levene of the book “I Was a Teen Guitarist 4 The Clash.” She contacted me in June about interviewing a young New Jersey band, Sugar Rush Rocks, who were to play a special show to mark the 40th anniversary of punk. I did, and soon after she came up with the idea to plan more shows and then she asked if I would mind being nominated for an award for my blog, Read Between the Lines. I was quite flattered.
Fantastic to be co-winner and get some recognition for your hard work! You’ve started a promo Co. in the last few months, what big plans do you have for that over the next 12 months?
Thank you! I am still working to get it off the ground, but in a few months I hope to open a website that I can invite artists to visit and where I will be able to help them write the bios they need to be noticed, any kind of press releases and even social media help. If they can think of it, I will find a way to do it. In the meantime, I’m building media contacts, befriending promoters and anyone who may be able to help me link artists with what they need. I would love to do that full time at some point. Even artist management might not be out of the question — I have a great ear as a talent scout and I’m learning there is not much I can’t do!
Sounds like some big plans and I’m pretty sure you’ll pull all of them off sooner rather than later!
Ha-ha, you never know. I could not tell you a year ago I would be where I am right now
I believe in fate and what’s for you won’t go by you! 👍 I’ve no more questions but is there anything else you’d like to add or tell us?
I just want to say thanks for talking to me (can’t wait to read it — this is a first for me!) and I hope I can continue for a long time to be able to give deserving indie bands publicity that they need to be noticed by the world — its closer than you think these days! 🙂 Thanks, Caroline!