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How to Interview Musicians

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    Interviewing James Gurley, 1978.

    The best description I’ve heard of what it takes to be an excellent interviewer of musicians came from Ry Cooder. We’d been talking about his performing with celebrated players from around the world. “What’s the attitude you approach them with?” I asked. “Like you go to a master when you want to learn or be in their presence,” Cooder responded. “The thing is to empty yourself. If you’re truly committed in a real way, you come across as a receptacle of some kind, a vessel to be filled up. You’re not saying, ‘Look at what I got. Let’s see what you got’ – God forbid! You come and just say, ‘Imprint me with something.’ And if you love the thing, are with and for your practice and your ears are open, then the person knows that immediately, because musicians like that have seen everything and they know who’s what. There’s no faking at that level. You can always tell in a microsecond who’s got the vibe and who doesn’t. I always have found that people are quite happy to meet you in that spirit. And it’s a great process that goes on.” In my experience, this same quality holds true for interviewing performers. If you’re genuinely interested in learning and you come across as selfless, most people open their hearts to you. Continue reading

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