Rock Star Lessons: 15 Ways to Not Suck at Doing Interviews

I did a lot of press recently for a big event I run called the Ottawa Rock Lottery.  We make national press attention every year and as someone who has been a journalist on the other side for the last 11 years we’ve seen our fair share of artists shoot themselves in the foot in the interview process by being too candid, unprepared or just drunk.  With YouRockRed we offer training on how to do interviews and handle yourself in public but this week’s blog post is going to deal with how to present yourself and promote whatever you are selling without sounding like an idiot.

  1. Select a band member who does the strongest press and has the best handle on how to represent you. It’s rare that media wants to interview more than 1 person.  This person is then responsible for representing all members so make sure you’re all on the same page on what is and is NOT on the docket for sharing.
  2. Have a working cell phone and email. If you’re late, call, text, send a pigeon. Better yet, arrive 15 minutes early or be by your phone 10 minutes early just in case there’s difficulty with reaching you because of international calls, busy signals or another interview going late. Don’t be afraid of messaging your manager if the interview goes late. Test your Skype signal to make sure it works in advance.
  3. Don’t assume they are calling you. Always re-confirm the day of (or have your manager do so) as a friendly reminder.  It can be as simple as, “We’re excited to talk to you about our new album at 3:30 EST today! You’re calling us, right?”
  4. Make a note of time zones and if you’re traveling across Canada or Europe, always write EST, PST, etc.
  5. Know that most interviewers have 15-20 minutes for the average profile. Morning television 5 minutes and evening you’ll be lucky to get a full minute.  You have to work within THEIR limits.  Even if you’re bored to tears on the bus and want to chat, they need to write up or audio edit as soon as they get off the phone with you. Your answers need to be concise and to the point.  Don’t be a broken record but repeat the main important points of what you’re trying to promote in a personable way.
  6. Know who’s interviewing you and be polite.  If you’re at a college radio station they’re probably going to be a lot greener to doing interviews but that much more enthusiastic about having an artist actually in studio. Be grateful.
  7. Bring free stuff or at least offer to put the interviewer on the guest list (with permission of the promoter of course).
  8. Before you get a publicist know your band identity.  Know what your band biography says and be ready to repeat it word for word.
  9. Be confident about your answers. Don’t fumble and say uh, er, ah, like or “you know.” No, we don’t know. You need to tell us what you mean specifically. Chances are being in a band is what occupies most of your thoughts and dreams.  Be declarative but not cocky.
  10. Study your press release. If you have a publicist they’ve worked really closely with your management team or yourself to come up with how you are to be represented. Sometimes all journalists can read is that short 400 bio with a clip of your music.
  11. Don’t be offended if the interviewer isn’t familiar with your entire back catalog. If you’re an emerging artist, you should be stoked that they have haunted your Youtube page long enough to be familiar with your two strongest songs.
  12. Don’t talk in clichés. Simple idea but you don’t want to know how many times I’ve had to fast-forward over artists saying “how difficult it is to make it, make music, survive,”; we’re interviewing you. We’re interested. Tell us why you’re different from all the shitty bands doing all that.
  13. Arrive sober and ready to share your story be it about your new album or current tour. Don’t focus on downers like your van breaking down, talk about how stoked you are to play the local club. Try to arrange your interviews BEFORE you play to avoid any substance/adrenaline mishaps.
  14. Know where you’re playing, what city you’re in, and walk around a bit before you arrive at the interview.  Local people love it when you name drop a great burger joint. Stuart McLean of Vinyl Café does this every week on CBC and it thrills audiences to no ends.
  15. At the end of the interview say thank you and mean it. Rock star attitude only goes so far in mainsteam media.

Don’t do this.