BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: The ebook version of How to Talk to Rockstars is finally available.
Find it on Amazon, check it out, download it, carry it around on your Kindle (or out-dated iPad, if you roll like I do).
To celebrate, I’m giving away TWO copies. To win, share your favorite concert memory in the comments field. The winner will be selected at random and announced here on Friday, Nov. 13, at noon. [Please note: If you win, you will need to provide your email address so I can send you the download code.]
How to Talk to Rockstars first chapter:
At the edge of the stage, in the limbo between darkness and spotlights, between anonymity and fame, Jude Archer knows two things: That he is a rare genius. And that he is a complete fraud.
Sometimes he turns these dual realizations over and over like a penny in his fingers. Sometimes he lets them alternately punish and soothe his soul, these words. One a barb and one a balm. The devil and the angel on his shoulders, but which is which?
Sometimes he lets the needles of knowing fill him with doubt, with hope. With fear, with excitement. And sometimes he just turns away from the knowing, tucks the coin away into a pocket for later.
Or for never.
Just off stage, Jude Archer is no one. It’s the moment of the day he hates most, those few seconds of not being. And then he hears his name.
For one night only —
And he’s already in the light, bathed in it, blinded by it. Soaking it in and becoming. Not just someone, but the one.
All eyes are on him, and he’s reflected back in their fevered glow. The one he’s become. But which one? The genius or the fraud?
Fame, fame. Remember my name.
The terrible truth, thinks Bryn, is that I can close my eyes and feel you in the air around me. Heat of your skin, scratch of your beard, even though I’ve never been in the same room as you.
She blinks back into the present moment, pushes her glasses up on her forehead and massages her eyelids. For the hundred and tenth time she reminds herself that these details of Jude Archer that come so easily to mind are simply the work of an active imagination. Hers. He’s no different from any other musician she’s interviewed. She knows his bio and his latest album, Fly By Night. She knows a few details — his friends call him Jim, he wears skull beads wrapped around his wrist, he has tattoos of his own design snaking up his arms and covering his chest.
Bryn does like to go into an interview with an arsenal of minutia. The tiny details make the person on the other end of the telephone seem more real, more whole. She needs a whole picture in order to move forward. In order to ask the questions.
Deep breath. Chase away the jitters, focus, find an inner calm. Then dial. The numbers click under her fingertips.
Sometimes the musicians call her. Or, if they’re famous, their publicists call.
This is Amanda from Public Record. Hold while I get Marianne Faithful on the line. That sort of thing.
It’s rare but not unheard of that Bryn calls in. Sometimes she’s given the number and pass code to a conference call service where the voices of the different band members blur together until Bryn’s ear learns who is who. What makes each voice unique.
But Jude Archer’s number is just that. His number. She has it. Ever since it was sent to her, she’s been careful not to look at it too closely. Sometimes the most benign things can burn. Now she opens the email, writes the number in black ink at the top of her notebook. Dials.
Not that anyone dials anymore. How long since she used a rotary phone, crossed time and space in the resounding clatter of the dial spinning back to zero?
Let it go. Focus.
The phone rings. Bryn breathes. Must be calm, otherwise there’s a chance of squeaking out a greeting. She doesn’t want to sound like a child. Relax, take time, speak slowly. This is Bryn Thompson with Mic Stand Magazine. Voice low and smooth, easy, warm.
He answers on the third ring, says, this is Jude. Sounds like he just woke up.
She says her name too quickly, adjusts her speed, asks if this is a convenient time for him to talk.
Yeah, it’s fine.
Bryn cradles the receiver against her ear, watching the recorder measure the highs and lows of his voice. On the bottom end, the recorder barely registers. The skin on the back of her arms goose pimples. How’s your day so far? she asks. What city are you in this morning? The throwaway questions. Usually she tries to breeze through those. Makes sure the equipment is working and gets to the interview. Small talk only prolongs the awkwardness.
But his voice. Hoarse at the bottom and airy at the top. For just a minute she lets herself sink into it. Like when she was fifteen, stretching the phone cord to the basement stairs so she could talk in urgent whispers in the chilly dark.
Back when the dial clattered back to zero.
Bryn’s coworkers are all at their desks, typing their own stories. She knows that they’re at least halfway listening. She always halfway listens to their interviews. Knowing this is what pulls her back into the muscle memory of professionalism. The questions are in front of her on a scrap of paper, jotted down and scratched out, numbered in order of importance. She does what she’s supposed to do.
Let’s start with the name of the album, she says. And so it begins.