by: Andrea Mulder-Slater
I was 21 years old and had just graduated from art school. Full of confidence, I stepped through the doors of a local entertainment newspaper, looking for an opportunity to write art exhibition reviews. The scruffy editor sitting behind the desk reeked of cigarette smoke and sarcasm. He thanked me for my interest, gave a quick sideways glance at the essays I had arranged on his desk, and informed me that he was in need of a CD reviewer… and a good stiff drink.
It wasn’t the first time I would see him hung over.
Though it was not what I was looking for, the promise of free music in exchange for a few words of criticism seemed like a pretty decent deal to me, so I told him I would give it a try and I left the office with a Gary Clail disc in my portfolio case.
It took some parental coaxing to convince me I could actually write about music, but once I got the hang of it, I was hooked. I listened, absorbed and summed up, in 100 words or less, the sounds captured on shiny round discs. Issue after issue I religiously picked up my assignments and delivered the goods and my efforts did not go unnoticed. Bands sent me thank you letters and singers sent me free tickets to their shows. It was exciting but… I wanted more.
I wanted to interview the musicians.
At first I started by calling up local independent artists. It was easy. They were in the phonebook. I had questions… they had answers, and by the end of each telephone conversation, I had enough material to put together half decent articles. By the time I made it to my first face-to-face interview, I knew what I had to do.
It was time for the next step.
After nearly a year of writing for the local entertainment newspaper, I took my published articles and reviews, placed them in envelopes and sent them off to national magazines, asking for a chance to freelance for full color periodicals.
Within the year, I was given the title of senior writer at a national Canadian monthly while my feature freelance pieces regularly appeared in several other glossy magazines. I was wined and dined by record company A&R people and I regularly sat in fancy hotel suites across from rock and pop stars including Alanis Morissette, Gavin Rossdale and the Barenaked Ladies. It was a special time. I owned a voice recorder, carried a briefcase, dressed exclusively in black and collected backstage passes like pennies. I was… a music journalist.
It was the lead vocalist of a lesser-known band, who introduced me to a darker side of the music business.
It was my second interview with the group, who were touring the country with a number one single wedged firmly at the top of the charts and groupies at every venue. The motel room location wasn’t glamorous but the band was traveling in its own luxury tour bus and their rider included colorful fizzy beverages, several comic books and large platters full of oranges, kiwi fruit and chocolate bars… so it felt pretty big time.
With the Q and A complete, I began to say my goodbyes, but it was the bassist, guitarist and drummer who coyly offered farewell gestures, as they exited the room, leaving me alone with the singer who headed into the bathroom.
“I’ll be right back - hang on one second, ” he said to me, “I have something I want to ask you.”
“Honey, it will always be too soon for me to see you in your underwear.”
With that, I headed for the door, careful to grab a few kiwi fruits on my way out. It seemed like a fair trade for the little piece of innocence I left behind.
Years later, I gave up the thrill of interviewing celebrities, finding many of them far to high-maintenance for my taste. More than a few of those I wrote stories about were wonderful and several have gone on to big things. But as for the nearly naked singer in the motel room… his 15 minutes are up.
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