Five Tips to Giving A Good Interview
I’ve worked with a ton of musical acts — from many different levels of success — as a music publicist. In quite a few cases, I’d say the artists' interview skills could have used improving.
These interview tips will not only get you more comfortable, they'll help you better understand what it takes to give a good interview.
1) Know your band's history
Sounds simple, but make sure you have all the basics about your own career front of mind before you do an interview. Think all the way back to refresh yourself on why and when you started playing music, how you met your band mates, the first gigs you played, the first songs you wrote, etc. If you can't recall the essentials, you’ll be stumbling out of the gate – and you don’t want to end up sounding like a knucklehead.
As you become more established, the need to articulate your history will become even more important because music journalists will be able to search reams of information about you when preparing for your interview and can catch you off-guard with obscure questions about yourself and your band's history.
2) Keep your ego in check
Aside from being a politician, lots of people think being a performer is about the most ego-centric thing anyone can do, so work to keep the arrogance in check. Even if the questions are lightweight and tedious (which they very often are), don’t give the interviewer or his audience that impression. Be respectful and maintain your enthusiasm, whether you’re big or small. The journalist often doesn’t need to be talking to you, so appreciate the opportunity, even if you’ve said these same things a hundred times before.
3) Stay “on message”
Leading up to an interview, decide the points you want to make and drive them home. The journalist is there to help you get your message through, not vice-versa.
And try not to waste time just being chatty. There was an acclaimed artist I once worked with who just couldn’t stop talking about sci-fi and comics, which made him fun to hang out with, but he derailed interviews because of it. Numerous writers called to set up follow-up interviews because they didn’t get all their questions answered the first time around.
You may feel like buddying up with the journalist will help you come across as genuine and likable, but don’t upend your agenda – the interviewer will have less to work with, which can result in a light-weight story. The clock is ticking: stick to what you’re promoting and limit the personal interest tangents
4) Don't air your dirty laundry
If you have issues with your manager, other bands, former band mates, your record company, or anyone ... keep it to yourself. You may think you’re getting one up on the other guy, but it almost always backfires and makes YOU look like the jerk.
How bad can it be? I once had an artist use an interview with a national magazine to bad mouth his record label. The writer called me to tell me the interview was unusable and the feature was lost. I had to tell the A&R guy, who reported to the big boss, and later that day, the artist was dropped from the label.
Anything you say to a journalist can be used. Be as direct and forthright in your answers as possible. The more you digress and the more information you offer, the more likely your quotes can be taken out of context. Use your songs as the outlet for your rage and upset and use the media to promote your works — not your feuds.
5) Be confident
A journalist is not your therapist, friend, or priest. She is not there to validate you to the public at large or other critics. Don’t apologize, seek reassurance, or try to impress. Stay in control, take charge of the conversation, and remember that the interview is a means to a promotional end for you.
Remember, the journalist always has the last word, and the impression you give is likely the impression the journalist will take away. Decide your message, broadcast it, and most of all, don’t sweat the interview. If someone is interested enough to talk to you about your music, enjoy it, and don’t ever take anything in the resulting coverage personally.
Jason Consoli is a veteran music publicist with 20 years of record label and music marketing experience and currently runs his independent operation, Perpetual Media Relations. Artists he has worked with include LIGHTS, Depeche Mode, Guided By Voices, Bush, Mindless Self Indulgence, Gil Scott-Heron, The Polyphonic Spree, Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Echo & The Bunnymen, and many others. Reach out to him at PerpetualMR@gmail.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.