I'm not terribly good at or wild about writing about me. So, what I am doing here is pasting the text of an interview meme Alison Kerr conducted with me in August 2007. She asked some really good questions that I hope elicited some really good information. If you have any questions, e-mail me, and I'll answer it here.
1) You're a columnist at the Lexington Herald-Leader. What's your favorite part of the job?
The places I go and the people I meet. Before Lexington, I was an editor at the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald, and I liked that job -- LOVED being in R.E.M.'s hometown. But I really missed getting to go out and have the experiences, do the interviews and write the stories. So now, I've been back on the beat for nine years and have no desire to go back to desk work.
Ali, you'd appreciate this: My favorite day on the job was in 1999 when I got to take Marvin Smith to the Speed Museum in Louisville to see the retrospective of photos he and his brother Morgan took documenting the Harlem Renaissance. Contemplating this blows me away: They grew up in Nicholasville and Lexington, experiencing the same racism all black people in the early 20th Century endured. They moved away, did important work, and half a century later, they were being celebrated at the premier museum in their home state. The great thing about this job is being privy to moments like that. If you do not have the University Press of Kentucky's book of their photos, Harlem: The Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith, I highly recommend it.
2) What do you love most about Lexington?
There are a lot of towns and areas this size. Few have the international calling cards of the Bluegrass: the horses, the natural beauty, UK, the spirits. Anywhere I go in the country, people have some point of identity with the Bluegrass, which reaffirms we are living somewhere special. That, and anytime I start heading out of town, say toward Paris, I am restruck with just how gorgeous this place is.
Also, I grew up in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Va. area, a metro area roughly the size of Atlanta, and married a small town girl. Lexington is sort of a perfect middle ground for us, not too little for me or too big for her. I came her nearly 10 years ago thinking this would be a three-to-five year gig. Coming up on a decade, I have no desire to leave.
3) Part of your beat is faith-based pop culture, such as new music releases and the Ichthus Festival. How does your own faith affect said columns?
I think it effects those stories and columns the same way, say, a political writer's interest in politics impacts his or her work, the way a sports writer applies love of the game to his or her writing. It's indicative of a healthy interest, but the stories and columns are about the subjects we are covering, not us and not our opinions.
The intersection of faith and popular culture fascinates me to no end, and that drives a lot of what I write, as well as a love for the music. I grew listening to contemporary Christian music and have been fascinated to watch it grow. Some aspects of the growth have been good, some bad. It's interesting to learn and write about new trends and issues like, why numerous well-known Christian market musicians are opting for distribution-only deals rather than submit to creative control of a label.
Most contemporary Christian music operates on pretty basic tenets of Christian faith, so it's not like my own faith comes into conflict with much of what I hear. There are occasions I don't agree with what I hear, but I really wouldn't call out lyrical content unless someone was promoting a heinous act in the name of Christ. I am a social justice Christian who believes that one of the most basic aspects of Jesus Christ's ministry was reaching out to the poor and the outcast. So in my own listening, I may gravitate to acts like Jars of Clay or Derek Webb, who have particularly strong social justice messages. But basically, I am writing about music that really interests me, probably because of my faith, but that's not what the stories are about.
4) Reese Witherspoon or Laura Bell Bundy?
Ali, are you trying to get me in trouble? I'm going to declare apples and oranges here. Reese is a fine film actor and Laura Bell is a superb musical theater and comedic actor, with potential for a tremendous stage and screen career. And did we mention her recording career? I did not fully appreciate Laura's talent until I saw Legally Blonde on Broadway. Anyone who doubts her chops needs to see that show, and hopefully she'll soon be cast in a film or TV show where folks everywhere will see her full range.
I like Reese, but have to confess I am not as sold as seemingly the rest of the free world. When the Blonde musical opened, some New York theater scribes were speaking of Reese like she was Kate Hepburn or something. I don't see it.
5) You were "[r]aised by opera-loving parents in a rock 'n' roll world." If you could be any rock star, who would you be?
As a child of the 1980s, I certainly admire guys who could command a crowd like R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and U2's Bono. Bono, in particular, has used his fame in amazing ways to help people far, far less fortunate than him. But I cannot see myself as either of those guys -- far more expressive and charismatic than I.
The guys I tend to look at and say, "I could see me up there," are lower-key gents, like Neil Finn of Crowded House or Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze. Not only would I love to have their onstage personas, but I'd love to have their songwriting talent. I write for a living, but couldn't write a song to save my life. I've tried. It must be amazing to have penned Black Coffee in Bed, Better Be Home Soon, or one of those gems. Anyone got the guitar chords for those? I would also mention Bryan Ferry, but none of us will ever be as smooth and stylish as Bryan Ferry.
Hobbies: guitar. Interests: too many to mention. Authors: J.D. Salinger, Gay Talese, Lewis Grizzard, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, to name a few. Movies: Star Wars (1977) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Music: Talking Heads, Paul Simon, Jars of Clay, Aaron Copland, Kronos Quartet and Bryan Ferry, to name far too few. Sports: Baseball. Though I think it's illegal in the State of New York, I'm a Yankees and Mets fan, Yankees first.