August 19, 2019 | by Stephanie Powers
I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews
Q&A with Author Bill DeYoung
Journalist Bill DeYoung has built a successful lifelong career by asking people questions. In celebration of the release of his third book, I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews, he’ll be changing roles and answering them at The Studio@620 on Thursday, August 22.
DeYoung, a reporter and editor for 30 years, including 18-plus at the Gainesville Sun-will sit down with The Palladium’s Executive Director Paul Wilborn for a chat about his interviews of rock superstars – including Tom Petty, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris – that led to the birth of the publication. The night includes live music and readings from the book.
Creative Pinellas asked DeYoung a few questions ourselves, including what he thinks about Neil Finn – one of his favorite songwriters – being added to Fleetwood Mac.
- Any advice for any aspiring entertainment writers?
Write about what interests you. If you’re passionate about your subject, it will show. If you’re not, find another job. And never confuse your opinion with journalism. Sometimes that’s a fine line to walk.
- Paul Wilborn will be interviewing you live at The Studio@620 event. Do you have a prior relationship with Paul?
Although we first met maybe three years ago, we’re both local boys (him: Temple Terrace, me: St. Pete) and our careers followed relatively similar trajectories. He’s one of the funniest people I know, which counts for a lot. And like me he genuinely cares about the arts in the Tampa Bay community.
- Are you just as comfortable on the other side of the questions?
Not at all. This is my third book, and I’m still not used to it!
- What was the most surprising or weirdest thing you found out about any of your subjects?
I don’t know that anything weird came out of these. When you’re in my line of work, you interview dozens, maybe hundreds, of people each year. In local newspapers, and music magazines, that’s just what you do. You become the connection between your subject and your readers.
The ones in this book represent interviews that I thought were historically interesting and were reasonably detailed – and, in the case of Tom Petty, I think I had a unique perspective because he knew me as the guy from his hometown paper.
- Who was the nicest musician that you interviewed? Not so nice?
In this book? Well, ‘nice’ in journalism is usually interpreted as ‘forthcoming,’ so using that as criteria I’d have to say Merle Haggard. He was engaging, and hilarious, and extremely sincere. Not so nice? Dave Mason – remember, that interview was done 23 years ago – is still known today as a rather difficult person. He was then, too.
- What musician would you have loved to interview but never got the chance?
John Lennon. The Beatles have been very, very important to me, since I was a kid growing up in St. Petersburg.
- Do you ever have to interview a musician whose music you really dislike? How do you stay unbiased?
Oh, sure! Without naming names, of course. At a daily paper, along with massive amounts of local coverage, you did phone interviews with whoever was coming to town, to advance the show. In the ’80s, ’90s and beyond, there were lots of ‘flavors of the week’ pop singers whose music didn’t do anything for me – and more than a few old rockers, teen TV sensations and stuck-up actors. But you stayed objective because that was your job. Everyone was treated respectfully – they were just doing their job, too.
- I noticed that you did a piece on Crowded House years ago. A couple of people I know are Fleetwood Mac fans, and some others are Neil Finn fans. The Finn fans are not excited about his addition to FM. Do you have opinions on the matter?
Yeah, I did lots of pieces with Neil – one of my favorite songwriters – over the years, but I didn’t put any of them in the book. What do I think about the Fleetwood Mac thing? I think that booting Lindsey Buckingham was a petty and ridiculous move. It’s not FM anymore. As for Neil, I guess he can use the money. More power to him.