I had the honor of interviewing Rob of Digital Portastud fame,and while I didn't do a very good job of coming up with questions, he did a great job of answering.
I have specific reasons for blogging, mostly to let friends and family keep in touch with what I'm up to. Why do you blog? I started blogging in 2001, right around the time of the 9/11 attacks. I was working the night shift at a data center, and I had plenty of time on my hands and access to a T1 connection. Plus, blogging was pretty new at the time, so everyone and their mother didn't have a blog yet.
You recently moved from Los Angeles to North Carolina, is that right? What prompted the move? I worked at the data center for seven years, and hated the job for the last six of them. In 2002, I was pretty sure we would go out of business or that I would get laid off (neither of which happened), so I started taking the initial classes toward my elementary teaching certification. I had to take one class at a time after work, so it took almost five years 'til I was eligible for my license.
Finally, after the final ten weeks of student teaching during the day and working my crap job at night, I was more than ready for a career change. I was subbing in LA but not finding anything permanent when a teaching job came up in North Carolina. Los Angeles is overflowing with teachers, but North Carolina is always running short of them. Plus my rent is 1/3 of what we were paying last year for a smaller place in Burbank!
How big of a culture shock are you experiencing? I remember when I moved to North Carolina, I felt like I'd moved to Mars. Once you get used to the fact that we pray to Jesus before every PTA meeting and that kids still get the paddle here, it isn't so bad! I kind of enjoy how different things are from LA, but my wife hates it. We live in a real small town, so we'll probably move closer to a bigger city this summer.
Your profile also says that your location is 'Afghanistan'. What's up with that? Wishful thinking, I guess!
How long have you been writing your own songs? The first song I wrote was about going to the dentist. That was around 1979 or so! I got more serious about it when I got my first 4-track cassette recorder in college, and have had a love/hate relationship with songwriting ever since. I gave it up for a while, but have been feeling real creative since I moved to NC for some reason, and have been knocking out about a song a week for the last couple months. I am hoping to have enough stuff together for a CD release by the summer.
Do you play all of the instruments? I am fairly resourceful and have been using pretty much everything I can find around the house for my latest recordings. This includes, guitar, bass, mandolin, autoharp, and even a cardboard shoe box with a t-shirt draped over it for drums! I don't have a drum machine anymore, so I have been stealing stuff off the 'net and looping it for the rhythm patterns. But, yeah, everything else is me, which unfortunately includes the singing.
Who are your biggest musical influences? Anything from Buddy Holly to Bloc Party. Lots of '80s singer-songwriter guys like Lloyd Cole, Marshall Crenshaw and Tommy Keene for starters. Plus some more obscure '70s bands like Patto, Big Star and City Boy. I am also pretty fond of Paul Simon, Bob Marley, and Stevie Wonder.
I've got a huge music collection, and currently have over 13,000 songs on my iTunes playlist! However, I think this is a real detriment to my songwriting overall. Most good writers I am aware of have a few very specific influences as a jumping-off point. In my case, I think I listen to entirely too much of other peoples' music. I think it just ends up diluting the impact of my own writing...
Are you hoping to become a famous recording artist, or is it more just a personal creative outlet? At 41, I think that boat has already sailed (and sunk) . I just get a kick out of writing, and have been fooling around with tape recorders ever since I was a kid. I just love being able to record complete songs in my attic, and come up with different guitar sounds and bass parts etc. 'til I stumble upon something unexpected.
I have really been trying to work on my vocals this year, which has always been a sore spot for me. I can sing in tune more or less, but don't think I have a very appealing-sounding voice. I have been writing much better melodies lately, but the fact that I am the only singer in the house that I know is sort of a limiting factor on my demos.
So, you have four different blogs and seem to post to all of them but the music one sporadically, why not combine all of them into one? I usually blog for a specific purpose, and then get bored and move on to something else. I ran an Onion-type fake news blog for a while, then a more personal blog about teaching and job hunting, a blog related to a vintage guitar website I started, and then finally this year I am documenting my songwriting progress on another blog. I guess I just keep starting them up mainly 'cause it doesn't cost anything extra on blogger to do so!
Meanwhile, after trying to convince my wife for years that she should also blog, she started one last year on a whim. Of course, it has become wildly popular, and she has nearly 300 readers a day, which is about 10 times the traffic of all my blogs combined! I stopped suggesting things to her after that.
Which one of the four is the most popular with readers? They are all equally unknown. I'm lucky to even get comment spam these days! Any don't get me started of the 32 comments my wife got on her last post!
Have you made any 'friends' whom you've never met in person through your blog? Not so much through blogging, but I have reconnected with old classmates etc. by running a "vanity" site for the last seven years. I am pretty good at tracking people down, but instead of making them look at my four blogs, I just usually send out a mass e-mail to check in with people from time to time.
Is blogging essential to your daily life, or is it just sort of a fun hobby? After 10 years plus online, the romance has kind of worn off for me. I am good at starting things, but then get bored quickly. Once in a while I am inspired to write something, but it takes talent and discipline to sit in front of the computer and write every day. After spending six hours each day trying to save the youth of America, I am usually pretty spent.
Thanks go out to Rob for playing along and to Citizen of the Month for the fantastic experiment. It was a great introduction to an interesting blog and a great way of meeting someone new. Hopefully, this newfound experience will help me make small talk in other situations: parties, the gym, networking events, the men's room, what have you.