Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Crutch Words

There are times that listening to yourself interview someone is as bad as (if not worse than) listening to yourself talk on an answering machine.

I have yet to meet anyone who is completely fine with his or her's voice. For whatever reason, there's something wrong with it and there's a level of embarrassment in hearing it. What's worse, though, is hearing yourself repeat words over and over again.

These are, in the words of a fellow reporter friend, called crutch words.

Over the weekend, I transcribed an interview I conducted for an upcoming Observer article. While listening to the twenty minutes of me talking to a musician known almost around the world, it's very obvious that I am a) nervous about talking to a musician I greatly admire, b) nervous about asking a stupid question, and c) nervous that this interview will not result in a decent article about a band I've liked for many years.

What do I say waaaaaayyyy too much? "Yeah," "I gotcha," and "I hear ya." Like clockwork, I say one or all of those words while trying to transition onto the next question.

Even after all these years of interviews, I still get nervous talking to musicians that I respect. More often than not, these interviews are my one shot at getting to talk to somebody and I usually don't have a lot of time to talk to them. As a result, I ask what I believe to be good questions that people (including myself) would like to know the answers to.

The worst interview I've ever conducted was with a pivotal figure featured in Post. If you've interviewed the guy, you know who I'm talking about: he'll cut you off at any time, he sounds like a grouch, and he's super intense about pretty much everything. That said, he gave me some of the best quotes in the book, and he was incredibly nice when I met him a few years after I interviewed him for the first time.

Maybe I'm just too cautious about this kind of stuff when it comes to abrupt and timed conversations. I can talk for hours with friends, and that's very easy to see when I interview someone I've known for years.

Later in the day that I interviewed this certain well-known musician, I interviewed two guys I've known for almost six years for another upcoming piece for the Observer. Instead of sitting at my desk at home on the phone, I sat across from them at my favorite bar, asking questions I've always to ask about, and the conversation flowed by incredibly well.

That said, chances are very good that I said "Cool," "I gotcha," "rightrightright," and "Yeah" over and over again. That's what happens when I'm a little too aware of people's availability and desire to talk about one topic.

I'm not so sure crutch words are a bad thing, but they sure can make you feel bad. I'm a human, not a Cylon, right?

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