Citizen Cope, Almost (Sara Swinson's First Big Rock Star Interview)
Sara Swinson
9/3/2005 9:21:51 PM

"I stopped giving interviews a long time ago"

[Ed.-- A journalist's first rock interview is a bit like a teenage first kiss: exciting, awkward and afterward, usually something to be embarrassed about. Join Sara Swinson as she relives the agony, just for you...]

Before the Show:
I google Citizen Cope. Then google again. I google into the wee hours of the afternoon. I'm inspired to go to Circuit City and buy a media bag. It has six compartments. I place my special pen in the first compartment and I position my special notebook in the third. I gingerly station my special tape recorder in the fourth compartment. It feels right. I twirl.

I seek affirmation from my stylist, Petra:

"What do you think of my media bag?"
"That's a cam-corder case," she says.

She's not a stylist. She's a therapist.

During the show:
I use my media bag as a hanging, writing table. I take copious notes. I rest my special notebook on the top of my special media bag/desk. Citizen Cope lead singer, Clarence Greenwood doesn't smile onstage. Suddenly, I'm inordinately nervous. I decide not to pursue an interview.

After the show:
I'm relieved. The thought of interviewing a man who never smiles onstage frightens me. I've never interviewed anyone before. I'm not Barbara Walters. Glad to be free. So thankful. I wander over to the t-shirt table with Petra. She wants to borrow money. I want to buy a satchel that says COPE on it. She wants to buy a t-shirt that reads COPE across it. I reach into my media bag for cash. Someone wedges in next to me. I want to wedge back. They are denting the sixth compartment of my media bag. I pop out my elbow for jabbing ...lead singer Clarence Greenwood.

The Almost Interview:
Clarence Greenwood smooshed the sixth compartment. And now he is just standing there ... next to me ... like destiny. I am ashamed and terrified. I feel like Jonah, like I'm guilty of running from God; guilty of attempting to escape my mission. I did not pursue the interview, but now the interview must happen. Because the interviewee has been providentially placed next to my elbow. It is a sign. I must fulfill my duty. I am a music journalist now. I must reach in my media bag and pull out my special notebook. I am a professional.

The Actual Interview:
"Hgmm, uh ... hgmm ... hi, I'm Sara Swinson of and I'm writing a review of your show, would you mind if I ask you just one question?"

"And what would that one question be?"

It is then that I realize I don't have one question. Or any question. My eyes enlarge. Frantically, I turn from his gaze and search the crowd for Petra. She's seven people away from me now. I gesticulate madly. She spots me. I lip-sync these words in desperation, while frenetically pointing to Clarence Greenwood, "W-h-a-t s-h-o-u-l-d I a-s-k h-i-m?" I point, to the point of completely over-pointing.

She signs back; her mouth opening and closing like a gasping goldfish, "A-s-k h-i-m h-o-w h-e l-i-k-e-d p-l-a-y-i-n-g S-t. L-o-u-i-s ?"

I turn my neck violently back around in the direction of Clarence's ear:

"How'd you like playing St. Louis?"


That's not enough. It is increasingly difficult for me to draw this man out of his shell. A lingering space of time evolves; endless hovering ensues. I panic quietly as fans continue to form lines and I continue shrinking while awkwardly wedging myself between Clarence and the clamoring masses. My media bag is suffering under the weight of the crush. The fifth compartment could be damaged at this point. Petra can't help me now. She's mysteriously 25 people away. I'm alone.

I remember something from my googling! Clarence Greenwood feels misunderstood; he said that I think; isn't that what he said to VH-1? I turn to speak; I will share my epiphanously profound question with him now. He will be moved and we will both smile knowingly, yet, sadly:

"Hgmm ... uh, yeah, I don't want to take time away from your fans but, anyway, what is the one thing you would want people to understand about your music?"

His eyes roll; he rolled his eyes at me. My heart sinks. More than all six of my compartments are crushed now. And then he turns his head away. He resumes signing autographs. Time elapses. A lot of it. Then out of nowhere, after long last he speaks:

"I stopped giving interviews a long time ago," he says.

"Oh really, you did? Oh, okay, well, great show ha, great show. Okay, excuse me. Excuse me. Oh, sorry excuse me." I push my way out from the smothering droves.

Later Petra counsels me:

"Look at it this way, at least he has good boundaries," she says.

Tell that to my cam-corder case.


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