I am pleased to announce THE DESKSIDE SERIES, where we will be featuring writers, editors and entrepreneurs to share their insight on how to build and sustain amazing brands/careers. First up is AllHipHop.com writer Shad Reed. Read below to find out what a day in the life of an entertainment writer is all about!
Where are you from?
I am from East Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of of the things in the entertainment world that it is most notable for is that American Pie is based on the high school there. And while EGR is home, I can’t not mention Nashville, Tennessee. I spent many years there too and you wouldn’t be interviewing me now if if weren’t for some of the amazing experiences that I had there.
What inspired you to write?
I would say the fact that writing was connected to so many things that I liked. Whether it was, among other things, film, television, comedy, or music, writing was something that was needed in all of those areas. Additionally, writing is obviously a very transferable skill beyond just entertainment. Even though I had a passion for the arts, once I combined that interest with the potential “real world” practicality of writing, I knew it was what I wanted to do. It allowed me to pursue my interests, but also gave me a useful skill set in case “the dream” didn’t come to fruition.
Describe a typical day for you.
Because I work another job and am going to school for my MBA, my days really do vary, so this is kind of a tricky question. Instead, and if it’s useful / okay, I’ll discuss my creative process. When I write, the process is never identical. I make a point of that so my writing doesn’t accidentally become something that comes across as if I’m just going through the motions. It would be a tremendous disservice to readers. And that’s the last thing I would want to do too. I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to write the way that I do; I want to make the most of these experiences so that I can help push something forward in one way or another. That being said though, with the exception of transcribing interviews, I always start long hand when I first begin a piece. And not to say that writing isn’t hard, it really can and should be sometimes and, just like anything, it’s something to work through to stay sharp in order to improve your craft. But I really try to not force something out; I feel like forcing creativity can be transparent and will make less of an impact than if something is created from the free flow of ideas.
How did you begin your career?
I would say I began my career when I took an internship at Billboard Magazine my Junior year of college down in Nashville. As a keepsake, every intern got to write a single song review. After I submitted mine, I was asked to do more. Once that happened, I definitely caught the writing equivalent of the acting bug.
What do you think about the music industry today?
I can’t be mad at it. In all honesty, it isn’t the music industry that I looked up to as a kid in the mid-90s to the mid-00’s, but change is inevitable and it’s something every industry deals with. With the Internet, social media, etc. playing the role that it does, I think, to some degree, it’s all uncharted waters. The music business will always be around; it’s just a matter of what business model to follow. And I salute everyone who is trying something new for the greater good of the industry - from Trent Reznor giving his music away for free to Jay Z and his Samsung deal to Beyonce dropping her album out of nowhere. It is all very exciting, and I’m both eager and curious to see what happens next.
What do you love about music?
From an artistic standpoint, I love the freedom that music provides. It’s a form of totally free expression that allows someone get their feelings out no matter what the occasion. Plus, the idea that you can affect someone’s life with a note or a lyric is really intriguing to me. Then, from a listener’s perspective, music, in my opinion, provides a way of communicating that is truly unique and can cross all barriers. And in a world that seemingly focuses on differences more than similarities, I think that music proves all people have way more in common than we are sometimes led to believe.
Who are some of your influences, both musical and literary?
Musically, some of the artists that have really influenced me are Nas, Tupac, Eminem, Scarface, Run-D.M.C., Ice Cube, and Jay Z. Hip-Hop speaks to me more than any other genre, but that’s not to say that other styles haven’t connected with me either. I’m a big fan of Ray LaMontagne. I listen to Aaliyah frequently; I think her music is incredible. I really like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And as far as literary figures that have made an impact, I’d have to say Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, comedian/author Patton Oswalt, and screenwriters (both of whom are also film directors) Quentin Tarantino, and Kevin Smith. I don’t want to forget the legendary George Carlin either, in addition to being a hilarious comedic icon, his intelligent and clever grasp of American culture and language was fascinating. His books and albums have definitely made me go, “Wow, this is amazing!” many times.
What's next in your career?
Hopefully, being able to continue to write and report about subjects that are of interest to me and to be able to make a living wage doing it. I really don’t know how far out there that still is (and it could be quite a way), but I do know I am closer to it than I ever have been. My friend and I are officially launching a documentary production company at the top of next year called Damson Dog Productions. Our aim is to bring the approach/stories of old shows like Behind the Music, Diary, etc. into today’s Internet generation and get people interested and investing in artists again, instead of just their latest song, movie, or product. I also have a book, Perfect Imperfections, that I’m working on and hope to finish by the end of this year.
What's the best part about being a freelancer?
In my opinion, I think the best thing about it is that you never know where it is going to take you or who you’re going to reach since you’re covering a variety of topics. I’ve honestly met some of my favorite people in the entertainment business whose work I really respect. And just to have them say that they like my stuff is an incredible feeling. But, and even more importantly, I get the opportunity to pay it forward to a very wide and diverse audience since I write about different subjects. Not to sound cheesy, but writing gave me hope at a time when certain things in my life were very uncertain. And so, if my words can in any way, shape, or form, give someone hope or improve his or her life for the better by picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard, I’m cool with that. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Any words of wisdom to impart on an aspiring writer?
The best advice that I can give, and this is just based on my experience, is to just write. Just write and get your thoughts out - even if they don’t entirely make sense. I remember Sean Connery’s character in Finding Forrester saying something like “You write your first draft with your heart and your second one with your head.” Even if no one reads it when it’s done, or even if you don’t make it to the second draft. I can all but guarantee you will learn something every time that put something down on paper. I believe that if you keep up with that, everything else can eventually fall into place... you’ll build confidence, develop a voice, find an audience, get writing opportunities, etc.