Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Courtney Smith
Q:What do you want readers to take away from Record Collecting for Girls?
A: I want people to really think about what music they like, how they listen to it, and why. I would like them to end up feeling even closer to the music they love, and discovering things they had no idea they loved because something prompted a spark. After someone reads "Top Five Lists," I love to hear that they started making their own list—and that they want to send it to me, and talk about it!
I’d also like everyone to dig out their most embarrassing guilty pleasure (mine is the Pussycat Dolls, as you’ll soon find out) and tell me all about it. Q:
I’m not a girl. Is there anything here for me?
A: While there are a few "girly" things in this book, most of it is for anyone who likes to talk about music more than is socially acceptable. It happens to be told from a female perspective, but anyone who can stomach listening to a lady talk for 200+ pages (and in this day and age, I would hope that’s everyone) should find something that reminds them of an awful--or awesome--thing they’ve done, and the soundtrack that was playing when they did it.
Q: How did your background in the music industry affect your writing?
A: The first thing it did was give me lots and lots of crazy stories about musicians— some of which I couldn’t dream of retelling, because I would get in too much trouble. Early on, I learned that meeting your idols is almost always a bad idea. Except Elvis Costello who is, of course, charming and wonderful and generous and the greatest person ever.
The weekly debates at MTV over which videos to add to the lineup--I called it MTV Fight Club--heavily influenced the way I evaluate music, and gave me quite a lot of insight into how different musicians are marketed. It was always fun when the debates turned into passionate arguments and forced me to look at music analytically, as well as from the perspective of a fan.
Q: You seem to take music very personally. How did you decide what to include from your own personal life in your essays? Was there anything off-limits?
A: Look, after my friend Gina made me admit to liking the Pussycat Dolls, it was pretty clear nothing was off-limits. That, more than anything, is what I was embarrassed to write in the book, but it had to be said. "Guilty Pleasures" is all the better—and all the more absurd—for it.
In an early draft, "Rock and Roll Consorts" was based around a playlist from my relationship with a rock star, but I sounded so bitter and insane that I scrapped it before the book was even a proposal. There is no way I would ever tell anyone what was on that playlist; after writing it down, I realized it was much too personal. I’m sure there are people who wish I were as private about all my relationships, but those are the breaks!
Q:What's been the response from your friends and industry associates who've seen themselves in your essays?
A: My mom was annoyed that I implied she had mom-like taste in music in "Guilty Pleasures," but she understands it was done for comedic effect. For the record, she has very good and rather adventurous taste in music.
Most of the people in the book saw I wrote about them in advance, so there won’t be any big surprises. A few people corrected my memories of events, which I very much wanted them to do. Historical accuracy is important. Only one person asked me to make any changes—and rightly so—but on the whole, everyone was extremely indulgent and told me to write whatever I wanted. Even though a few friends told me it was weird, they still can’t wait to read the whole book, which I am taking as a good sign.
Q: Come on, now. What do you have against The Smiths?
A: Seriously. Think about your mindset when you listen to The Smiths. Do you not put them on when you’re depressed and self-indulgent? When you feel the world has done you wrong? When you feel unloved and sulky? I absolutely indulge in The Smiths now and then, when circumstances demand it. However, a totally-in-love superfan? No, I don’t want to date that. It’s just not my cup of tea. We can still be friends though. Possibly.
"Girl music nerds have been debating Beatles versus Stones and curating their collections for as long as male music snobs, but that perspective has been on low rotation; hail, hail, Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls,
a mix tape of female rock history, playlists for getting busy and coping with heartbreak, and essential info such as how to decode a dude’s CD collection (Yo La Tengo = romantically hapless; Leonard Cohen = asshole)." —Vanity Fair
"Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. Full volume." —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records "Record Collecting For Girls
is an invitation for all of you stereophiles, (who happen to be female), to make your own top five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book's fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever present boys' club of music snobs in your life." —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug
and This Is Not A Love Song
"Insightful and hilarious...Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history...This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme." —Publishers Weekly
"A melodious road map...There is much here that is both interesting and infomative." —Kirkus