Marcel Foley lives in Santa Cruz, California. He is 14 years old, homeschooled, and makes cool ambient music. He also has his own music blog, Marcel’s Music Journal. He uses this blog as a forum to post album, concert, and festival reviews as well as music news articles and interviews. I learned about Marcel when I saw his interview with Ty Segall on Youtube, which led me down a rabbit hole to all his other work. Marcel has interviewed a diverse array of artists including GZA, James Williamson, and Adam Green. I was very impressed and also fairly jealous that somebody so young had managed to talk to so many of my favorite artists. I decided to get in touch with him to ask him about his work.
J: To start things off, could you tell me a little bit about what led to you deciding to make your own music blog?
M: Well I’ve always been one for writing, it’s always been a big passion of mine. I’ve also always loved music so I figured I might as well put them together and express my thoughts and opinions on music and talk to other people about it as well. The blog has been really cool because I love writing, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Even when I’m not writing for the blog I do it because it’s just great exercise for me. I kind of bounced around for a while with different hobbies and things I might want to do and nothing really lasted, but once I finally discovered music and writing I realized that this was what I wanted to do in the long run, its sort of my passion.
J: When you first started the blog you weren’t doing interviews yet, how did you start the blog and how did it grow?
M: It was just a sort of small project at first, I was writing really short reviews and just writing some little insights on new releases. I don’t think it really took off until I really started publishing regular reviews and planning to do interviews. I can’t really remember what gave me the inspiration to start interviewing people but I guess since I was already involved with music it felt like a natural progression. The first in-person interview I did was with William Tyler; after doing the interview with him as well as the one with Ty Segall on the same day I felt like it was the kind of thing that I could do regularly.
J: Are there any specific music journalists that you look up to or want to emulate in any way?
M: I watch a lot of videos by Anthony Fantano of the Needle Drop, he’s very cool and has been instrumental in helping me grow as a music journalist. We talk regularly and he’s mentored me and given me all sorts of tips on both music criticism and conducting interviews, all of which I’m very grateful for. Another person who has given me some thought on interviewing is Nardwuar, really thorough research, I don’t think I would have done the research I do for these interviews if it weren’t for him. He taught me its important to know what I’m going to be asking the musicians.
J: How do you get in touch with the people you conduct interviews with? I mean the GZA and James Williamson are some pretty big names, do you just reach out to them and ask if they’d be down to do an interview?
M: Yeah actually that’s exactly what I do. I’ve only had to reach out to their press a handful of times. Sometimes I’ll contact them directly through email or phone, and other times I’ll just walk up to them at the venue before the show and most of the time say yes. It’s pretty much worked out that way with me for all of my interviews.
J: How was the first interview you ever conducted?
M: Well looking back on my very first interview, it seems kind of strange. I like watching it because it brings back a memory, but one year later it feels weird seeing how awkward I held myself back then.
J: Is there anybody you’ve interviewed that you’ve been particularly excited or nervous about? How do you get over anxiety when you have to interview a big name?
M: I just kinda try to work by the mantra that I’m just talking to a regular person. Which i really am, I don’t believe that famous musicians are really all that different from regular people. They all were regular people before they became famous, and it’s not too different after that as well. I try to get into that mindset and calm myself down before. I’ve never been too nervous during any interview really, but I did freak out a little bit before my interview with James Williamson. The most anxiety I’ve ever had before an interview is a recent one that I did with Sonny Rollins over the phone. I got over it fairly quickly though, he was telling me these different stories from when he was growing up. It was pretty amazing.
J: Is it interesting for you to get that kind of insight into people’s personal lives that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
M: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s always fascinating because when I’m listening to music a lot of the time I find myself wanting to know more about the artist. It’s amazing to find out what inspired a certain song or learn something about their personal life. It’s always a great experience and I’m honored to be granted that sort of information.
J: I know that your age has nothing to do with the reason that you went into music journalism, but do you think that your age ever affects the dynamic of the interviews you conduct?
M: I’m not really sure to be honest. I’ve been told before by certain people things like, “oh I’m very impressed by your age.” I don’t really know if it affects the interview because I don’t have a clear perspective of that kind of thing. It makes sense that they’d be thinking about my age though.
J: What is your opinion on the state of music media the way it is right now?
M: I feel like the constantly growing indie community has impacted modern music media quite a bit. The culture has changed so much from the way it was a decade ago.
J: Does the internet have a lot to do with that?
M: Oh definitely. The internet plays a huge role! It changes everybody’s perspective of music writing and music journalism because we have this whole new way of listening to music. Not to mention it is much easier to contact people for music media.
J: Last question, what advice would you have for young people who are looking to get into music journalism?
M: If you have a strong passion for music that’s great! I’d absolutely recommend getting into music journalism and writing, its a great way to express your love for music and your knowledge of it. I think that there should be a lot more younger journalists who have a passion for music, but they don’t feel like they want to because they’re afraid of being shunned because of their age. But its such a great thing to do! If you have a passion for music then I would just say to let your mind flow and let your love for music carry your writing. That’s the best thing you could do for your blog or website or zine or whatever, just let your passion flow and it will turn out great things no matter what you’re doing.
Illustration by Ellen.