Hollie Daugherty’s love of music began at the age of eight. She was so moved by a friend’s recital performance of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” that she immediately went home and picked out the tune on the family organ. Floored by her ability to play the organ without lessons, her parents put her in classical piano lessons. She continued to build upon her musical talents and eventually went on to attend the University of Chattanooga to study journalism with a focus on music. She performed with the Chattanooga Singers, toured around the world and performed at the White House and respected concert halls and venues in Australia and England. While musical performance continued to fuel her passion, she realized that she had a unique penchant for using the written word to promote the music she adores. She currently writes for The Revue, a music magazine based in Canada.
How did you start writing for music magazines?
Hollie: Several years ago, a friend who was writing for Paste Magazine decided to start his own music magazine. That project never fully developed, so I looked for other outlets for my creativity and ran into a friend through who was a mutual fan of My Morning Jacket. He commented that I would be a good writer, not knowing that I studied journalism and invited me to write for him. A few days later I heard Planes on Paper on the radio and fell in love with their music. I decided that I wanted to interview them because I loved their sound. They seemed fairly new and obscure, and I wanted to put the on someone else’s radar. The thing that brings me the most joy is serving as the bridge between the artist and audience. If I can help a music fan discover a band that brings me joy, all of my synapses fire. It’s a beautiful thing. Planes on Paper recently performed with Josiah Johnson of the Head and the Heart at a Chattanooga House Shows concert, so everything has come full circle.
I currently write for a Canadian online magazine called The Revue, and we have about 7,000 followers on Facebook and readers all around the world. It’s a combination of writers and photographers.
Whose writing inspires you?
Hollie: In terms of music journalism, I really like Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield. If you ever get a chance, read his book, Love is a Mix Tape. It’s a sad and poignant tale of how he fell in love with his girlfriend and how they made mix tapes for each other, because that’s what you did in the 80’s. She sadly died, but he memorialized the experience through this book. It’s beautiful and funny and you make some great playlists from it because he mentions all of the bands that were important to them while they were dating. This is why playlists are significant; they cement the memories of a person or a time when you hear each song.
How have you built relationships with the artists you’ve interviewed?
Hollie: I have a weekly Wednesday column and a Saturday shared post with the editor, which reviews all of the albums and songs we’ve featured over the week. We cover a lot of premiers because record labels like to send us stuff that might not get attention anywhere else. We like to uncover music’s hidden gems. I normally keep in touch with labels, small boutique firms, and publicists who typically send me quality material. I try to encourage artists as I write about their stuff so that they feel the freedom to learn and grow, especially early in their careers. Sometimes those artists friend me on Facebook just so they can keep in touch. That’s a nice organic way of growing your network. I now have friends who are musicians in Scotland and all over the world because I’ve written about their band, even though I don’t personally know them. Sometimes, I meet bands online and end up becoming good friends with them in person.
In your opinion, what makes good content for readers?
Hollie: Exclusivity. When you’ve read something that 15 other places have published, it gets boring. You’ve seen actors on speaking circuits to advertise films that they’re in, right? They may have an inside joke that they share on the Today Show, that they’ll also share on the Tonight Show. You’re not getting anything fresh or new. In terms of music, you want to offer something that you’re not going to find at every other outlet. The trick as a music journalist is to find that fresh, new angle. It could be background info on a band, or something cool. There was a journalist in DC who went to interview a band before they performed at the 930 Club and instead of sitting down at the venue to chat, she had an Uber pick them up and take them to a pizza place where they could make their own pizzas. She videotaped that, which was cool because you got to learn things about the band that you couldn’t find out otherwise. That’s the kind of thing that will attract viewers or readers. You have to be engaging to your audience.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a music journalist?
Hollie: The most important thing any music writer needs to have is a solid base of music knowledge. It will never be complete, but you have to also be open to learning. Sometimes I’ll think I have a grasp on who I think a band sounds like but then talk to someone like Richard Winham from WUTC 88.1FM who remarks that the same band sounds exactly like some artist I’ve never heard of. When you hear a band like Future Elevators, for instance, you have to be able to identify the psychedelic, indie–pop feel of their music and know which other bands sound like that, past and present. Keep building on your musical knowledge so you can “speak the language,” and be able to convey the music as accurately and honestly as possible.