An interview with Jameson Ketchum
Music journalist, publicist, and the host of The Godspeed Podcast, Jameson Ketchum has had an entire career dedicated to alternative music. In his new book, Name Dropping: Seeking Creative Truth Through Trendy Altruism and Punk Rock, he details everything from his time touring with Christian metal bands to Warped Tour and beyond. Stay tuned as we chat to him now about working with bands like Taking Back Sunday, being interviewed by MxPx’ Mike Herrera, and more.
Words: Renette van der merwe
Hey Jameson, welcome! Congrats on Name Dropping. What has the reception been like?
To be honest I’ve been completely overwhelmed! It hit number one in a few categories on Amazon within a several hours of its release and people seem to be really connecting to it. It was certainly a hope of mine that readers would not only be entertained by the stories but get something more encouraging and solid from the book. I hope that people feel that spark to get out and start that creative project they’ve been putting off. I really couldn’t ask for a better response so far.
Do you want to give us a quick tour of your credentials and how you ended up writing this book?
I’ve been a music journalist in one capacity or another since about 2008 when I started off creating an online publication to partner with a friend’s radio station. Since that was in a niche market, I wanted to try and branch out and freelance for some of my favorite publications like Substream and AMP Magazine. Thankfully those publications took a chance on me and I wrote as many reviews and interviews as I could over the next few years, building some great relationships with publicists who I still work with almost daily. I currently freelance from time to time for New Noise Magazine and Outburn as well as hosting my own podcast called Godspeed where I interview musicians, comics, authors, and other podcasters!
I didn’t set out to write a book. I think if I had that goal in mind early on I may have burned out quickly. Instead I set out to write down a few tour stories and share them with the friends who were there. I felt like I was starting to forget a lot of funny and important stories so I just wanted to get them down on paper. After a few months of writing nonstop and one story sparking another, I thought maybe I could find a way to connect them all and make this project something more than a few blog posts. The connection became this idea that music has way more of an impact on us than we recognize. It’s dictated where the last 20 or so years of my life have gone! I thought that was worth exploring through these stories.
Looking at social media, you’ve worked with some pretty big names. Is it still surreal that you get to work with musicians of that calibre?
That’s something I never want to take for granted or scoff at. Sure, the average guy on the street may not know who MxPx or Emery is, but for me those bands, and many more, have been incredibly influential and the fact that I’ve gotten to work with them, even in small capacities, means the world to me. People always make that joke “If you would have told 15 year old me…” Well, I love that! If you would have told 15 year old me that I’d get to sit across the table from pretty much every musician that I grew up obsessing over, I’d be pretty stoked. It’s unbelievable. Again, it’s not that these bands are The Beatles. The point is that these musicians are intertwined with very important parts of our lives. I love full circle moments so the fact that I can distinctly remember driving home from getting dumped for the first time, listening to Dashboard Confessional to sooth my teenage sorrows, then fast forward a decade and I’m staring Chris Carrabba in the face getting to ask him anything I want, that’s pretty amazing. I just want people to strive for those full circle moments, no matter how crazy or small they may seem.
Is there a moment – and we know there’s been a lot of big ones to choose from – that you can single out as one of the highlights of your career thus far?
A really big one would be sitting in MxPx’s Mike Herrera’s studio being interviewed by the man himself for The Mike Herrera Hour. Forget about full circle, this was the snake eating itself! I had interviewed Mike a handful of times by that point but this was him inviting me to talk about my work on his show. That still floors me. Looking back that may have been my peak! (haha) When I stop and think about it, really anything to do with MxPx was surreal, specifically because they were the first “cool” band I was ever completely consumed by. They felt untouchable. I would have never thought I would be able to interview the members over the phone let alone having their numbers pop up on my phone asking for favors. Plus I know that I’m far from the only person who cites MxPx as their first musical obsession. There’s a magic there that none of us can explain.
You mentioned that you hope this inspires a new generation of rock writers. Why do you feel it’s so important to continually preserve the rich history of this genre?
I just think it’s such a great dream. Everyone wants to know their heroes and they’ve become more accessible than ever. Bands, publicists, labels and managers all took a chance on me at some point and gave me another leg up the ladder. I see how hard it is. I see how many people want the job and how many are doing the work to get there. If I can be a small part of helping another writer further themselves, I’ll be happy. I won’t do this job forever so I try to think about how I can best pass along what I’ve already obtained. Like any scene or field, there’s a lot of rivalry, there’s a lot of bitterness and gatekeeping. I don’t want to be a part of that. I’ve been in rooms full of other media outlets and no one is talking, no one is connecting or networking. Competition makes a better product, yes, but we aren’t doing brain surgery here. Talk to people, ask about their outlet, how they got started etc. I’d rather be known as someone who helped out other writers and treated subjects and peers kindly than someone who cut throats to get ahead. I hope that mentality fades more and more. We all intensely love this music and want to represent these bands fairly and warmly. I just want that to apply to each other as well!
Why should people pick up their copy of Name Dropping?
You should pick up Name Dropping if you want a nice dose of nostalgia, embarrassing stories, and tips for moving forward in your creative endeavors. Overall, I hope the book encourages you and I hope you can see that really weird dreams can come true. If you don’t like all this mushy stuff then pick it up simply if you are a fan of: Taking Back Sunday, Anberlin, Emery, MxPx, August Burns Red, Silverstein, letlive or Taylor Swift.
What’s the first album you owned?
MxPx’s live album At The Show
The best album to drive to?
Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American
An album that never gets old
An album that reminds you of summer?
Jacks Mannequin Everything in Transit is in a perfect tie with Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue
Is there a record that has extreme sentimental value to you?
Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most absolutely changed EVERYTHING.
Settle the argument
Vinyl or Spotify?
I love both but vinyl will usually win. Vinyl makes listening to music so intentional and much more of an experience. Spotify is great of course but putting on a record reminds me of being a kid and pouring over the booklet, reading every lyric and credit and thank you. That’s the full experience!
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