How I Got That Story: Tracy Moore and Matt Sullivan

The 2008 AltWeekly Award winners for Blog talk about their work.

Tracy Moore and Matt Sullivan wanted to make Nashville Cream a paean to what a great scene Nashville is for rock music. “There’s a misconception that Tennessee only covers country and honky tonk,” Moore says, “So when I took over [the site], I really made the rock scene my thing.”

Their winning entries — Moore’s “How I Became the (Cherry) Bomb” and Sullivan’s “What’s in a Name” — demonstrate that the two have developed a knack for the short but insightful blog form.

Many people keep saying that blogs are the future of media. Do you believe this to be true, Tracy?

Moore: They’re definitely a critical part of the future of media. It would be naïve to dismiss the potential blogs have already shown for being a credible and insightful medium and resource, but the majority of blogs aren’t producing content that’s reported first-hand. They’re merely a response to the reporting of traditional media. That’s not to discount the importance of those voices, but only to show that the relationship of bloggers to traditional media is one of dependence, and increasingly one of interdependence. This is perhaps more true in news and political blogging than in music and film blogging, though, where an educated and talented writer can produce significant cultural criticism without relying on traditional media at all.

What about you, Matt? You’ve said on one occasion that you kind of fell into writing about music. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Sullivan: My relationship with the Nashville Scene originated mostly from a MySpace blog, which is a little embarrassing to admit. There was a rival local paper once upon a time called the Nashville Rage — now it’s called All the Rage. Right after I graduated college about four years ago, I was asked to be interviewed for part of some piece the Rage was calling the college survival guide. The questions were pretty generic and uninteresting, so my answers weren’t very serious. I was told that my interview was unusable, so I posted it on MySpace. Tracy stumbled upon it and thought it was funny. She knew I went to a lot of local shows, so she asked me if I wanted to review some things. I kept doing it because I don’t really possess any skill sets required for any meaningful employment.

How did you come to write about bands with terrible names for your award-winning blog entry, “What’s in a Name?”

Sullivan: It started as a conversation I had with a friend. We were just listing off all the bad band names around town. That blog entry doesn’t even skim the surface. I should probably do a few more installments. I used to keep a running list of them.

What’s the name of your current band?

Sullivan: I’m usually in a bunch of them. One’s called German Castro. It’s just me and another guy, but he’s living in Washington State at the moment, so we aren’t all that active. I tour a lot with the Protomen, and I have a couple of new bands in the works. One’s called Wes and the Illegals; the other is called Moonblood. I crave a lot of attention.

Last question. Tracy, this one is for you. Do you feel a music critic must be well-versed in reading music and playing an instrument?

Moore: Not anymore than saying that a good film critic has to be able to create a cinematic masterpiece or that a good food critic has to be able to prepare a four-star meal. Good music critics are good listeners who have a deep knowledge and understanding of their subject matter — and an opinion. You don’t have to be able to play it [to] say it. Robert Christgau wasn’t in a band; Sasha Frere-Jones is. At the end of the day, it’s just an opinion, but ideally, it’s an informed one.

Read the blog entries that garnered Moore and Sullivan (and Chris Slack) a first-place finish in Blog (circulation under 55,000):
What’s in a Name?
I Saw You Doing Something Somewhere Around Here and You are Kinda Famous
How I Became the (Cherry) Bomb

Part of the 2008 “How I Got That Story” series, in which Academy for Alternative Journalism fellows reveal the processes of the writers and editors who won first-place AltWeekly Awards. These interviews also appear in Best AltWeekly Writing and Design 2008.

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