“How long does a radio story take?” people sometimes ask me. Answer: Like a gas, it expands to fill the space available. With a firm deadline and some luck, it takes a few days to turn a story around. Other stories somehow manage to spread out over weeks or months, and some never get finished at all.
Last winter I started following the fabulous Elle Macho around on their “Popular Music Tour”…of Nashville. Years from now, only a few of us will be able to saw we saw Elle Macho at Loudhouse Coffee in Greenbrier, TN. (They opened for the inimitable Rowena of the Glen. Let’s just say, in the Venn diagram, the circle of Rowena’s followers never intersects with the Elle Macho fan circle.)
So how long did it take me to finish this 5-minute radio story about a band’s refusal to take itself seriously? Well, I did the first interviews with Butterfly, David, and Lindsay last January. Ridiculous, no? What’s more, I wrote at least four drafts of the script over a period of a month and a half before my editor and I finally agreed on what the essence of this story was.
Why did it take so long? Sometimes a story is too close, or it’s too complicated, so that you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two. Try it sometime; it’s harder than you think: explain in one sentence what your favorite movie’s about. One sentence. Not as easy as it sounds.
So, what was the story of Elle Macho? Was it a music business piece about a band rejecting the record label lottery plan and going it alone using social media and on-a-shoestring home-recording techniques, “building their own machine,” as Lindsay would say? That’s what I thought at first. But a lot of bands are doing that.
The more I talked with a couple of my editors about this piece, the more it became obvious that what fascinated them most was Elle Macho’s approach to musicmaking–the “let’s not take it all so seriously” attitude, smack in the middle of Nashville, “We Are Really Damn Serious About Music,” Tennessee. The hilarious French-Spanglish band name, website, and FB posts. The tour of their hometown. Playing at ridiculous music venues like an underage punk club on the highway. And the videos. Who doesn’t LOVE the videos?
Does Lindsay Jamieson not utterly master the earnest-but-fatuous faded rocker? The man is channeling Ricky Gervais, as far as I can tell.
And so finally, after ten months, four drafts, a lot of self-loathing and procrastination, and about a milion cups of coffee, the Elle Macho story found the airwaves this morning on Nashville Public Radio. You can hear it here.
Why was it such a difficult story? I had no problem finishing stories this year about a symphony conductors’ showcase and a digital music festival in a week or less. But that’s just it: explaining what those stories were about in one short phrase was no problem. But Elle Macho’s essence, I found harder to pin down. I finally realized I couldn’t finish the radio piece back in February or July, because the story of Elle Macho hadn’t taken shape yet. I wasn’t exactly sure what their story was eight months ago because even for them, it was a work in progress. This fall, everything seemed to fall into place: the EP, the Popular Music Tour webisodes release, the National Comeback Tour.
Suddenly, they had a story, and so did I. It’s been lots of fun to watch it unfurl. Can’t wait to see what’s next.