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Arts & Entertainment

Some Interviews Are Harder Than Others

Working on a radio program like Tell Me More, we're charged with presenting an hour's worth of airtime each day. We need to be timely, engaging, and bring on guests who will both surprise and enlighten. To be sure, some of our interviews are booked the same day the program airs, such as in the case of breaking news. But other interviews can take months of preparation: case in point, Wednesday's conversation with the Black Eyed Peas.

I first thought about arranging this interview back in December when I noticed the band would be coming through Washington on tour, promoting their album The E.N.D. They would be playing at the Verizon Center, which is just a few short blocks away from NPR's DC headquarters. The Black Eyed Peas seemed like a great fit for our program. Not only had they achieved widespread commercial and critical success, they also have compelling personal stories we felt would connect with our listeners.

So what goes into planning? It's a lot of emails; a lot of phone calls; and finally, a lot of favors. The BEP's schedule didn't permit them to come into our studios so we had to go on-site and interview them before the concert. This meant asking our guest host Lynn Neary to work well into the night for us, asking the NPR's News Division to loan out one of their audio engineers, and asking my own wife to be ok with putting our daughter to bed on her own (a task we usually share). Once our team made it to the Verizon Center, we were shuttled by handlers from one location to the next, at each stop a new security person had to verify our credentials.

After over an hour and a half of standing around, we finally got the call; it was our turn to interview the group. As the producer, questions raced through my mind: was the room going to be quiet enough? Would the sound engineer have enough space to mic everyone properly? Did I give Lynn enough background material to help her prepare for the interview? And, most importantly, was the group even going to answer our questions sincerely? All this was unknown right up till the moment we sat down. But once things got started, I knew we were going to be ok. Lynn immediately was able to make the group comfortable and the conversation wound up being both natural and easy going. When you hear the interview you would have never have guessed all the work it took to get those 10 minutes with the Black Eyed Peas, but now you know.

Thanks for listening.