WRITTEN BY Josh Matthews
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview someone whose music and career I have long admired. It was more than an interview- it was an exceptional conversation, and he invited me to hang out after their performance. Suffice it to say that this artist was not from Birmingham, just passing through. I had felt an undeniable connection with this guy throughout our discussion, so I was surprised by his somewhat cool greeting. To tell the truth, I was sort of expecting a hug, or at least a high-five. Instead, it was a brief slapping of hands, a pseudo hand-shake, and it struck me as a little off. Then he crossed his arms and said, “I have a question for you. Why were we not on the cover?”
I was immediately flattered that it mattered to this musician that he would be on the cover of our little ‘ol Birmingham music paper. I told him that we are not a Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Seattle, or Austin, but our music scene is experiencing something of a renaissance, and it is becoming a force unto itself. I explained to him that Birmingham doesn’t have a sound per se, but we have an attitude. There is a gusto here, a go-for-it-or-be-damned mentality, and that MusicBham exists to represent our music community with that same gusto, and we were going to go for it or be damned. He got it. I think he even liked it. But he didn’t shy away from mentioning that he still felt they deserved the cover.
But you and I know better because we know the people who have made this music scene what it is, the artists-new and old, the venue owners, the producers, the radio hosts, and the music fans. ‘Deserve’ is a tricky word. And while he doubtlessly worked hard to get where he is, this is still Birmingham. And this is Birmingham’s music paper. It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Birmingham musicians and those that surround and support our music scene, who are earning their way. I didn’t tell him that a part of me wishes I could devote every last page to local talent. What I was really thinking was, “This is Birmingham. Consider yourself lucky to have earned a place amongst its pages, but more importantly, consider yourself lucky that our community has embraced you while you’re here.” But that’s who we are. We will always embrace music and the arts, no matter where you’re from or what genre you belong to. You’re just not going to be on the cover of our paper. That’s reserved for our own.
– Josh Matthews