Saturday, April 5, 2014

Meet Aaron S. Robertson, Freelance Journalist

Aaron S. Robertson, MSM, currently serves as both a trainer and the head of online marketing at Spectrum Communications, an award-winning and industry-recognized answering service and call center in the metro-Milwaukee area. Additionally, he is a freelance journalist primarily concentrating in the realm of music, and has interviewed a number of nationally-known artists from the classic rock and pop genres of the 1960s and 70s.

Learn more about Aaron on his IMDB page, and read some great interviews by visiting his blog.

1. As someone with a background in management and marketing, how did you first become interested in writing and publishing interviews?

Well, the interest in writing and interviewing actually came along first. I've been working as a freelance writer and journalist since graduating from college in 2007. These days, though, I mostly just stick to self-publishing my works through my blog. And for the last two and a half years or so, since late 2011, I've focused primarily on interviewing musicians from the classic rock era. That's become a fun niche for me. But I've had stints in the past with the Muskego, Wisconsin (my hometown) affiliate of, as well as the Muskego Chronicle, a traditional print newspaper. With both of those publications, I covered anything from local city government news to business and human interest stories. Occasionally, I would write an editorial.

Simultaneously, for a six-year stretch that spanned the end of 2007 to the end of 2013, I served as president of Intrepid Innovations Inc., a small Internet marketing firm consisting of myself and two old college buddies. This experience in online marketing came to complement my writing/journalism quite well, since a lot of my work was, and remains to be, published for an online audience. So the two largely went hand-in-hand.

I joined the team at Spectrum Communications, a Milwaukee-area answering service and call center, during the summer of 2012. In addition to taking calls from time to time, I handle the company's online marketing efforts and also serve as a trainer, training our operators on our various client accounts. I earned a master's degree in management this past December from Milwaukee's Cardinal Stritch University, where I also earned my bachelor's in 2007.

2. You've done a number of interviews with musicians from 1960s and 70s bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Buckinghams. What sparked your interest in music of this era, and how did you start making contact with the musicians themselves?

I would largely credit listening to the local oldies and classic rock stations as a kid, thanks to my parents and other relatives. And I love just about the whole package, just about the entire deal--most of the surf rock, southern rock, R&B and soul, pop, blues and blues rock, folk rock, British Invasion material, some disco, etc.--that came out of that period. As I grew older, I naturally started attending concerts with my parents, their friends, and other relatives that featured groups from this era.

The thing about this period, it's simply good music. And good music is timeless. It doesn't really know what time and age is. I'm 31 right now, and CCR, The Steve Miller Band, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, Grand Funk Railroad, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Kinks, Spencer Davis Group, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Motown material, among countless other groups and artists of the 60s and 70s, were still being played in college dorm rooms and at parties when I graduated in 2007. We hear this music in movies and commercials to this day. It's all around us, and that's a testament to the quality that came out of the era. It really resonates with people. Both Doug Clifford and Stu Cook of CCR described the era as a renaissance in my interviews with them. All the musicians I've interviewed have commented on how they're seeing many younger fans coming out to shows. Doug told me he's even noticing fourth-generation fans emerging at CCR shows, kids that are seven, eight, nine years old.

As far as making contact with the musicians themselves, a lot of it is centered around e-mail or even Facebook communications, believe it or not. I've become personal Facebook friends with a number of my interviewees, some before the interview, some after. Some added me first, some I added first. When Facebook is not much of an option, I'll start looking around for e-mail addresses. In many cases, I've found the musicians I'm interested in talking with to be pretty accessible--the e-mail really goes to them. In other cases, I've had to work through publicists at first. But that's to be expected.

The above photo shows Aaron on the left with Nick Fortuna of The Buckinghams, taken in December 2012.

3. One of your most popular interviews was with Rebecca Romney of Pawn Stars. How did that interview come to be, and what did you find most interesting (or surprising?) in talking with her?

I'm a big fan of the show. Not only is it entertaining, but, for me, I also take the educational opportunity it presents very seriously. For me, it's a history lesson on the go. I get a lot out of the show in that regard. So one evening, while watching an episode, I thought to myself how neat it would be to interview any of the show's visiting experts. They all bring such valuable experiences and insights to the table in their respective lines of work.

Rebecca works for the Las Vegas gallery of Bauman Rare Books. One day, I just e-mailed her at her Bauman e-mail address requesting an interview, and the rest is history, no pun intended. It was really as simple as that. I was somewhat surprised, admittedly, that I received a quick and personal reply agreeing to the interview. I guess I expected maybe a publicist and/or some other vetting process at the beginning. And then again, there was always the chance that I would not hear back. But I would never know had I not tried.

Rebecca was very friendly and down to earth. It was a great conversation. She's a top-notch professional, and I could tell right away at the beginning of the interview that she truly loves her work and is genuinely interested in sharing her thoughts and insights with others.

I've put out requests to some of the show's other experts, but so far, Rebecca has been the only one to respond. I'm happy it worked out with her. Out of all of the show's experts, I'm probably a little more partial to her anyway because I serve on my hometown's library board and love to read every chance I get, which, ironically, is pretty rare these days.

The interview with her is definitely my most popular so far, in terms of sheer traffic. It averages around 1,000 hits per month.

4. In addition to providing a home for your interviews, does your blog also provide your perspective on living and working in Milwaukee?

Not as much as I would like it to, and that's largely due to time constraints. I'm working on that. I like to do the occasional business review. From time to time, I'll put together lists of fun places or events to try based around certain themes. I like to share my online marketing expertise when I get the chance. I'll share my thoughts on major economic development projects and initiatives happening around the metro area once in a while. Additionally, I post information on business networking groups and events around the greater area, and I have feeds that draw from other news sources. It's a nice mix I have, overall. But I would love to do a lot more with it. Like I said, time is a big factor.

5. Who are some of your "dream" interviewees, and what are some of the questions you'd most like to ask them?

There are too many to count! Off the top of my head, I would say Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Gregg Allman, and Derek Trucks. I'd ask each of them about influences growing up, how they came to the realization that music was their calling, and what advice they have for aspiring musicians.

Thanks, Aaron!

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