"There'll be tales to tell when we finally arrive."
I've been thinking about this line from "Tales to Tell"—the unofficial theme song of Chapel Hill band Morning Brigade—ever since I walked into the INDY publisher's office two weeks ago and revealed: "Twenty-three years ago, I applied for a job. Yesterday, I got it."
There are tales to tell, indeed.
The story arc stretches back to 1990, when I was an aspiring young journalist and recent graduate of the University of Texas. I'd worked part-time at the local daily, the Austin American-Statesman, through college and afterward, transitioning from clerk to copy editor to one of the main contributors to the paper's music coverage.
The lone staff music writing job came open that summer, and I wanted it desperately. But so did many other writers with considerably more experience, and the Statesman hired Don McLeese from Chicago. A silver lining was that Don became both a mentor and a good friend; still, the disappointment was heavy, and I sought opportunities elsewhere.
Seattle beckoned. I fell in love with the city when I visited in early 1991. By that fall I was living there, writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the biweekly music paper The Rocket. At the latter, I met Grant Alden, and in 1995 we started the alternative-country magazine No Depression, which took over my life in the ensuing years.
The magazine's focus frequently brought me to the Triangle, and in 2000 I moved here, drawn by the music of artists such as John Howie, Kenny Roby, Chip Robinson and Caitlin Cary. I met my wife, Lisa Whittington, here, and after a brief return to the Seattle area, we settled in Mebane in 2007—unaware that No Depression's demise loomed less than a year away as the bottom fell out of the economy and the music industry.
Perhaps it would have been wise to change careers at that point. But journalism has been in my blood since I started writing for the high school newspaper as a ninth-grader in Austin. I wanted to continue doing what I loved. Enter the INDY: Editor Lisa Sorg had written a few things for No Depression a decade earlier, and she remembered me when I answered an ad for a part-time job.
Part-time grew into full-time, and eventually into the associate editor position I've held for the last year or so. My role has been akin to "utility infielder" on the baseball diamond, filling in as needed in a variety of ways.
The most rewarding part was writing about music, mainly because it afforded an opportunity to witness the creative blossoming of some remarkable musicians in the Triangle. I owe a debt to many of them for helping to bring me back from a difficult stretch when staying the course felt like starting over.
Morning Brigade's song concludes, "Though the wind won't blow our sails/ We will still, we will still prevail." This fall, the job I wanted so badly two decades ago came open again—and this time, I was the writer with considerably more experience who the Statesman chose to bring to Austin.
The good fortune of the INDY, and its readers, is that Brian Howe, one of the paper's finest freelance contributors for the past several years, is now stepping into a full-time position. I'll keep reading from afar, still interested in how many of North Carolina's developing stories unfold.
In the meantime, I'm off to create some new tales to tell back in my hometown—now that this day has finally arrived.
Associate editor Peter Blackstock wishes his colleagues well in their new office on Main Street.