Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Love for Sale: The Jerri Miller Interview



On January 1, 2008 finally I was able to release the podcast I made out of an interview with a dear family friend, Jerri Miller, who, under the name Jerri Adams, recorded 27 singles and a number of jazz vocal albums during the 1950s.

Meg and I had gone to Jerri and her husband Art's house a while back and recorded about an hour and a half of footage of Jerri talking about her career. It was pretty free-form; I asked her to start from the beginning and tell her life story, and she had conveniently brought out press clippings, articles, albums, and other mementoes to help guide the conversation. The four of us (and the Miller's dog, Muff) had a great time talking and looking at the photos. The music, some of which I had listened to on the drive over, but most of it unheard by Meg or me prior to the interview, was amazing and fun.

I got pretty overwhelmed by the amount of the footage we had: what was I going to do with an hour and a half of recordings that would be engaging, would tell a story, would make a good podcast? I returned to the book Gary Stager suggested we read in Pepperdine's OMET program when we learned to podcast: Radio: An Illustrated Guide by Ira Glass and Jessica Abel. An illustrated primer to how Ira Glass and others produce "This American Life" for National Public Radio, the book contains invaluable advice for anyone wishing to make a podcast, too. In it I found the solution to my problem: creating a log of the interview. I played the footage (recorded in GarageBand on my Mac) back while I used my eMate to write one word or short phrase descriptions of the conversation. Transcribed this way, the conversation was ten pages long. Now I was able to get my head around what was said and a story emerged: how one woman, through dedication, talent, and hard work, achieved her dreams. I was then able to create a three page outline that combined my ideas with the dialog from the interview.

I had to go back and edit the dialog I recorded: there was too much of me in the interview saying, "Uh-huh," or agreeing. In future interviews it is important to keep this in mind: keep the person you are interviewing engaged, but do it through body language, not by saying "yes" or otherwise getting oneself woven into the recording. Editing myself out of the footage gave me all of the clips of Jerri and Art I needed, clarified some of the outline that resulted in reordering some of the clips, and prepared me to write my narrative, a three page transformation of the outline to include what I would record to go between the clips, to bring together a narrative, and to ask the questions that propel the narrative.

I was extremely pleased with how the final podcast turned out: it sounds really polished, like I know what I am doing. I like the way I was able to incorporate Jerri's music, through the CD I have as well as the music Jerri played for us and which recorded well enough to use. If you are at all into jazz, give it a listen: it is a very interesting piece of jazz history.

5 comments:

"Jazz Lives" @ WordPress.com said...

Dear Josh,
Lucky you to have Jerri in your life! I just found a copy of IT'S COOL INSIDE and am playing it with pleasure. But I can find no information about the expert musicians backing her up. Does she remember who was in the band? With every good wish, Michael Steinman (http://www.jazzlives.wordpress.com)

Josh Burker said...

You can listen to the podcast here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/rnr77fym4xjucac/Interview%20with%20Jerri%20Miller.mp3

John said...

Josh,
thank you for doing this. I eagerly look forward to listening. Good luck with future projects and thank you for allowing us to join in on the experience!

Bobby B said...

I came across her "It's Cool Inside" LP in a dusty old attic the other day and have been listening to it quite a bit lately. I think it;s excellent. Is there any chance that this podcast is still available to download somewhere? I'd love to hear it.

Josh Burker said...

Bobby, I'm glad you are enjoying Jerri's music.

If you have a Dropbox where I could put the .mp3 of the podcast that would work best. Send me a link and I will put the file there for you.