Field Note Stenographers want you to watch less TV and more live music
When Chris Nylund and Jared Wright started Field Note Stenographers in Macon, they didn’t do it with the intention of making big-time blog money or becoming Internet famous (anyone who has ever ran a blog will understand why). They did it because it was a way to further pursue and promote their passion for music.
“Like so many things in life we just kind of fell into it,” says Nylund. “It started originally as us trying to figure out a better way to promote shows both local and [touring]; shows that we thought were interesting.”
Nylund and Wright have lived in Macon for over a decade each. Both of them are musicians, as are many of their friends, and they wanted to promote shows in Macon that not only local musicians were playing but also to foster the idea that going out and seeing original live music is an important thing to do. Nylund says that while Macon, like so many other small towns, has plenty of cover bands, they’re trying to get people to support something original.
“We’re trying to get people to get off of their couches to go see something live, and that’s proved challenging,” he says. “This comes from the idea of thinking about music and talking about music and not just having it on as background noise on your iPhone while you’re at the grocery store. I remember a time when you bought compilations because that’s how you were introduced to new bands. It’s awesome to be able to pull out your iPhone and be able to pull up any song that’s ever been recorded, but I question if you really appreciate it the same way.”
Field Note Stenographers (FNS) started about a year ago. The website is a place where Nylund and Wright write reviews of live shows, highlight upcoming shows, post curated playlists, recommend albums from local musicians, interview other musicians, and promote the shows they occasionally book.
“There are plenty of [outlets] that try to promote shows that are coming up, but none are covering the shows that already happened to maybe convince people that they missed something and therefore should try to go see the next one,” says Nylund. “It also validates the people who went.”
As much as the music industry has changed over the last two decades, so too has music journalism. Even alternative weeklies don’t have the money, manpower or column space to dedicate to live local music reviews anymore. With the exception of major festivals and big-name stadium shows, anyone interested in the local music scene isn’t likely to find much in the way of in-depth coverage. That’s where FNS comes in.
“Macon has such a large musical history, but people tend to be stuck in the past here. No one really acknowledges what’s going on [in the local music scene],” says Wright. “There is a huge diversity of shows here. No one is really documenting that.”
Nylund adds, “We both have museum experience. Jared is a master historian; I was a teacher and now a librarian. We’re both interested in documenting history. If nothing else, we’re just documenting the live music scene.”
As a city with a long and rich musical history, Macon has a large nostalgia circuit where folk and Americana acts are very popular, but there are also a number of national touring acts that come through so Macon locals don’t have to drive all the way to Atlanta or Savannah to see them, in addition to a strong local music scene that includes their own respective rock bands as well as musicians like their friend Floco Torres, a hip-hop artist and community organizer.
FNS focuses exclusively on original music, regardless of genre. Nylund and Wright decided right out of the gate, when they were still trying to figure out what FNS would be, that they were only going to write about shows that they were interested in, and then only about shows that were good.
“The whole mission is to validate the experience for those who were there and promote it to those who weren’t,” says Nylund. “If we go to a show and it wasn’t up to snuff we just won’t mention it. We all have our own musical tastes. Sometimes we’ll find ourselves at a show we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise and find some aspect to promote. If it seems like it’s going to be a cool, interesting show we try to go to it, whether it’s hip-hop or a singer-songwriter or a doom metal band from Scandinavia.”
FNS is very much a labor of love for both Nylund and Wright, who still have to balance it with their full-time jobs and personal lives.
“We’re getting a lot of support and a lot of interest,” Nylund says. “The biggest issue is I can’t go to a show on a Wednesday that ends at 3:00 a.m. because I have to get up at 5:00 a.m. because I’m a boring grown-up now!”
In a true coming full circle, in the last year the music journalism duo have landed two columns with the local newspaper, the Telegraph, that will include a weekly “Gig Guide” and a monthly “Ear to the Ground” local music news column. They hope that this more traditional journalism outlet work will help further their mission and convince more people to go to shows.
“The whole goal is ultimately to get people to come out and support live original music, and, selfishly, live local music,” says Nylund. “It’s so much easier to go home and watch Netflix in your air-conditioned house, but there’s something visceral about standing in a sweaty, stinky, smoky bar to see an awesome band of whatever genre. It bothers me when people don’t understand why live music is important. People should go out and watch live music more and watch less TV.”