Books

Journalist Nick Duerden explores life after rock stardom in new book ‘Exit Stage Left’ – Orange County Register

For the past 30 years, British journalist Nick Duerden has interviewed musicians for both UK and US publications, sometimes catching up with the same artists multiple times over the course of their careers.

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And as time passed between chats, Duerden noticed that the became more interesting as their lives artists continued to change.

“We have highs and we have lows,” says Duerden on a recent video call from London. “I found it really interesting to see how a pop star, someone whose wildest dreams came true, navigated all of that.”

“Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars,” out now, is Duerden’s exploration of what happens to pop stars after fame fades. The book includes interviews with a genre-crossing range of artists whose stories, while wildly different from one another, all echo the fickle nature of the music industry. It’s a look at what happens when the singles and albums stop charting, when bands are dropped by their labels, when musicians realize that the money has run out. These often aren’t the easiest stories for people to share.

“Many people ignored my requests,” Duerden acknowledges.

But those who did agree to the interviews — a lengthy list that includes Don McLean, Bob Geldof, Robbie Williams, Stewart Copeland, Billy Bragg, Joan Armatrading, Leo Sayer and more — reveal much more than one might ordinarily read in a newspaper or magazine article.

“When I’ve interviewed acts over the years for newspapers and magazines, it’s fine. It’s often good. They will talk about their new album, or their upcoming tour, the Grammys, the Brit Awards — so it’s fairly ephemeral,” says Duerden. “In these interviews, they went really deep and they were quite existential and philosophical and I had gotten the sense that it was a subject that they had given an awful lot of private thought to. I’m actually quite grateful for the opportunity to tell it.”

Duerden recalls watching Cameron Crowe’s film “Almost Famous” and realizing that he was born too late for an all-access music journalism.

“In the ’70s, music got to go on tour with bands for six weeks, so of course, they came back with a fascinating story to tell in Rolling Stone magazine,” he explains. “I didn’t get that. I did a lot of my work for Q Magazine over here and in America, for Spin and Billboard, so I would get some access, but it would still be stage-managed by the PR teams, by management.”

For a journalist, this book provided the rare opportunity to dig into the lives of musicians beyond the album release or tour that they’re promoting at the moment.

“You would have to stay on topic,” says Duerden of the more conventional music interviews. “You have to talk about the new album and also you have to talk about success: Isn’t everything great, isn’t it a rock star great?”

More personal subject matter — how is the artist really doing — usually wasn’t the topic of conversation.

“It’s only in the last few years that there’s been a focus on an individual’s mental health.”

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