I'm long overdue for another interview with myself.
Self-interviews are a challenge, of course, because it’s so difficult for the self-interviewer to catch the interviewee off guard. Even more so when the interviewer and interviewee are so busy that the Q&A has to be conducted by email. But we did the best we could.
Q. So what kind of music are you listening to these days?
A. I like to listen to a wide mix, but lately it’s been a lot of old blues. Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker. The folks whom the early rock bands, like the Rolling Stones, grew up listening to. Too many contemporary rock artists have no clue about the roots of R&R. If I were teaching Rock 101, I’d start with Robert Johnson and the folks just mentioned and then move onto the R&B giants like Louie Jordan. They're all part of the rock & roll canon.
Q. Is there a business lesson there?
A. Absolutely. The blues and R&B greats were all pioneers in some way. We may not notice it now because they've been copied so much, but those blues greats in their day were innovators. They staked out new territory. Important for any business, especially in the Creative Economy.
Q. What are you learning about business from your hobby of street-singing?
A. Well, if you would ever read this blog, you’d know! But my latest insight is about selling. When I’m playing in the park I see a lot of kids with their parents. The adults may not notice me at first, but if I get the children’s attention they’ll get their mom’s attention. The adults have to stop and deal with me if their kids are responding. Pretty soon a crowd forms watching these children—including toddlers—dancing and going wild. Then I have an audience.
Q. How does that apply to businesses besides entertainment?
A. A simple example: Commerce Bank (now TD Bank) set up a coin-counting machine in their lobbies that kids loved so much they would drag their parents back to the bank every day, who would wind up doing more business there. So forget about “follow the money.” My new motto is “follow the kids.” Or “follow the kids to the money.”
Q. I'm not sure I understand that, but it sounds good. So you're doing a lot of different things in your life now. How do you navigate through them? What's your compass?
A. Oh, I just ask myself the same question that I'm sure most people do: "WWKD?" (What would Keith do?) Who's a greater fountain of life wisdom than Keith Richards? Just yesterday I was trying to decide what to do about something, then I realized Keith would probably do nothing. The problem resolved itself.
Q. You say you spent 12 years working on your book—about business lessons from rock. Was it difficult working on a book for 12 straight years?
A. Well, I took meal breaks.
Q. What will you do next?
A. Probably have lunch.
Q. Will we EVER read this book?
A. Well, I don’t know about you, given your reading habits, but it will eventually get published in some form. But while I’m looking for the right publisher I may self-publish a short eBook of outtakes from my manuscript and some revised blog posts. Or not. I'll consult my inner Keith.
Q. You often brag that you’ve opened shows for Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Michael Bolton, and others. But what did you learn from the time you were living and hanging with the Grateful Dead?
A: It was a brief time, in their very early days, but I learned the importance of being curious, of being open to everything. The Grateful Dead took in a lot of influences and they constantly experimented. That’s a lesson for any organization that seeks to be creative. And band members were available to other musicians. They loved to jam with everybody. I guess they taught me that anyone can commune with the Dead.
Q: That makes you a medium, eh?
A: Well, actually I think of myself as an extra large. But you may be onto something. I always hear voices in my head. Angelic voices, singing softly. But badly off key.
Q. How is it that someone who has worked in mainstream business as long as you have can sound so…how can I put this delicately…unmoored?
A. I think the answer is contained in your question. But the other problem is you’re always quoting me out of context. In fact, I don't think I'm saying any of this.