By Tayhlor Stephenson, Studio M staff //
A native of New Jersey, Annie Reuter grew up a music enthusiast, which led to her move to Nashville, Tennessee, as a freelance music journalist. She’s known for her bylines in Billboard, Rolling Stone, Sounds Like Nashville, Taste of Country, Country Weekly and Radio.com, and she began a personal blog, You Sing, I Write, which she still manages today, while interning with MTV News.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys catching live music, especially writers rounds, for fun.
Reuter recently spoke to us about her experience in music journalism.
Music writer Annie Reuter. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Potter Photography)
When did you know you wanted to become a journalist?
It probably wasn’t until high school. I grew up and was always writing and reading — I would write plays for my cousins and I to act out at holidays and family birthdays — but in high school I took a journalism class and just fell in love with journalism and started writing for the school paper.
I knew I wanted to be in journalism once I got to college and just kind of pursued that and worked for the school paper as well. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college when I covered a Gavin DeGraw concert. I had gone to concerts growing up but never wrote about it or thought you could write about it, and that kind of just sparked my passion for music journalism.
You worked with the school newspaper. How would you say that has helped prepare you in your career?
I went to Rutgers University and wrote for their paper, The Daily Targum, and when I was there it was ranked one of the best college newspapers in the country. I felt like I got more out of my schooling at the newspaper than my journalism classes. My classes were great, but working for the paper is very hands-on.
I wrote for my first two years and then I became an editor, so as an editor you’re just seeking out stories and you’re on deadline: We were a daily newspaper so you had no excuses. I feel like that definitely helped train me for internships and even my freelance work now. It kind of helped put the deadline priority more into focus.
What’s one of the coolest things you’ve gotten to do in the name of journalism?
Since we’re coming up on awards season, I think just attending and covering my first award show is probably one of the biggest highlights. I used to work for CBS Radio in New York and I still freelance for them here in Nashville, but that was my first full-time job writing about music, and every year the ACM Awards are broadcast live in Las Vegas. I grew up watching award shows and dreaming to one day be there so my second year at CBS they decided to send me and the country editor, and it was very cool to experience the behind-the-scenes things that happen.
I was able to interview artists on the red carpet but also get there a few days early to attend and cover the concerts, like Party for a Cause. That was definitely a lifelong dream that I never even realized I could ever accomplish.
It seems like much of your journalistic focus goes to songwriters. What inspired your fascination with songwriters?
I think it just goes back to being a fan of music.
I feel like I’m still fairly new to country music: I grew up on boy bands. I was obsessed with the Backstreet Boys and was always wondering who are they singing these songs about … and it wasn’t until years later that I realized they didn’t even really write their biggest hits. It was all these other songwriters.
Once I started covering country music, I just became so fascinated with the songwriters. Especially in Nashville, it’s so special to go to the writers rounds because you hear the story from the songwriters who wrote the song. The songs all came from real life. And I think, also, that country music is the only genre that I’ve covered that appreciates the songwriters as much as they do.
What does a typical work day look like for a freelancer?
It varies. Right now I have two news shifts, so on Mondays and Tuesdays I write for CBS from 6-9 a.m., and that just covers all genres. And then for Taste of Country, I do the same thing but for country news like from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.. And then my afternoons I just keep open for interviews, number one parties and different events. At night it varies, too. There’s a concert going on every night basically, if you want to go or cover it. And then there are occasional trips. Every now and then I’ll get asked to cover a cruise.
I need structure in my life and the news shifts definitely help pay the bills; it’s more steady than those opportunities to go on a cruise with Carrie Underwood.
What advice would you offer an aspiring journalist?
Journalism is definitely hard to break into, but I think if you have a passion for it and you just keep pursuing it no matter the obstacles there isn’t anything that can stop you. It is difficult financially sometimes, but you have to get creative. I’d always say that I would rather wake up every day and love what I do and don’t make a lot of money than be miserable and be a millionaire.
One of my favorite quotes is from Joseph Campbell and he would say something like follow your bliss and doors will be open that you thought were closed.
Who are some of your favorite journalists you keep up with regularly?
One of my favorites is Jancee Dunn; she used to work at Rolling Stone like in the ‘90s, but I didn’t really discover her writing until I graduated college, actually. She released an amazing memoir, “But Enough About Me,” kind of about her adventures at Rolling Stone and the tips she learned. I think I bonded with her books because I grew up two towns away from her and thought wow, if she can do it I can do it.
The way she writes makes you feel like you’re reading something that a friend wrote to you. Rob Sheffield, who’s also at Rolling Stone, also has that personality. The way they write is very descriptive, and you feel like you’re there with them.
Deborah Evans Price is one of my favorite writers, and she’s one of my mentors now and it’s like I grew up reading her stuff and never would have dreamed I would have met her.
Tayhlor Stephenson is a student journalist with a strong interest in music. She currently studies at Middle Tennessee State University, where she serves as the Lifestyles Editor for MTSU Sidelines.
Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.