Writer’s Workshop: Mr. Miner (a.k.a. Dave Calarco)

This month brings about exciting news elsewhere in the music blogosphere as our esteemed colleague and friend, Mr. Miner, of the wildly popular Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts blog embarks upon his first foray into the world of book publishing. His project, entitled Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts: An Anthology By a Fan for the Fans, includes a collection of writings spanning Phish’s comeback era, new essays on the band, full-color high-definition photography and a cover designed by popular poster artist AJ Masthay.

[Design by AJ Masthay]

To celebrate the execution of this grand scale vision, we invited Mr. Miner to share his thoughts and advice on writing as part of our long-running Writer’s Workshop segment. For fans planning to catch the Phish New Year’s Run in New York City, Mr. Miner will be hosting a book signing and both pre- and post-show parties on December 29th at the Irish Times, just a stones throw away from Madison Square Garden. Be sure to stop by, say hi, and check out the new book.

Hidden Track: Let’s start at the beginning. If I’m not mistaken, you started your music writing career on a more traditional route, writing reviews and conducting interviews with all different bands. What was the turning point when you decided you wanted to focus your efforts on a dedicated Phish blog?

Mr. Miner: Interestingly, I started writing about music back in 2000 when I moved to San Francisco and worked at JamBase.com. At the time I began writing about all types of music, but when Phish went to Japan that summer, Mr. Miner was born. My first time reviewing Phish shows, I wrote them for JamBase from overseas. When I got home, I received countless emails, from all sorts of fans that couldn’t make it to Japan, thanking me and telling me how they could really get a sense of what happened at the shows from my writing. It was pretty awesome feedback to hear, because I’d stay up all night with friends, exploring whatever city we were in, then when people crashed, I’d hit the hotel’s business center and crank out an article strictly from memory—and people really liked them! I continued to review the rest of the summer tour and into the fall, and about half way through the fall my laptop broke. I took it as a sign to just enjoy the final part of what could have been the last tour ever.

But after Phish retired in 2000, I got into education. I worked with elementary school kids first, and then decided to get a masters degree at USF and taught US History at a public charter school in San Francisco for five years. So I definitely took a break from writing. But after five years, I decided that teaching wasn’t my calling, so I quit to start writing again. Ironically, I stopped teaching in the Spring of ’08, and before I really had any real semblance of a writing career going, I learned Phish was coming back.

When I got this news, I started my blog, Phish Thoughts, in the Summer of 2008. I got a lot of positive feedback on what I was doing—writing about the band’s past while anticipating the future. And once Hampton came around, the readership on the blog skyrocketed. So, in less than a year my Phish writing had garnered quite a readership—and it really resonated with people, which was something I hadn’t totally expected. It was during that time, between the announcement and Hampton, that I decided to exclusively write about Phish for the time being. It felt like something really positive was happening around my blog, and it was a passion I had to pursue. I wasn’t sure what would come of it at the time, but lo and behold, three years later I have a book.

But before the idea of a book even came about, a large factor that kept the blog cranking for me, was the fact that people were coming together and forming a legitimate community on my website. And once shows started in this era, those online relationships began to develop into real-life friendships. Everything seemed to be clicking and moving in the right direction, so I had to keep on the path. It felt like what I was supposed to be doing.

HT: What would you say has been your proudest piece on Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts to date?

MM: Wow. I’m not sure I can really even pick one out of the hundreds and hundreds of articles over the years. I think some of my favorite essays are the ones that cut to the essence of the Phish experience; those intangible aspects of seeing the band that are so elusive for the vocabulary. I collected the best of these pieces as the first section of essays in my book, after the introduction—“The Intangibles.” These are pieces that after reading, many people have told me—“Yes! That is exactly what I’ve been trying to explain to my friends (or wife) forever, but just never knew how. I could never think of the words!” To me, if I can even approach describing the magic of Phish with words so that others can share in that understanding, I think that’s pretty cool.

PAGE TWO = The Objectivity Balancing Act and Dealing with Criticism

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