Interview with Selena Fragassi

Selena Fragassi works as a writer and publicist within the music industry. She sat down to chat with Loud Hailer to discuss her varied career so far.

Growing up as a music lover with a passion for writing, Selena Fragassi has worked as a copyrighter, a freelance writer and co-owner of a music magazine. More recently, she has moved into publicity, working directly with bands and musicians as well as for some of the biggest music festivals in the States. 

Selena kindly sat down with us to help continue our series of interviews with music industry professionals.  Similar to our interview with Paul Natkin this is a lengthy one, but we think you’ll enjoy it! 

LH: Growing up, were you from a musical family?
Selena: Yeah, so everybody in my family is musical except for me. My mom actually was trying to be a folk singer in the seventies and she plays guitar. She was in a singing group and we would always have sing-alongs. So it’s like my mom was barefoot at Christmas and stuff. So there was that influence.  Her favorite song was “American Pie.” She was such a hippie, It was funny. And then my dad played some stuff as well, but he actually was a concert photographer back in the day. He got shots of Elvis’s last show in Chicago, like some really cool experiences. He played banjo, actually. And then my brother and my grandfather can both play from ear. It’s crazy, you can just play a piece of music and they’re like “I got it” and they’ll replicate it on keyboard. I’m like, why don’t I have this gift, this is not fair! 

But you know, my grandfather is from Germany and so music was a big deal in Germany and he listened to a lot of big bands and was very big into the waltz and played accordion and he could Yodel. 

So yeah, I grew up around a ton of music and my dad’s vinyl collection was huge, it was just like our whole basement walls were just covered with vinyl. So there was always a very healthy appreciation for music in my family. I always tell people, my fondest memory is on Sundays, we’d have Motown Sundays where my dad would put on The Temptations or whoever. And then my mom would make pancakes and we’d have a dance party. Music just always felt really special, I think growing up. It felt normal and like it was part of her life.

LH: Yeah, I love vinyl,  it’s a bit of an addiction. What I like about it, in addition to the fact that think it sounds different, is that it makes a bit of an occasion of playing some music. Like when you put a record on, you listen to it from the beginning to the end and you have to turn it over halfway through, but you make the effort to listen to every song on the album rather than the, kind of, pick and mix these days on Spotify.
Selena: I agree. It’s so funny because I was talking to someone the other day. Someone said cassettes are making a comeback and I was like why? The worst form of recorded music in the history of mankind is the cassette tape. 

LH: It is, it is. And the quality on cassette tapes…I don’t get that. I get it with vinyl because I genuinely think it sounds different. Although I think it’s probably because of how a lot of the old records were mastered as well, but I think it has got a different sound. But I do like listening to something beginning to end and we do it all the time. 
Selena: Even just having that physical piece. Like it’s sad that – I’m so old, I’m like “kids these days…”- but they grow up with MP3 files. They don’t collect like we all used to do and I think that was so cool. Like even just when you remember getting CDs and you were like “Oh, I can’t wait to look at the photos and read the lyrics.” And it was just cool to have like a physical product to have.

LH: I think a lot of bands are making it like that again now, so when you buy stuff on vinyl from bands now then they put all these extras in that you might never get to see otherwise, and it’s tangible. 
Selena: I mean, I literally think if the music industry wants to save itself, they have to go back to that model because I think it’s too lazy if you have… You know, Spotify is great. There are times where I have to do research and it’s great, but you know, the idea of just buying singles or I don’t know, I just feel like there’s a mentality of collectors and exclusives and you’re really connected to the artist. 

LH: I totally agree. I think doing that builds a bond as well between the artist and the people who are listening and the artist can give them all these extra things. And it seems to be picking up. I was in Detroit and Jack White’s got that record plant there now as well as in Nashville and it seems like it’s going that direction and it’s on the uptick, at least. 
Selena: Yes, absolutely. 

LH: I was going to say what are your first memories of music, but you’ve probably covered it. 
Selena: Yeah. Yeah. I’m trying to think. I mean, I remember my first concert is where I had my first panic attack as well. So I grew up with a very diverse group of girlfriends and we were very into like nineties R&B and hip-hop and my very first concert I was 11 and the only reason my parents let me go is because the one mom was like a chaperone. So it was me and my two really good girlfriends. We saw Boyz II Men, Babyface and Brandy. God, I loved Boyz II Men! But we were in the lobby and someone thought they saw a member of Boyz II Men and it was like a stampede and I got knocked down. So to this day, I’m like super claustrophobic at concerts because of that experience.

LH: Which is a problem in your job!
Selena: It’s so funny. It’s like, how can you be claustrophobic? You cover festivals.  But you know, you make do. 

LH: I always ask this because a lot of people I interview, musicians, there’s always this one moment that they can remember vividly in their mind which totally turned them onto music more broadly. Like Nita Strauss said she can remember the feel of the carpet under her feet the first time she saw Steve Vai in Crossroads the movie. I remember her saying something like, “I can remember everything about that moment. From that moment on, that was like, that was all I was going to do.” Did you have one of those?
Selena: Oh man, gosh, what would be my first memory? I mean I remember what I got super into rock music. I was trying to remember when was my transition because I was really into R&B and hip-hop. And then I got really into rock music, really fast. I think part of it was because I went to Catholic grade school and by the age of 12 I was like, you know, F the establishment, screw the church, you know. I want to think for myself! And I banded with this group of girls who were really into music and loved the local station. And I was like, yeah, this is great. And then actually, two of my guy friends at school started a zine, so they would write their own reviews of albums and they asked me to contribute at one point. That was my first piece of writing, literally. I can’t remember which album it was. I remember Green Day’s Dookie and Nine Inch Nails were in there, and Pearl Jam was in there. I literally can’t remember what album I did. But I remember that was so cool and they would hand it out at school, it was a paper, stapled thing. But I remember the first time I babysat my brother was a Saturday night. I had just turned 14. We were watching Saturday Night Live and Silverchair came on and something just moved in me. I was definitely attracted to these boys because they were my age. But also just like watching them play, I was like, holy crap. And so I mean they are still my obsession, but watching them just did things for me, just like to appreciate rock music. But yeah, it’s so fuzzy. I can’t remember a really concrete thing. I think it was always just loving music. And then when I got a little bit older and I could make my own decisions for what I want to listen to, you know, because before it was like, you know, when you’re in your car when your parents turn on the radio, it’s what they want to hear or when you’re at school, there’s so much peer influence. But I think when I got older I was like, wait, I can make my decisions about like what kind of music I want.

LH: I remember a friend of mine when I was a kid, saying “come listen to this.” He had a little tape deck and he put a tape in and I remember hearing the opening to “Welcome to the Jungle” and I was like “What is that?!” I remember listening to that music and that was what made me want to play guitar. I remember it really clearly.
Selena: It’s so funny because I feel like even from an early age, I had such access to musicians, for some reason. My parents’ realtor when they were selling our house and I was like 11, her son was in the band Fig Dish. They were a Chicago nineties band, they’re not really around anymore. But her son was in that band and somehow we ended up with the demo and I remember listening to that and loving it. And then, my cousins lived next door to the drummer of Local H, his parents. So like that was part of my little nebulous of people. And then I befriended this guy, which was kind of inappropriate when I was 15. He was 21. But he was doing some kind of promo for Polydor and Interscope and so I went to a lot of shows I shouldn’t have gone to when I was 15, 16, 17. And so I think that too just always thrilled me because it was like, Holy Shit, this is a really cool world to be in.

LH: So you never played any instruments?
Selena: Man, I tried, you know. I did as a kid, I played piano. I’ve had some traumatic experiences with playing music. So, I was taking piano lessons and my dad would drop me off. It was this school and I would go and I would take lessons and my dad would pick me up. There was one day that they were like, “Oh, we’re going to close early so you’re not going to have a lesson today.” And I was like, “Oh, I have to call my dad.” And they’re like, “Just sit in the porch and wait for him.” And they left me out there for like a full hour and there were no cell phones, so there was no way to call my dad. And I was sobbing. My Dad was so mad. So that kind of turned me off from taking lessons. But I did play piano for a little bit and then when I was a teenager I was like, yeah, I want to play guitar. So I started with my mom, but when you’re 15 and you try to learn anything from your mom, it does not work out. It just doesn’t work!! And then, she signed me up for lessons and it turned out it was like her ex-boyfriend for some reason, so random, and he started falling asleep during my lessons. So I was like, you know what, I’m boring, I’m just not cut out for this. So, I tried but it never really jelled. But I think that’s why I love what I do because it’s my way of being involved and I mad respect musicians because they do something that I just can’t do. So I love talking and watching a show and being like, oh my God, that’s just amazing! 

LH: It annoys me, when I think back to lessons because I think there’s a lot of teachers who teach kids starting out in music who go with a sole focus of,  we’re going to learn some scales and theory. And, don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that there’s a need to understand that, but it can’t all be solely focused on that otherwise a lot of kids will just lose interest.  Teach them something they want to play so that at least they come away from the first lesson and they can do something that they couldn’t do before, that sounds like a song that they like. Here you have the School of Rock – which I think is a great way to teach kids music!
Selena: Yeah, I worked there part-time at the one in the suburbs in Evanston, in Highwood and I was an office manager. I’ve always just coupled jobs together. But that program’s awesome because it does what you say – it teaches kids songs they want, that they like. It puts the onus on the kids like, what do you want to learn? And then not only did they take lessons, which can sometimes be kind of sterile when you’re just there practicing, but they get put into a band and so they get to collaborate with their peers and they get to play on stages. I mean it’s a totally different kind of thing. 

LH: I think it’s fantastic and like I say it’s not that I don’t think there’s a massive benefit of and need to understand music theory.  But unless you’re someone like, say, Steve Vai who always had this insatiable appetite for the theory side of things and loves transcribing and composing, I think there’s got to be an element of fun to it as well. Otherwise, it just turns people off from like the earliest point.
Selena: Totally. You hook them and then kids will go back and want to learn more. I mean there were kids in that program who started out, they knew nothing and then I was only there for a couple of years, but in that timespan, they got really good and they wanted to consume everything and learn more and do more complicated stuff. So I think you’ve just got to get them interested. 

LH: So when you went to college, you did fiction writing, right? 
Selena: Yeah. 

LH: So the writing thing, the earliest thing was writing those reviews?
Selena: Well, I’ve always sort of been a writer. Like that I guess was my kind of talent that I was blessed with, thankfully. But I can’t really remember the earliest stuff.  I know I always wrote as a child and people were like, wow, that’s really good. And then when I was 9 and 10 around that age, I wrote a play. I wrote it by myself about this girl who dies of cancer. Really morbid, but I wrote it, I directed, I cast it, I was the star….. But we did it in our church basement. I mean, it was a pretty big room and we had sold out crowds and I was like, okay, I’m good at this. And then the next year I wrote a story that my teacher entered, unbeknownst to me to a competition and I won this competition for kids where they turned your short story into a play. And I swear to God that the makers of Billy Elliot saw my story because that was my story, about a boy who was into ballet. Anyways, those were my earliest writing memories. But I think I always was into writing and I really connected with some teachers in high school. That was just my thing I guess. I went to Lake Forest College to begin with and I hated that program. I actually got my very first F because this teacher, I had to write a paper on the book, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I love that story and so I wrote a piece and he gave me an F and I was like, what the hell? He’s like, “you just write too poetic”. So I thought, this is not the school for me, goodbye! 

So I went to Columbia and fell in love with that program. The really, really great thing about Columbia and I would not have my job today if it were not for that school, is that they have teachers who are not only mentors who really care about you, but they are very active in their fields and so they connect you to a lot of different people. And it was because of an elective I took for freelance writing. They brought in a woman, Amy Schroeder, to kind of talk to us about freelancing and how to get started and whatnot. And she was the founder of Venus Zine. So I started freelancing for Venus Zine right out of college, basically. And then everything took off from there. Just kind of snowballed. 

LH: Do you still write fiction? 
Selena: Errr, no. I mean, I have this book that I’ve been trying to do since my fiction, Undergrad workshop days and my life is a little weird right now because I feel like I’m transitioning out writing into PR. I’m not going to ever give up writing, but I’m thinking maybe it’s a good thing because maybe I can write the other stuff I’ve neglected for a really long time. So yeah, there is a book that has been in the works for how old am I now? Like 12 years. 

LH: Loads of writers get like that though, and they get to it further down the line sometimes. It’s kind of like musicians. I read a really good article about musicians who’d been huge and then disappeared for a number of years and then come back with their best album yet. And how many of them said they just had to step away from it and live some life to then feed what they were going to write on the next album. So you never know – that 12 years may be what you needed. 
Selena: It might be the best thing. I mean like how much do you learn during that time period? Like, when I started writing that stuff, I was like 19. What kind of writer was I at 19? So I think there’s a lot of validity to that.

LH: So there was Venus Zine, and then you worked as a copywriter as well, right? 
Selena: Yeah, I did. Well, I had to pay my way through college myself basically because my parents were like, we would love to help you but we can’t. So I worked a full-time job as a copywriter while going to get my degree. I had a really awesome boss who was very cool and flexible with me taking classes. So I kinda just rolled into that post-graduation because it was just natural and I was in the corporate world for a while and then I got laid off in like 2009. It was the best thing that ever happened because then my other career took off.

LH: So I guess that probably helped as well in terms of the PR piece? Corporate advertising. 
Selena: Totally. It’s funny how….I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I think, you know, when you’re a copywriter you have to write really catchy headlines that engage an audience and stuff so I think that definitely helps. And yeah, being able to even deal with the communication part of PR and being able to communicate clearly to people, there’s a lot that was learned as being a copywriter.

LH: So then Venus Zine, it went in 2014, right?
Selena: Yeah, unfortunately. It went through a lot of different phases just in the time that I even worked there, which was a short fraction of its lifespan. 

LH: Were you specifically the music writer for them?
Selena:  I was a freelancer at first And then, I got hired as the music editor when like the third and final owner bought it. She knew that I had written for them and just asked whether I’d like a job? So yeah. 

LH: Did you enjoy that one?
Selena: Oh yeah, that was fun. That was good fun time because there was just three of us: Jill, who was editor in chief and is still a really good friend of mine and then Denise. And it was fun. We just would listen to the promo CDS we got every day in the office and we would go on photo shoots and it was a lot of fun. 

LH: So then after that you did a lot of different magazines, right? So Chicago Magazine and then Beautylish. But during that time did you then start doing the freelance writing primarily? 
Selena: Yeah, it was mostly freelance like after Venus stopped. So, Chicago Magazine, I did a little bit of Time Out Chicago, Blurt, Under the Radar, PopMatters. I was kind of just doing whatever I could to kind of get my feet wet. And then Chicago Sun Times – I applied for a job there that they never ended up hiring for, but they were like, we like your stuff, would you want to freelance? And so I think that was five or six years ago now.

LH: I saw that you picked up on the first Adele interviews in the US.
Selena: Yeah. That was my very, very, very first story ever writing about music. That was in 2008 before people even knew about her. Everyone’s like, how did you find out? I’m like, I literally don’t know. I remember I was listening to all these singers who were like, trying to be Amy Winehouse, and thinking there’s something to this. And then I ended up pitching a story on her and my editor was like, yeah, go for it. And then out of nowhere, she blew up and it was like, whoa, you know what you’re talking about.

LH: She blew up phenomenally. Maybe you should be in A&R!
Selena: Yeah, it was funny, we did a phone interview of course, because she was still in the UK at that point, but she came here. She did her very first show in Chicago at Martyrs. Nobody knew who she was. So there was like literally me and 15 other mostly gay men there. I’m dying, chills because she’s incredible live – that voice! And then she invited me backstage after and I remember she kept giving me Coca-Cola and then showing me all these gifts she bought for her Goddaughter. Just like a really nice human.

 LH: The first time I heard her I heard her sing, so you know, I’d never heard her speak and I just find it hilarious that you go from that singing voice and the way she performs to the broad Cockney/southern accent and every other work is an F word.  I love it. That’s a great first story to pick up. 
Selena: Yeah, it was kind of bananas that it just came into my lap and after that, people trusted that I maybe knew artists to preview, that maybe I had good taste. So, yeah, it kind of snowballed from there.

Selena & Al Jourgensen

LH: Any of the standout ones that you’ve really loved doing? 
Selena: I was trying to go through it in my head on the way over, I was like I know he’s going to ask me that! There’s just been so many. I mean I always say, I mean I work with him now, but Al Jorgensen was a really fun interview because a lot of artists will talk to you and they’re super nice. Their answers are very like what they’ve told some other people. There’s kind of a guard there and I get it, because it has to be weird and you’re not sure what people are gonna say about you. Al couldn’t care less. He’s like, “what do you want to know?” He’ll tell you all these random story. I mean he’s just, he’s a really fun interview and the piece I wrote about him actually got published in an anthology because it was a good piece because he gave me so much good material.

I’ve interviewed Debbie Harry, she’s really interesting. She was giving me tips on how to get a mammogram. She had just gotten hers and she’s like, “Listen honey, make sure you get your mammogram.” I’m not even at that age but like thanks Debbie Harry!

I had a really interesting few encounters with Chrissie Hynde. She was great. I thought she hated me for a little bit because we did this in person interview and photo shoot here in Chicago. At the time she was dating this younger guy and he’s European and Europeans are, as you guys know, just like very flirty. I don’t think he meant anything by it, but she gave me the stink eye. I was like, oh my god, Chrissie Hynde is going to kick my ass in the alley after this interview. But then I saw her again a couple months later and she gave me a big hug, invited me to their show. I was like, all right, we’re cool again. And then I’ve had my fair share of bad interviews too. 

LH: Yeah, some of them are tougher than others. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I love Marc Maron’s podcast WTF because what he seems to be able to do better than anyone else is break away from that standard interview thing and just really talk to people like human beings.  As a result, he gets people to say all this stuff that I think they probably wouldn’t even say to their therapist. They just obviously get comfortable with him.
Selena: I think if you’re an interviewer though, you really have to prepare. Like I watch other journalists at our festivals too and, absolutely no judgment on them, a lot of people are doing this as a side project and they don’t have a lot of time and I totally get it. But I think, you know, if you want to really get someone to warm up to you, you ask them questions they haven’t been asked before and they will be like, oh they’ve really done their research, that’s a great question. Then they’ll go off on tangents, but I think it’s just also like letting your guard down and being vulnerable. Like you’re a great interviewer. You’re engaging and you have your own tidbits so I feel comfortable talking to you and I feel like you can’t be a stiff person, you know? So many people can be and it’s hard too because that was me in the beginning, like you’re fans of these people, so you’re like oh my god!

LH: I think making it a chat like you would have with one of your friends, that’s how I try to do it because it seems to work best for me. And then yeah, sometimes I still get nervous. There were a couple I did where I was really nervous. One was Paul Gilbert from Mr Big because he was a bit of a hero of mine and I think he’s such an amazing musician.  Also, we were doing the interview via Skype and Skype’s not the best sometimes because sometimes it sticks which can make things a bit stilted. And then the other one that I was actually nervous for more recently was John 5,  just because I’m kind of in awe at the talent.  In the end, both were super nice guys and the interviews went fine.  But I think you can normally get a read on it from within the first two or three minutes as to how it’s going to go. And then sometimes something can just change during the interview itself.   I did with a musician recently where the interview had just been pretty difficult with not much energy at all – I’m not sure but I’m guessing I might have been interview 10 of the day for the poor guy. Then there was one question that suddenly just got him really animated and I was like, oh great, at least I got that.
Selena: Totally. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, there are still people, even though I work with a lot of my idols now, but I was talking to my friend about this and if I ever met Trent Reznor I would not be okay. I would not be okay!

LH: Yeah. There are just certain people. If I interviewed Slash or anyone in person then it would be difficult.
Selena: So Slash was one of my favorite interviews. He is the nicest guy. He is so, so nice. 

LH: He was on WTF actually, and he was so open and I think it was because Marc Maron obviously knew who he was and was a fan but he wasn’t like totally fanboying so he wasn’t asking him all the usual stuff about why did GnR break up / tell us about you and Axl… And that’s the other thing about interviewing people.  Just don’t ask them flat-out the questions that you know they don’t want to answer because it will just p*ss them off.  So with that Slash interview, he knew he wasn’t going get asked to tell the story about why Guns N Roses broke up and as a result, he just seemed to feel like totally comfortable and just gave up everything.
Selena: I think it’s hard too when you literally have 15 minutes. That’s like great I’m going to get to ask five questions, if that.

LH: And the other thing is that you have to ask things the fans want to hear. 
Selena: Yeah, I know it’s tough. Being an interviewer is a tough job. It really is. I still get nervous. I mean, I’ve been doing this for ten years and I still get nervous before every single interview because it’s awkward and you’re on the phone too and sometimes it’s hard and you’ll miss an intonation or something. It’s just so awkward, rather than doing it in person. 

LH: Absolutely. So you set up your own magazine, right? You were co-founder of Boxx Magazine. Is that still going or is it something you’re going to? 
Selena: So as you guys know, I had a full-time job and that was my passion project. The way it came to be actually was Venus folded. There was an intern actually, but we became really good friends. Her name’s Jordan Young and we always were just really sad about because we feel like women in music still really need a place to be covered because at that time too, when we started it was 2012, there wasn’t as much coverage of women, there just wasn’t. We went to go see a movie Hit So Hard, the documentary that Patty Schemel from Hole did, and she talks about that a lot in her movie and we were both sitting there just like looking at each other, like angry at the things she was saying. And we went out for dinner after and she was like, “well, let’s just start our own.” I’m like, “yeah, you into it?” She’s like, “yeah!” And so we just started doing it. It was great because I had all the editorial contacts, she was very business savvy and knew how to get a website created and whatnot. So we, we started that but her ventures took her elsewhere and it just kind of never had the same momentum and I just don’t have time. You know, the one thing I will say is that I think people are covering women more in music and we always said if we got to a point where women were given equal space that we wouldn’t need the site anymore because that really what was the purpose. 

LH: I was speaking to a friend recently who went to see A Star Is Born and he liked Jason Isbell and Lukas Nelson’s music in the movie. He’s like, you’re into a lot of that music now you’re in the U. S, right? I was like, yeah, I’ll do you a playlist of like some of the stuff that I like. As I was doing it, I was just thinking, since I’ve been living in the US, how many totally kick-ass women artists I have come across who I really like.  Amanda Shires – I really like her new album so I put a song from there on there. Also Margo Price. There’s a band out of Milwaukee called Dead Horses, and their singer Sarah Voss is awesome. And then Suzanne Santo from honeyhoney. That playlist is about 50/50 guys and women. And I was thinking the same thing – it seems to be swinging a little bit back the other way.
Selena: Yeah, I mean there’s still a lot of work but it needs to happen because that story just came out this week that more than 50 percent of new guitar buyers are women. I mean, women are interesting because they just bring a different set of emotion and experience to music that, you know, like men can also do that, too, but I think there’s just a different way they write and a different thing that they do to captivate you. Like Marissa Nadler’s one of my favorite people, I love watching her because it’s just, I feel like I’ve gone through a therapy session after, she just puts so much emotion into her set. But yeah. So I’m hoping it starts getting better, but it’s still when you look at festival lineups, it’s like where are the female headliners? They’re just not there and I don’t know what the answer is to that because everyone’s like, well they can’t bring in the crowd, but can they not bring the crowd because we’re not getting covered? You know what I mean? It’s like a chicken and egg thing.

LH: In terms of writing and PR, how do you find working as a woman in that area? 
Selena: You know, I’ve been so incredibly lucky. I don’t know why I have the jobs I do, I just thank the hell out of the people who’ve done that for me and 100 % they’ve all been women. Women in this industry are not as prevalent as men, but my experience has been that they always want to support you and bring you up. And they’ve been incredible. I mean Kristine Ashton-Magnuson, of course, my great mentor and friend who I do the festival work with, but frickin’ Heidi Robinson Fitzgerald, the PR of PR. I mean, the fact that she wanted me to work for her, I’m still like, what am I doing here?! I want to uphold her standards because she’s just phenomenal and her client list is crazy. She’s been in business for, I think it’s over 40 years. She’s been around a long time. But saying that, even my editor at Sun Times is a woman. They’ve all been really supportive and given me opportunities that I would have never had if I just try to do it on my own. 

LH: So after the writing, what was the first step into the PR world?
Selena: So, I had no intentions of being a PR person ever. Not because I disliked it but just I never even thought about it. And what happened was, you know, I’ve worked with all these publicists forever, writing about their bands and Kristine Ashton-Magnuson, she was the national publicist for Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare – the haunted house and concert experience. They were expanding it and they had it in Chicago and the year prior the publicist didn’t work out. So Kristine was looking for someone local and she asked a mutual friend, Heather West, another great friend and mentor of mine. Heather is an incredible person too. Heather was busy at the time, but said, “you know, thinking creatively here, how about Selena Fragassi?” And Kristine’s like, “is she a publicist?” And she’s like, “well think about it – It’s kind of the same skill set. She loves Rob Zombie so she’d want to do right by him, I’m sure”. And so she gave me a shot and like we had a really successful campaign. You had GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, like all these publications that were national, had stringers that came out. So it went really well and we collaborated really well. And the very next year they announced Chicago Open Air, and she’s like, “I’m gonna need someone again, are you up for it?” And I was like, “sure!” And so it’s continued to kind of grow and grow and grow with her. And now actually in 2019, so she handles all the publicity for Danny Wimmer Presents festivals and I will be doing all of them with her next year.  She also did the talent wrangling for the Loudwire Music Awards, so we were in LA last Fall and Heidi Robinson Fitzgerald, who I’ve known forever came and she was like, “So let’s talk. So you work with Kristine? I’m gonna, need some help. Are you game? Do you want to do tour press for Anthrax?” And I was like, “wait, what?! What does that even mean?!” But again, it just worked out really well. We just have a great collaboration. And I’m working with four of her bands now. And then, because I worked with her doing tour press for Ministry, I got close with that team. I’ve also known Al through mutual friends for a little bit and then they were like, “do you want to do press for us going forward?” So it just, it keeps like one person hears this, one person hears that. And people recommend me and then I just keep getting clients. 

LH: Obviously I know what the theory of what a PR person does is. I guess it’s all about having a great network in terms of knowing people in the publicity/entertainment industry, or different magazines and that you’ve got to try and get them to come and cover your show. But what does a typical day in the life of a PR look like?
Selena: So I mean Heidi tells me all the time, she’s like, “I love that you’re on my team because I’m not a writer and you are.” And so she’ll have me look over press releases and she’ll be like, “please give me your feedback” or she’ll have me write them too because you know, you have to catch someone’s attention. I mean, how many bands are there who are on tour, same days even, and you want to get coverage. So, you know, writing is a big part of it. Day-to-day stuff, really it’s like anything from writing press releases to dealing with clients on edits, to scheduling interviews, to doing confirmed guest lists for each show date. I mean tour press is a ton of work because you’re not only pitching but you’re coordinating interviews, daily guest list, all that kind of jazz. But really you’re the communication vehicle for a band. So anytime they have something going on that they want to announce, it’s up to you. It’s hard because like I said, with publications cutting down on pages they have, or staff they have. I mean it’s a really crowded marketplace and so a lot of it is just trying to get people’s attention. So every day I’m like email city. I mean it’s just a lot of emails. I don’t do calls because I hate publicists who do calls. Don’t call me, just email me! Making relationships with people, I think that’s really important too, because there’s a lot of people now that I know at different papers and whatnot who kind of trust that when I have an artist to present to them they’re like, oh well cool. I trust your roster.

LH: I guess trust is a big part of it.
Selena: It’s great because when I go to festivals I meet a lot of those same people. So it’s beautiful. I have like this great setup because not only do I deal with them on email, but I talk with them in person and get to know them and I think it’s really important to have those relationships. 

LH: I bet it’s changed a lot. I look a lot now and the way the music industry’s changed and I think it’s good and it’s bad. Somebody at home could record an EP or an album put it out and then publicize it through their own instagram, twitter. But I think, you know, listening to you talk about it, there’s definitely a level where if a band wants to just focus on the music and on being a band, they’re going to need someone to handle PR for them. 
Selena: Also, it’s like they need ideas, right? So like Ministry, for example, they’re like, “Okay, we’ve got two big things happening here. We have Al Jourgensen’s 60th birthday, and we have Land of Rape and Honey turning 30, like what can we do?” And so I came up with the idea, why don’t we do a video interview series? Let’s have people who made the album talk about it. People love videos nowadays. It’s very easy to repost and they love that idea. And it’s gotten some good traction. It’s not only Al talking about it, but Chris Connolly, who, you know, they’ve just started to mend fences. They weren’t talking for a long time and we got Paul Barker to talk. I mean, Paul Barker and Al haven’t talked in like a very, very, very long time. And they got on the phone and they talked and now we have a video with him coming out, but they love that idea.

LH: So you sound pretty full at the moment in terms of work. Any other plans for it to go in any other direction?  Have you ever thought about doing it for yourself?
Selena: Yeah, I mean I have to make some decisions for next year. So I’m also always like, should I be a journalist and a PR person? I mean like it’s sort of like a weird thing. Am I taking from the pot to……… whatever that phrase is. But, you know, people are cool with it as long as I’m not writing about my artists. And I really would hate to give up writing about bands, but I don’t know what the next few years will bring for me. I think PR’s probably going to become more of a focus, you know, Danny Wimmer Presents has I think nine festivals schedule next year and they’re continuing to grow. I mean that’s a ton of work. And then, you know, Heidi’s talking about other acts that she wants me to do tour press for next year who are big acts. And I’m like, Holy Shit, that’s a lot of work! And now more is coming because I’m working with Ministry. So a friend of mine was talking to Ogre from Skinny Puppy in Orlando this weekend who’s like, “Have her get in touch with me. I need PR.” Stabbing Westward is like, “you work with Ministry? Can you do our PR?” So honestly I may have to bring on people to help me, too. So I don’t know. I think PR will be more of a focus going forward and I do love it. I love it. It taps into like a lot of different skills, like the writing, the communication, and relationships, just the organization. Like I’m a weirdo, Post-It list kind of a person. I’m like, I love that I can do that with this job, like have colored Post-Its!

LH: It’s great to speak to people working in the music industry like you who are maybe not musicians but have managed to take their skills and use them to work in an around the industry they love. One of the things we wanted to do is interview people doing all these jobs. You know, you don’t have to be a musician to work in the music industry……..
Selena: Yeah, I think so. I think that’s really important. Then I think, you know, it’s funny because at these festivals we do, we have a really, really great group called The Music Experience and they set up at every festival this big tent. They have a lot of gear you can come play. They have artist signings. It’s really like a gear focused thing. But they do a really awesome thing every Saturday morning called The Student Experience and they get kids from different music schools, Girls Rock or School of Rock or just a grade school or something, to come in and they get people who are from various positions in the industry to come and talk to these kids. So they’ve called me before. They’re like, “can you be here in 10 minutes?” I’m like, “can you guys at least give me some notice”, I was so nervous. But you know, I went to talk about doing publicity, they’ve had a gear representative, a tour manager, artists, head of security. Our security is a woman. I mean we all come in and we talk to these kids and we’re like, you know “be a musician, that’s so cool. But if you find that like maybe that’s not for you in the future, there are so many other ways to be involved in the music industry that I think people don’t even think about.” You know, and like for girls too, it’s important to see like – wow, there’s a woman at the soundboard. Pearl Jam has a female soundboard engineer, you know, there’s a woman handling security.  And I think it’s great because, you know, even with PR, the thing I love about it is that I get to be working one on one with artists and that has been my dream. I was telling my friend yesterday, I’m like, if 16-year-old Selena knew what 36-year-old Selena’s doing, she would flip her shit because I’m working with my favorite bands. And I think that they also get the benefit of that because I want to do my damnedest to make sure people know about what Ministry is doing or Stabbing Westward. 

LH: That’s important. I think anybody who is working in an industry where they genuinely have a passion for what they’re doing or what the industry’s about, are always going to be better and work that bit harder. There’s a website called Live Your Legend which is all about that. They talk about surveys and statistics that show that something like 80 percent of people in the US are doing a job for which they have no passion. They are all about making you think about working in an area in which you genuinely have a passion and making you consider what you could do if you were truly invested in your work. And I think it’s important because I think there are jobs in the music industry that people can do and they can still be around their passion and just make it work another way. The reality of music is that not everyone’s going to make it as an artist, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still work in the industry. 
Selena: Yeah. But just, you know, I think, like what you guys are doing as well. I mean I was in that place.  I had a job that I was not happy with during the day, but at night and on my spare time I did what I wanted to and I think, you know, there’s always that avenue too. I was thinking the other day about how I don’t have one friend right now, well maybe like a couple, but generally not one friend that I haven’t met through music in some way, shape or form. And it’s like the biggest connector and it’s just such a beautiful art form because I think more than anything else it just brings people together.  

LH: Agreed. That’s a perfect sentiment to finish with.

About Phil Walton 52 Articles
Phil grew up in the UK and loved listening to and playing music from a young age. He moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, falling in love with the city and its music scene. He enjoys nothing better than spending time with musicians, whether it be watching them perform, talking to them for the website or reading their autobiographies.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply