NYC to SLC: music journalist Charissa Che

Story by Mack Culp,

I got to sit down with Charissa Che this week to find out what a life as a music journalist is like. I met Che only two weeks ago when I picked her up in the rain for an Uber ride. I learned she is also a student at the University of Utah and new to Salt Lake City. Che was equally excited to learn about my journalist aspirations, because she has been writing in New York City for 10 years. Instant best friends.

I’m waiting to meet her at The People’s Coffee downtown Salt Lake City. The air is crisp, even inside, and my approach might not be. But my plan is to ask questions on the cusp, see where the conversation takes us, because that’s what an interview is anyway. Nothing calculated for a new friend.

Che ordered an earl grey tea, and I a second late. I start by asking if I could record on my iPhone for my notes. Che politely agrees.

Che is somewhat unassuming, but that’s what a journalist should be. Blending into the environment she investigates. Pulling it apart for what it is. Asking the question when you least expect.

Culp: Tell me about your work for Salt Lake Magazine.

Che: For Salt Lake Magazine, I’ve written lots of pieces on local bands. They’ve been able to meet with me. It’s mostly been at coffee shops, but with the more major acts who are touring, they can’t meet, so on the phone. I already had some contacts at record labels, so once they found out I was writing for Salt Lake, I started getting emails from them inviting me to shows, interviews. I’ve written for so many magazines. I see these people, and I’m like, I know you. You’re from Columbia, Atlantic Records. Once they hear I write for a different magazine, they’re on top of it.

Culp: I’m curious what it’s like to write for the mobile app/magazine, SOUNDS.

Che: I can write for wherever I am [for] SOUNDS MAGAZINE. I used to write about the New York scene. Once I was here (Salt Lake City) I pitched to my editor, hey theres a lot of cool music coming out of here that I don’t think people give credit for.

CMJ Music Marathon 2013 Lower East Side, NYC. Photo by Charissa Che

CMJ Music Marathon 2013 Lower East Side, NYC. Photo by Charissa Che

Culp: What do you do for SOUNDS Mag?

Che: I just went around, interviewed some local bands, talked about who stopped by, took pictures. It’s a several page spread [called] The Salt Lake Scene report. The magazine itself is interactive, so it’s an app. We had Ellie Goulding a few years ago, Elton John. I did the Ellie Goulding cover story. My most recent one, was a Josh Stone cover story.

It puts all the control in your hands. You have to make the moves. As intimidating as it is. I used to be intimidated setting up interviews, and now it’s just like old hat. It’s kind of up to me, I fashion the story as I want. It makes you prouder as a reporter, once that final project it up, that you knew you were behind every part of it.

Culp: What is the future of working journalists?

Che: Journalism is a lifestyle. It’s not an office job. Not everyone is born with the inherent curiosity to want to investigate things. It will fulfill your need to get questions answered. I don’t know what the future of print is. Lifestyle magazines will always have a niche. You want to have it on your coffee table. I feel like eventually everything is going to be digital and that’s a little scary. I like magazines, I like print. I like things that you can touch, smell, and keep. But, I feel like however it goes there will be a novelty attached to it and we will find a way to like that too.