- File: Sarah Priestap
- Nick Charyk
This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2020.
It's a good thing I mostly cover hard news. Unlike Seven Days' valiant arts and culture writers, I rarely find myself interviewing celebrities or artists whom I particularly admire.
When the bosses do let me cover the occasional story outside my beat, I tend to blow it. Take, for example, when I encountered Phish drummer Jon Fishman — one of my favorite musicians — testifying at the Vermont Statehouse in April 2015. Suffice it to say that, while interviewing him, I nearly pissed my pants.
"I'm wondering why you're such an awesome drummer," I actually asked.
That episode nearly repeated itself in June, when an old pal approached me with a wild story. Nick Charyk, whom I'd gotten to know in his days as a political operative, called to tell me that his band, the Western Terrestrials, had collaborated on a new song with another of my favorite musicians, Old Crow Medicine Show bandleader Ketch Secor. If I wrote about it, Charyk suggested, I might get to interview Secor.
Didn't take long for me to say yes.
When I connected with Secor over the phone a couple weeks later, I held my fanboy impulses in check — at least, for a time. Only toward the end of the call did the gushing commence. I didn't quite say, "Dude, man, I really love your music." But it was close.
Speaking of unprofessional, a good reporter never accepts anything of value from a source. But, come September, I heard from Charyk again — and this time he was offering me a cameo in a film adaptation of the Secor collaboration, called The Ballad of Ethan Alien.
Once again, I said yes.
Charyk told me I'd be playing a television news reporter — OK, a bit of a stretch for this scruffy scribe — and promised to get me my lines ahead of time. He didn't. And when I showed up at the set at Middlesex's Camp Meade, I learned that I'd be improvising. Not exactly my strong suit.
What followed was an excruciating period of line-flubbing, bad acting and general awkwardness. I was amazed Charyk's crew didn't fire me on the spot.
Like I said, a good reporter never accepts anything of value from a source. But when Charyk handed me a tall boy of Upper Pass Beer's Fred Red Ale to compensate me for my time, it again didn't take long for me to say yes.