Each time I schedule an interview for an article, I aim to gather quality material as quickly as possible. It’s practical for both myself and the subject. Also, features tend to have deadlines that necessitate efficiency. My interview with spoken word artist Lacroy Nixon benefitted from this model.

How to Research the Subject

I research my subject before we meet. I check out their social media profiles, their website and try to find any other articles written about them. If they’ve published their own material, I review it.

Most of the time, the same narratives arise in most of the material. I usually type up a quick summary based on what I can already find. This is the baseline for the interview.

My goal is to craft questions that cover new material, or at least, go deeper into the previous topics. For Lacroy’s profile, I found a few videos from his performances and made some notes about his social media activity.

How to Write Better Questions

Based on my research, I crafted questions that would allow Lacroy to tell his story. My favorite tool is the “Tell me about a time that…”

When a subject recalls a situation from memory, they tend to be more candid. The resulting narrative helps me capture their voice.

For example, I asked Lacroy, “You made reference to being a preacher’s kid, and when I’m listening to you explain your process, there are lot of faith influences in there. Have you ever thought about that connection?”

He replied:

Of course. My dad pastored a small church in Williamsburg since I was five. I remember because I turned five and we were moving in.
For me, that was my life.
That’s all I was allowed to know, truth be told. It was like clockwork. Go to Wednesday Night service. Go to Sunday Morning Service. Eventually, go to Thursday night rehearsal for praise and worship. I learned how to play the drums so, every now and then I would help out.
For me as a kid, I would be like, “I just want to go to the kid’s church.” But, at one point we didn’t have a youth minister. So, all the kids would sit in the service.
As a kid, you don’t realize you’re getting poured into. But, then, as you get older and the same things you heard start to spew out of you — whether you realize it or not.
Most kids go home and it’s different. I’d go home and get the same stuff.
Eventually, it’s like, I knew where it was coming from.

This works well when someone is nervous or hasn’t been interviewed previously.

How to Select a Meeting Place

Most of the time, I let the subject choose where they want to meet. As long as it is quiet enough to capture audio, I oblige. Most of the time, people choose venues where they are comfortable. Lacroy surprised me when he chose the foyer of the Liberty University Welcome Center. It’s a large, open room with marble floors, white columns, and elaborate windows that overlook the campus.

When I felt his energy in person, I understood why. He’s the type of person who doesn’t sink into corners or stand by a wall. He’s comfortable chatting in bright light in the middle of an open, bustling room. I may not have understood that aspect of his personality if I had chosen a more intimate setting for our conversation.

How to Capture a Story Angle

I’m always looking for a theme to focus every article I write. As my subject answers questions, I look to their body language to see what topics excite them to their core. Most of the time, this is how I choose which questions deserve a follow-up.

I prepare for these moments by separating my questions into two columns, usually on two pages in my notebook. The first are the “must ask” questions that fit with the pre-established outline for my piece. This is the ground my editor needs me to cover and what the article must include to make sense.

The second column includes launch-point questions. I don’t use all of them. Instead, they’re my observations. As time and mood allows, I ask the subject to elaborate on these areas. Most of the time, the best quotes come from these questions.

See the results of my process in my interview with Lacroy “Atlas” Nixon below.

Artist Profile for Talk That Talk

Lacroy “Atlas” Nixon on How to Be Original, Taking Notice of Your Journey, and Why He’s Starting a Poetry Club at Liberty University

Originally published on Talk that Talk

Sitting down with Lacroy “Atlas” Nixon, I was struck by the thoughtfulness of youth. Although most people reference life in hindsight, as if that is the only direction wisdom can flow, Lacroy sees his journey before him with profound clarity. It’s marked by introspection — a recurring theme in his most recent work.

At The Listening, we frequently host Open Mic events that allow members of the community to share their thoughts. In this conversation, Lacroy gives us a peek into his process, as well as, the passion behind his poetry.

Below is our interview, edited lightly for clarity.

Danielle: Tell me a little about yourself.

Lacroy: I’m a senior this year at Liberty University. Graphic Design Major. 21 going on 22… it’s crazy. As far as artist stuff, I’ve been doing poetry consistently for about four years now.

D: Since high school?

L: I kind of got put on a platform then. But, I didn’t take time out of my day to write. People would just say, “We’re doing this event and we’d like you to perform there.”

I didn’t start writing consistently until I got to college. There is a group, Bridging the Gap Urban Ministries. They have an artist development program. The guy who was running it at the time, he found that I did writing.

So, he was like, “Oh, so you are a poet.”

I felt like that was stretching it a little bit. Basically, in a twist of magic, because God has a rare sense of humor, it was a Listening event that was my first ever event with them. That was my “debut” event. Before that I didn’t perform consistently.

It was in Fall 2015 when The Listening had their event on the steps of DeMoss Hall. That was when I had just joined the group. I was nervous.

I get up there and do it.

Everyone loved it.

I think it was Jerry Griffin that came up to me after and said, “Hey, we’re having another event downtown. We want to know if you can be a part of that.”

(Me being me) I’m like, well… if I’m going to do this artist thing, why not?

It’s pretty much been on and up since.

Continue reading at Talk That Talk.