Being a journalist or just a writer in general is difficult at times because it’s not easy providing exciting news or any type of content for your audience. Writing is a challenging profession and despite having to be grammatically trained to put a full length article together based on opening statements, transitions, supporting details and such, just being able to find your own voice and display that within words is a challenge on its own. Some writers have a hard time adjusting to this but the ones who find that voice are normally the ones who end up exceeding all expectations within the writing space. Bianca Gracie didn’t only find her voice throughout her years of writing and creating digital content but is now displaying that voice and talent on the biggest music platform in the world – Billboard.
I had the chance to catch up with Bianca to take about her come up in journalism, her journalistic inspirations, her struggles with deadlines, how she landed her Associate Editor position over at Billboard and much more in our full interview below.
1 – How did you get into journalism?
Well, I’ve always loved writing and reading books since I was a kid, and I later began to write poetry in high school and college. Some of it got published but I knew I couldn’t make a living off poems. So I picked up a journalism minor in college to see if I’d like it, and that’s when my passion for it really blossomed. My program required students to take two six-month internships before graduating, and one of my internships was for a pop website called Idolator. This was back in 2013. That was my first taste of the music industry and I was able to not only work on my writing but to interview people as well. I kept that connection once my internship was finished, and the rest is history!
2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?
Not many people know this, but I actually wanted to work in fashion. But after a few internships and freelance jobs, I realized that industry was too fickle for me. I always loved music — specifically dancehall and pop — and I grew up with a lot of DJs in my family, which I’d say was my biggest inspiration. So the passion for it was always there. I kind of had a wake-up call after leaving the fashion world and was like, “Hey, why don’t I try this music thing out?”
3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?
That lightbulb moment occurred once I got the internship at Idolator, and I continued to work with them afterward as a freelancer and later as their editorial assistant for two years. At the time, I thought it was incredible that the people around me had a career that could also be so much fun.
4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?
Man, I have to go back to the archives for this one! Many people who follow my work are aware of my love for ‘90s and ‘00s nostalgia and I began crafting that niche really early. I remember writing long-form articles for the 10th anniversary of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the 15th anniversary of TLC’s Fanmail. Social media wasn’t as wildly significant at the time, but those kinds of articles received a lot of love from the right people — the fans and other industry folks. I think they helped prove that I could be a beast in the writing game if I really wanted to! [laughs]
5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?
One of the biggest parts of the music industry are the fanbases, so for me, it’s always been important for me to keep my ear close to what they’re listening and thinking. It’s also key to read beyond your own work. You can learn so much from other journalists both through their writing and also making direct connections with them. Honestly, just reading in general: the newspaper, song lyrics, music history books, essays from professors…everything.
6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?
I love to talk my shit in think pieces here and there, but interviews will forever have my heart. There’s something really special about forming a connection with an artist, record executive or composer — whether it’s just for 15 minutes or an hour. I’ve realized it’s become somewhat of my mission to help tell people’s stories in a genuine way, and interviews are the perfect way to do so.
7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the Associate Editor?
Connections, connections, connections!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to network and maintain a relationship with industry colleagues you meet along the way. So the reason I got my previous job at Fuse is because a fellow writer knew of my work through Twitter and later emailed me about a position there (he was the managing editor at the time). Fast forward two years later, and that same editor (who moved to Billboard a little after I began working at Fuse) hit me up about a Billboard offer about three months ago. If I never kept in contact with him throughout all these years and kept him up to date with my career goals, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this associate editor job so quickly. I’m super thankful.
8 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?
Ughhhh deadlines are the worst! They are very necessary to keep you on top of your game, especially now that I work for a print magazine. But man they can often be a major headache. Deadlines used to give me a lot of anxiety since I love to procrastinate (I still do honestly haha), but I’ve learned to handle my time. But there’s definitely been long-form articles and breaking news stories that I’ve rushed because I was too close to the deadline, so I said “fuck it,” published it and hoped for the best!
9 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?
I think because I work for Billboard, there are obviously more eyes on my writing. So I have no choice to stand out. But that doesn’t mean for me to shell out against the grain hot takes just for the hell of it. I’ve always been confident in the way I write, especially since I love nostalgia so much. That right there is my voice, and it’s only gotten stronger. So I use that to my advantage and stick to my quirky thoughts on certain artists and genres, and that hasn’t really failed me yet.
10 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?
Wow, there’s so many! A few of my favorites who I think are killing the game are Eve Barlow, Anne Donahue, Yoh Phillips, Craig Jenkins, Da’Shan Smith, Gary Suarez, David Marchese, Ivie Ani, Sharine Taylor…my list goes on! I respect writers who stay true to their voice and don’t stray away from their point of view to float alongside bandwagonists. These guys always bring a fresh perspective to the hot topics in music, some of which are funny, scathing or just an educated read. It definitely inspires me!
11 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or music journalist?
My main advice would be to never forget why you got into this industry in the first place. So many people will try to break you down or attempt to poach your ideas, especially if you’re a double-minority like myself: a Black woman. But your passion and drive will win in the end and is proof that you’re good enough to stick around. Because this industry definitely isn’t always pretty! Please don’t let these listening events and free happy hours or dinners from record labels that you see on popular influencers’ social media fool you. It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. But if your heart is truly in this, then it’ll give you the fuel to stay determined.
12 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?
I was very shy at the beginning of my career, especially when I had to meet celebrities in person. But I’ve learned from my peers to stay professional and to not be afraid to go the extra mile or ask that tough question that you know others won’t. I’ve also been taught to not get too comfortable and to always challenge yourself to become a better writer. That’s helped me to not get caught up in the hype and glitz of the industry, and it’s kept me driven. This is a job, after all.
13 – What can we expect from Bianca Gracie for the rest of 2018?
My goal this year is to publish even more thoughtful, witty profiles and op-eds, so you can look out for that. And I’ve spoken to some really awesome people thus far, so you never know what interview I have up my sleeve next!