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Backstory: Strongest Fanboy Impulses 

Published December 30, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge Nick Charyk - FILE: SARAH PRIESTAP
  • 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.

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About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz was part of the Seven Days news team from 2012 to 2020. He served as political editor and wrote the "Fair Game" political column before becoming a staff writer.


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