How did you fall in love with music writing?
I fell in love with music in San Diego, living in a little basement apartment. I would go get records from this record store in Pacific Beach. I would listen and get lost in the music, but I knew that I was not a guitarist or a musician. The bar was so high. I felt like [writing] was an avenue that made sense to me.
We first published you in Rolling Stone five decades ago. Now you’re 65. Looking back, what are the main lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve learned to listen to the little voice inside that says, You can do it! You can send your stories to this guy who is just a glowing byline, and he’ll read your stories! It is still the lesson of “follow your instincts, follow your heart.” I think everything I’ve done has been some version of that story. Be a warrior for your greatest dreams and intentions.
You seem to have mastered the art of being forever young. What’s the role of rock ’n’ roll in staying young?
Well, youth is spirit and it’s also curiosity. Great music to me takes you to that place where you can appreciate something that feels timeless. I think this is one of the gifts of music; it lasts beyond your own lifetime, it inspires new generations, and it takes you to a place where you can just feel the potential of being alive.
How else are you staying not only young at heart but also of body?
I walk a lot. And directing, I just run to the next setup and to the next opportunity to create something. When you have the most spirit in a room, you transcend age and you actually bring a kind of sparkle.
Tell me about rock star Gregg Allman taking your interview tapes and almost ending your career before it started.
Yes, Gregg Allman took my tapes, and I was completely worried that I had blown my first big, big assignment. This was in Almost Famous. I just collapsed in the airport thinking everything was lost and you were going to fire me from ever being in Rolling Stone again. Then I ran into my sister, and she rescued me. It totally happened. Gregg Allman did return the tapes, and I wrote the story.
How did the idea of Almost Famous The Musical come about?
Almost Famous wasn’t a commercial juggernaut. People took it to heart over time. If we could create the feeling in a theater, where people can feel immersed in 1973 and what it was like then to see a concert and to meet these indelible characters, well, that’s worth taking the next step to try it.