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Interview with Jesse Davis, editor, arts journalist

Q: What’s the impetus to write about art, your impetus? What’s the actual point?

A: Writing about art is a somewhat more stable and predictable source of income than making art, but it’s still art-adjacent.  But money isn’t my first concern, or I wouldn’t work in journalism or the arts. Writing about art gives me the chance to help people tell their stories, to shine a light (however briefly) on a book or album or film that might not have had as much attention paid to it. It also gives me a chance to interview interesting people, often from backgrounds very different from my own. 

Q: Has a piece of art (visual, music, dance, writing, a game, an installation] ever changed you personally, on a more than an aesthetic level?  

A: Short answer: without a doubt. Longer answer: It’s hard to pinpoint any one piece of art that had the most effect; I can’t exactly be objective about myself. But I’m a journalist, a musician, and a DJ. I’m a fourth-generation musician and songwriter. And I used to tell people I was raised by a library card. Stories are my reason for being. They’ve certainly shaped my sense of right and wrong. 

Q: Does the DJ have a responsibility to their audience? What is it?

A: All artists have some responsibility to their audience, though that shouldn’t keep them from taking chances either. I actually am a DJ — I host the My Morning Mixtape program on Memphis’s WEVL radio station. I see it as my job to stick to my genre enough that repeat listeners return, while still challenging them — and myself — by playing things they haven’t heard before. 

Q: Does any journalist – any writer – ever get the “real” story? Not the facts, but the true underlying narrative? How would you know if you had?

A: Is there ever only one “real” story? No matter what, a writer will bring their own perspective to a story. It’s probably impossible to tell a story exactly as it feels or appears to someone else, but that doesn’t mean a writer can’t fully engage with some essential aspect of the story. 

Q: Have you ever heard of Dark Factory?  

A: I’ve heard that anyone who enters Dark Factory comes out the other side … changed. 

Jesse Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Memphis Flyer

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