Sharyn Casey has been chatting to our favourite stars for years, which is why we were so keen to get her a part of our series to share some of her best interview memories. From talking to Lady Gaga before she became THE Lady Gaga to hanging with Taylor Swift’s crew, Sharyn dishes on some of the highlights of her career and things she’s learnt along the way.
You’ve interviewed tons of artists, who’s been your favourite?
My favourite interview, annoyingly it was a phone interview, was Lady Gaga. It was when she had just come out with ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Just Dance’ and The Fame (2008) and I was so pumped because The Edge had only been playing ‘Just Dance’ for a couple of days and I was obsessed. We got to interview her, and it was like her first run of press interviews, and she was just up for anything and talked about everything. There were so many questions that we asked that she was sick of answering and didn’t answer when she came back to NZ with The Pussycat Dolls like 10 months later (2009), so it was really cool to get her fresh and early and starting out. It was so cool!
Usually, how does the process of interviewing big stars go down?
Usually, the record company will approach The Edge and be like “hey, we’ve got 10 minutes with this person” and then it’ll get allocated to whatever show, or sometimes they’ll ask for a specific show because they like their style or whatever. Then we get given the time and we research and prep and come up with what we wanna talk about, and then we wait for the phone call or the artist comes in. There’s been a lot of times where you spend a long time in the studio sitting and waiting for someone to call, and then they never call, and that is just real ball-breaking because it doesn’t get rescheduled. But when it does happen it’s so cool, but it’s also really nerve-wracking if it’s a celebrity that you’re a huge fan of.
Following on from that, do you still get starstruck by anyone?
Yeah definitely. If it’s someone I’m a huge fan of then I’m always excited. I try to not be too cool for anybody that I have to interview, because I think that’s when you kind of forget the privilege of the job and the cool stuff that you get to do, but there are definitely moments where I’m like *screams.* It’s just weird because they’ll walk in and you’re just like holy heck. Like, it’s just really overwhelming.
Have you spoken to Lady Gaga since that first interview?
Nah, that’s the only time I’ve ever spoken to her. The next time she came here, she was a massive star and I was on the night show at the time. And usually, the bigger the star, the bigger the show, so when she was at that status she’d always be on the breakfast show and maybe sometimes the afternoon show. But she came to NZ one time and they were in the car, and she asked someone in the car from the record company to put a Top 40 pop radio station on, and the person in the car put The Edge on. And they were playing a Gaga song, because everyone knew that she had landed because the fans were going crazy, and were like “Gaga, welcome to NZ, call us!” So then Lady Gaga rang The Edge and just talked to the breakfast show on the phone for like 10-15 minutes and waited during the songs. It was awesome. So cool.
Have there been any other worthy interview mentions or favourites?
Another really cool one was Ariana Grande. We went over to Sydney to interview her (2014) and it was just as there was a whole lot of press about her being a diva, and how she only likes being filmed on one specific side of her face, and she was really difficult and just being a nightmare on this Australian trip. So, we went in and did the interview, and then one of my co-hosts at the time, Guy Williams, just asked “oh, I’m really surprised, there’s all this press about you right now and you’re really lovely.” And the whole room just gasped and went “thanks guys, thanks guys” and tried to end the interview. And Ariana told them all to back off and was like “no, I’m gonna answer that question because there’s all this false stuff about me and I haven’t done any of the things that have been reported.” Then she just talked to us about it and was really cool. I’ve been in those instances where people have turned around and looked at the publicist, and then the interview’s all of a sudden over, but Ariana was awesome. She was like “nah, I’ll finish this interview!” And, also interestingly, she was filmed on the side that was apparently not her good side according to the press, so you could just tell it was all bulls**t.
And another really good one was Rihanna when she was promoting Battleship, the movie she was in (2012). It was on the phone and she was really, really friendly and really fun, it was kind of like just talking to a friend. Then she just dropped a C-bomb out of nowhere, because she didn’t realise it was offensive in some places. And we were laughing and explaining to her the term ‘GC’ that’s used here, and she was real into it. So that was really fun.
What’s the feeling like at the end of an interview?
If it’s gone really well, you’re like ‘YES! That was so good, I can’t wait to play that out’, but if it’s gone terrible it’s really awkward. If it’s someone that you really love, you’re always like ‘I really hope they liked that interview, if they didn’t I’m gonna be so embarrassed’ or whatever, so it’s always just hoping that they had a good time and hoping that you got to ask all the questions that you wanted to. If you have a really good interview it’s a real adrenaline rush, but if you do have someone that you’re a big fan of you’re just hoping they liked the interview.
Have you had any interviews that didn’t end up going the way you thought they would?
Ah, yup. I’ve definitely had interviews where once the person’s walked out, I’ve burst into tears and been absolutely devo. Just things like no eye contact or manners, or someone making things generally difficult. Or just if people turn up to the interview and they don’t wanna be there. I’ve had that happen to me for a TV interview once and it was gutting. Afterwards I just burst into tears, like “I worked so hard on that interview, we can’t book interviews with people that don’t wanna come on the show, we can’t just make people come on the show!” I was so upset!
Is that why your interviews with Gaga and Ariana are so memorable?
Yeah! It’s an interesting thing. A lot of radio announcers have talked about this before and we find that the bigger the star, the nicer they are in the interview. When I think about really big stars we’ve had, like your Arianas, your Rihannas, your Katy Perrys, all of them are amazing. They just know how to do it. They get in there and smash it, and you just have a great experience. That’s always it. The bigger the star, the nicer they are is kind of the saying.
What would you say is the most memorable thing you’ve learnt or taken away from an interview?
The most memorable thing I’ve learnt is … when I first started out, I would kind of prep my questions and go through them one by one, but I wouldn’t really listen. Then I learnt that actually I’ll prep my interview and know what I wanna ask, but I’ll put the questions away so I don’t look at them when I actually do the interview. Because it’s more about having a legit, real conversation. That’s kind of my vibe of interviewing, and I’ve really realised that now. I just wanna sit in a room and talk to whoever I’m interviewing in a normal conversational way. And I find that ever since I started doing that, and having two ears and one mouth rather than waiting for them to finish so I can ask my next question, they’re more receptive to it and they enjoy the interview more and it’s way more fun for everybody. Just treating people like they’re a real person. Which sounds really silly, but we’ve had more reactions of people being like “wow, that was a really cool interview” because they actually got to talk about stuff they care about.