An Introduction to “The Black Box” Interview Series

On Monday, July 10 2017, I posted a picture on social media (a rare thing for me to do) hinting towards a new project of mine in the works. In honor of it’s upcoming launch (date TBD), I want to provide an explanation to what exactly the project is, how the idea came into existence, and what the long term vision is.

See the original post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWYKNPeDDKC/?taken-by=mikeiavarone

Nashville Coffee Shops, Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ Album, and Artificial Intelligence

This summer, I decided to spend a few months in Nashville, TN, commonly known as ‘Music City’. The background story as to why I came down here in the first place stems from rediscovering a love for music back in February 2016 (an anecdote for a different blog post). Craving a change in our work environment, one of my housemates, Mamadou, and our friend, Carley, decide to venture to Three Brother’s Coffee. Iced vanilla coffee in hand and Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ playing in my earphones, I begin filling out some internship applications for the upcoming fall semester. Frustrated with my lack of qualifications for some of the companies and positions I am interested in, I vent to Carley about how I wish I had more creative work and experience to back up my work ethic. At one point, I had something I was working on that could fill this void, had I followed through with it in the first place.

Wait… What were you working on at that could have helped?

This past spring semester, I created a podcast called ‘Opportunity Cost’, a title brainstormed by my college roommate, Dan. Having admired Dan for his work as a designer and entrepreneur since meeting him freshman year, I could not think of a better person to interview to launch the podcast. Despite a solid first episode, something did not feel right. The project already felt inauthentic, which was ironic considering the theme of Dan’s interview was “authenticity is the new currency” (check out the interview HERE). I later stopped working on the project, covering it up with the excuse “I am spreading myself too thin with everything else I am working on”.

Back to the story…

As I read the description for a SiriusXM music programming internship position, the idea to start my own interview show enters my mind. Having become a fan of Zane Lowe’s interviews on Beats1 and BBC Radio, Zach Sang’s interviews from ‘The Zach Sang Show’, and the content they both deliver to their audience respective audiences, I know exactly what I want to do differently this time around with this project to make it feel more authentic. All I need is a name. Recalling a random conversation that Mamadou and I had about computer programming and AI, one concept jumps out at me: a black box. And thus, The Black Box is born.

So… What is “The Black Box”?

“In science, computing, and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed in terms of its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal workings. Its implementation is “opaque” (black). Almost anything might be referred to as a black box: a transistor, an algorithm, or the human brain.” — Wikipedia (I know what you are thinking, Wikipedia is not the most credible source to use for definitions. But it had a pretty good way of phrasing it, don’t you think?)

The structure of the interview is as follows: unpack the guest’s black box (mind) to help aspiring creators, professionals, and, well, any individual, further understand how a certain input (inspiration) produces a certain output (the craft). The interviews will, of course, touch upon each individual’s inspirations and influences, as well as the work they did and currently do, but the goal is to bridge the gap between the two and reveal the ‘secret sauce’ that goes on within their black box.

Note: This show is NOT meant to expose all of an individual’s secrets about his or her work, only as much as they are willing to share. Therefore, unfortunately, the Krabby Patty Formula is going to remain a mystery.

As an individual that seeks to further develop his craft in music, branding, and just content creation in general, I selfishly want to use The Black Box interviews as a way of learning from others to improve my own work, but I also wish to deliver this information to an audience where this information can do the same for them.

The Goals

Interview as many people as possible

I am hoping to meet and interview individuals, both up-and-coming and established, across all industries and professions, and dive into the inner workings of their craft.

“A craft is a pastime or a profession that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work.” — Wikipedia (Thanks again, Wiki!)

Let’s be real: there is definitely a craft in the work a surgeon does, or an inventor building technology to one day colonize Mars (shoutout to Elon Musk!). The only issue I see with interviewing a wide range of individuals is the possible difficulty of establishing a core niche due to how diverse my guests will be in terms of their work. My belief is that, regardless of what the craft is, there is always going to be something to relate it back to your own work. Which brings me to my next goal…

Relatability

This goal is probably the biggest I have for The Black Box. I want this project to have a lasting impact on its audience. With this in mind, the conversations and the content within each interview need to be as relatable as possible. Am I going to bat 1.000 in attempting to make this happen? Odds are, probably not, especially since every individual (listeners and guests) is bound to be different. If I can bat over .700, I consider that a success, but I am aiming to get a 1.000 batting average from the very first swing.

Relaxed, Natural Conversation

One trait I admire about Zane Lowe and Zach Sang is how comfortable they make their guests feel in an interview, and the natural flow of conversation that comes from this, despite being on camera. The more relaxed both sides are, the more organic the conversation will (hopefully) be.

The Long Term Vision

The vision is to one day be able to have my own studio and be established enough to interview some of my personal top role models, but also some of the most influential people in my life time (I will put together an interview bucket list soon!)

What’s Next?

I am currently reaching out to people I am hoping to interview in the near future (Recommendations and nominations for people to interview are welcome! See my contact info below). I do not want to promise an exact release date for a first episode, but keep your eyes out for a release!

Questions? Comments/Feedback? Feel free to email me at miavarone3@gmail.com

‘The Black Box’ socials and website coming soon!! Trying to figure out social media account names and whatnot.