Blog: Brett Callwood

Music writer Brett Callwood hopped the briny deep to follow rockers like the Dirt Bombs and Insane Clown Posse (who got big play in his native England) to Detroit in 2008. This week Brett, author of MC5: Sonically Speaking, the first full biography of the harbingers of punk rock, plumbs the local music scene and its old school influences.

Post 5: Musical Scribes

Metro Detroit is blessed with some incredibly talented music writers and I've been fortunate enough to work with many of them and meet the others, and they've all been supportive at a level I never found in London and, from what I'm told, I wouldn't find in cities like New York or LA. There are many, but Brian Smith, Bill Holdship, Rachel May, Gary Graff, and Sue Whitall come jumping into my head. There are others, and I don't want anybody to get offended, but these five names should be enough to whet anybody's literary appetite.

Bill Holdship was the first to give me a leg up when I arrived. At that time, he was the music editor at the Metro Times. He surprised me, because he was aware of my work with Classic Rock Magazine in England. He welcomed me and immediately started giving me work. Of course, as soon as I started freelancing for MT, I was introduced to Brian Smith. This is an enormous blessing. See, in the almost three years that I've been writing for the MT, I've improved as a writer more dramatically than at any other point in my career. I can see the transition myself, and it's startling. It's mainly down to the guidance and, at times, hard editing of Brian and Bill.

In December 2009, my first MT cover feature was published, on the artist Niagara. This in itself was an amazing experience. With the help of Brian Smith, we produced a feature that, if I do say so myself, is impressive. In my opinion, I bettered it six months later when my second cover feature was published, on punk rock icon John Brannon. Reading that feature now, it's obvious that I learned a lot from Smith during the Niagara process.
Both of those features can be found on the Metro Times website.

Meanwhile… another person I met soon after I arrived was Rachel May. I knew her solely as the singer with Broadzilla (that band had played in England at a Hell's Angels event called the Bulldog Bash, and I had been at the front wearing my Lions cap), and I turned up at the New Way in Ferndale on a Monday evening to see May perform an acoustic set with Novadriver guitarist Bill Reedy. I met up with my now long-time buddy Eric Hoegemeyer there, and he informed me that Rachel also writes for the Free Press. I introduced myself and she informed me that they were involved with a new website, Metromix. I was introduced to then-MMX editor BJ Hammerstein, just as the site was getting started. He gave me work reviewing hundreds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, stores, and seemingly everything else. Once that initial groundwork was done, I was and am able to concentrate on covering local music for them also.

Finally (for now), things really took a swing in the right direction when I met with Kathy Wildfong at Wayne State University Press. She had a good look at the UK editions of my MC5 and Stooges books and, with the endorsement of her colleague and talented writer ML Liebler, agreed to put both of the books out in North America.

MC5: Sonically Speaking has just been released.