I sat down with Leor Galil, a 29-year-old journalist who specializes in writing about music, art and culture. While growing up in Washington D.C., Galil learned to cultivate his passions into an actual career path that has led him to Chicago.
Galil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2010 and now works for the Chicago Reader and still does some occasional freelance work.
Note: This is a condensed version of a longer interview.
What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism, specifically in writing about music, art and culture?
I grew up with a fascination and love of the arts. I was more drawn to visual art at first and growing up in Washington D.C., I had all of that at my fingertips with the museums and everything. My parents were also really encouraging and pushed me to see the arts and to learn about art history.
Later, it was the other way around and I would be dragging my dad out to the museums every weekend. I always loved music and it was during high school that I decided that I wanted to become a journalist.
What is the process you go through while reviewing an album?
Right away I am reacting to it but it can take a longer time for me to digest it and to understand why I think that way. I am listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album right now and I know I can’t make an informed decision after one listen. I wasn’t able to; it’s so long and elaborate. The pace and shape of it rejects the notion that one can have an informed opinion immediately.
I like to listen to albums as long as necessary. Sometimes it’s just a few listens and other times it can be days or weeks. What I love about music and the albums that mean a lot to me is that I can always revisit them and find something new.
How do you go about unearthing lesser-known and underground musicians?
I go to shows and look for music online. It is something that I have been doing for so long that I am just used to it. I go into the record stores and if there is something unfamiliar that catches my eye, and is not terribly expensive, I will buy it. If I don’t find something that I like, at least I am learning something new.
How do you see culture influencing music and vice versa?
They are intertwined, music is a part of culture and we don’t live in a vacuum. Part of what I love about covering local music is that it’s a part of a community. You go into a Jugrnaut where there’s musicians, producers, videographers, photographers and designers all just hanging out, their creative connections foster a sense of community.
What are some qualities that you believe make a song, regardless of it being potentially good or bad, enjoyable?
If it gets stuck in your head, if it worms its way in there and the only way to get it out is to listen to it. If it is that ingrained in you then you can call it enjoyable.
One example is Rebecca Black’s Friday; it’s stupid fun. It had this crossover moment where it was shared by everyone and you just couldn’t get away from it, and depending on the day you might not want to. There is something really special about that shared experience.
Do you think songs or albums can be defined as simply being good or bad?
You can certainly have your own opinion about it and I do. I think certain songs and albums are terrible and I think some are great. I tend to focus more on the great ones unless I think there is something particularly important about saying a specific song or album is bad. It’s taste. It’s personal taste. It’s personal.
What are your future goals?
I just want to keep on doing what I enjoy doing and continue writing about the world around me. I want to challenge myself to grow as a journalist. That’s it.