An Interview with Billy Joel
The true story of how I managed to interview the music legend, and a hero of mine, back in 1996
The following events occurred in March of 1996. I was 23 years old at the time, had graduated from Penn State nearly two years earlier, and was living in Nashville and pursuing my dream of being a professional singer/songwriter. Billy Joel was 46. His most recent album was River of Dreams, released in 1993 (as it turns out, he has not released another album of new material as a recording artist since, though he did release an album of original classical compositions performed by pianist Richard Joo, Fantasies and Delusions, in 2001). Anyway, here’s the story. Enjoy!
My brother calls from Penn State to inform me that Billy Joel is coming to the campus as part of a series of college dates he is doing. Not exactly a concert, the event is billed as: “Questions, Answers, and a Little Music with Billy Joel”.
This is my chance.
Somehow, with Billy Joel physically being on the turf of my alma mater, the possibility of meeting him face-to-face seems plausible. I purchase tickets to the show and, to the credit of my bosses, get some time off from work approved even though I am pretty new on the job.
A week before the show, an idea occurs to me. I dig up the number I had found years before for Joel’s business office in New York City, Maritime Music, and call it. I get a recording saying the number has been changed, and I call the new number. Adrenaline surges through me as the call is connected and I hear the rings through the receiver. A voice on the other end picks up.
“Maritime, Keith speaking.”
“Yes, hello. My name is Eric Teplitz, and I’m a freelance writer for the Penn Stater, Penn State’s alumni magazine,” I begin in as professional a tone as I can muster. “I was hoping to interview Mr. Joel while he is in State College for his upcoming appearances at Penn State on Wednesday, the 27th and Thursday, the 28th. Would that be possible?”
I brace myself, anticipating one of three possible responses on the other end: a) outright laughter, b) the “click” of an instant hang-up, or c) “a)” followed by “b)”.