These are the interview exchanges that stood out most to Alive's editor this year

Talking to people is a large part of what I do for a living, which is both a little unnatural (I’m genetically disposed to introversion) and an awesome responsibility. I mean, people routinely open up to us, explaining the forces that drove them to create or act, or the circumstances that helped shaped the person that they are now, and then they step back and trust us to tell their story. And I’ll never take that responsibility lightly.

In that spirit, here are some of the exchanges that stood out the most to me this year.

“Lyrics about [my sister's death] showed up multiple times in the past, but … with this one, I put some actual moments from my life in there. On ‘Oblivion,’ with [the lyric], ‘I tried to burrow a hole into the ground,’ I had this acid trip after hours at [Skye’s] gravesite when I was 15. It was probably two weeks after she had passed away, and I just started digging in the ground to get down to her.” -Brann Dailor of Mastodon

“It was always weird, like, ‘He’s too masculine for the girls but too feminine for the dudes.' They wanted to play football and I was like, ‘Butterflies are cool. Let’s go look at butterflies.’ You feel like you’re too nerdy for these kids, but you’re not cool enough for these people over here. And then you throw the blackness in and people have a whole other expectation of what you’re supposed to be. You always feel like you’re in-between states, so I was like, ‘I’ll just figure it out and do it my own way.’” -rapper Kali Dreamer

“I think it says something about America. I was sitting at the bar at Bob’s [in Dayton] reading about the El Paso shooting that happened the day before, trying to understand how a white, active gunman was taken alive by police, and as I’m reading that article, I have to run out of a bar because of gunshots.” -Ty Owen of Unchipped

"I think handwriting is slow, and I think about [the song] too much. There’s too much time to stop and reflect. On the computer, everything is too perfect and pretty, and you can backspace things a little too easy and lose ideas forever. I think the typewriter is my favorite because I just let it go as a stream of ideas, and I don’t stop and read it. I just keep on going, take out the piece of paper and put it in a folder, and when I go back and read it a month later I’m usually pleasantly surprised. It’s the perfect speed. It keeps up with your brain.” -musician Courtney Barnett

“We joke about my dad being in jail so much now. When he got out of prison, he was doing push-ups every day and eating oatmeal with peanut butter, making noodles in the microwave. I was like, ‘Pops, you don’t have to live like this anymore. We have food.’ But it did go away, and he stopped doing push-ups, and it was funny as hell when he became the normal ‘him’ again.” -rapper Michael Christmas

“When my mom goes into the hospital you really see time collapse, and it’s the past and the present and everything kind of going at once. The book is doing that throughout in a more subtle way. That’s how we think, and although the book is a memoir, and it’s obviously prose, that’s where my mind is as a poet, on all these unexpected associations and the emotions that can rise up. You don’t just have a memory randomly. We react to it. It acts upon us. And I wanted to capture the way our memories and desires and anxieties — a lot of anxieties — the way they’re always with us. They’re that passenger with us as we’re making our way across the landscape.” -author Saeed Jones

“Even old relationships you might want to think don’t matter anymore, they matter, and they’re still their somewhere in the universe and the ether. All of us have friendships or relationships where we want to be like, ‘This chapter is finished,’ but I find coming back to these chapters it’s often like, ‘Oh, OK. That really is still there and it still matters,’ so it becomes, ‘How do I make peace with that and have compassion for that?’” -musician Leslie Stevens

“I’ve done a lot of grieving in my car because I have work and kids and all this other stuff, which doesn’t leave a lot of space for that. And I don’t think I’m the only one who does it. We grieve in the car. We think about what’s going wrong and why what we’re doing to fix it isn’t working. We think about all the shitty things people say to us. It’s this little capsule of space when we’re going back and forth to work or school or the doctor or the grocery store, and it’s not good for a lot of people because if you leave your brain alone, these things come up. With this [sign project] it was like, ‘OK, here’s maybe a way we can put something else in there.’” -Cecily King

“There’s no one else in the comics industry like him. I’ve been trying to think of a parallel from the fantasy realm ... In Camelot, Tom [Spurgeon] would not have been Arthur or Lancelot. He would have been Merlin, right? He would have been the guy who knew all the secrets and who was completely irreplaceable. Once he’s gone, some of that magic is, as well.” -Whit Spurgeon

“I think to complain about PC culture, frankly, is just another arm of white supremacy, isn’t it? It’s an extension of Make America Great Again, like, ‘Oh, just let us call people faggot like we used to because nobody really cares. Who is that hurting? Can’t we all just go back to a time where it was understood that we could punch down at these specific people?’” -comedian Nick Offerman

“To the extent that people vibe with [the music], it almost makes you feel worse. It’s great that you have people that hear you and understand you and that you get to feel commonality with, but it’s also like, ‘Man, when I wrote this song I was feeling terrible,’ and now someone is like, ‘This is exactly how I feel!’ It’s like, ‘I’m so sorry.’” -rapper Doug "Dug" Gamble of Happy Tooth & Dug

“You’ll notice every time there’s some so-called ‘technological progress,’ people will find a way to turn it into an atrocity of some sort. Look at World War I, where we invented these assault rifles, machine guns, whatever, but we would still line up in a row on the battlefield and shoot each other, and next thing you know fucking 16 million people have died. Or we finally figure out the atom—what a great discovery!—and then we make a bomb out of it and God knows how many Japanese people died from it. … Even now, we have this thing called Instagram. This is fun, posting these selfies and thirst traps and whatnot. Then all of a sudden some crazy man is like, ‘These girls are posting sexy pictures on their profiles, I’m going to find one and chop her head off and post it on the platform.’ It’s madness, and as much as we’re progressing in our ability to do a number of different things, we’re not progressing in terms of our morality and our ethics.” -Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus

“I knew two things writing this book. I knew, one, that I wanted it to be queer, and I wanted it to be a very specific kind of queerness — not a coming out story, but the day-to-day lived experience of being queer. And the other thing I knew is that I wanted it to be a book about place, and central Florida, specifically. And quickly it became, ‘How do I write that so that it’s so embedded in the text that you can’t pull it out,’ which, for me, turned into thinking about central Florida as a sensory experience. How do things smell when you’re outside? What does it sound like at night when you’re walking around and the cicadas start up? How does the air feel? Because the air in Florida is so dense that it almost feels like it’s physically touching you.” -author Kristen Arnett

“Your body can be a prison, or it can be great and fun. It can have cancer. It can have sex. It can do all these crazy, cool things, and it can be a horrible fucking chamber. But your spirit it something different than that. Your spirit is just something that’s passing through and who the fuck knows where it goes. But the yearning for it to keep on going, or the yearning for that freedom, that’s the key. ... And the truth is the whole damn record is maudlin as hell, because every song is about that.” -Kevin Whitley of Cherubs

“I wasn’t there when [my sister] fucking passed and my whole family was, and I was playing a goddamn show at fucking Woodlands Tavern, and I found out in the back parking lot that she passed away, and it was like, ‘What the fuck am I doing, man?’ I’d gotten just so wrapped up in this shit because you just want it so fucking bad. You want to be successful so goddamn bad with this music because it’s all you know, and it’s all you’ve ever done. And it was hard, man, having this realization that this shit I do with music really is fucking nothing. I have a whole lifetime to do it. I’ll start 18 more bands before I fucking pass away. It’s my first fucking band. It doesn’t matter. Family is more important.” -Kenny Stiegele of the Worn Flints