Linkin Park left an undeniable fingerprint on the music industry, and Jeff Blue had an inside look at one of the most unique bands to record in the modern era. Jeff has shared his Linkin Park experiences in a recent book entitled One Step Closer: From Xero to Number One – Becoming Linkin Park, and dropped by to discuss the process of writing it with me as well as reflect on his journey within the music industry.
Brittany Frederick: What motivated you to write about your time with Linkin Park?
Jeff Blue: With the story of Linkin Park, I sat down to write that for two years, and it was impossible. It was too hard. It was a very daunting task, so I gave up. I always wanted to do it, and then when Chester [Bennington] passed, I ended up writing an article for Billboard. At Chester’s funeral, a major music exec came up and told me how moving and genuine my piece on Chester was, and suggested I write a book.
So I went home, and in the corner of my garage there were boxes, and I pulled everything out. I literally kept every single fact, journal, photo, dat tape. Then, I had more in the recesses of my closet. I probably had about 20 boxes of Limp Bizkit, Matchbox 20, Korn, Daniel Powter, and different stuff all tucked away. The Linkin Park one was the last one, and I just started reading my journals. I’m like wow, what a long, hardcore task it was making this album.
I didn’t realize how many lives were touched by the band. I said this is a story of overcoming adversity, being authentic and a band that reached literally generations, and their story needs to be told, for a multitude of reasons, about how they overcame everything. It was the number one selling debut album of the 21st century, and this band was rejected by every record label, every manager, and every producer. That’s a huge testament to anybody who wants to forge ahead with their dreams in life.
BF: It’s important to note the book isn’t just a biography of the band. There’s a lot of you in the story, as well, because you were there. Was it difficult or emotional for you to put so much of yourself on the page?
JB: It was almost like PTSD, because I had to go back to what made me similar to the band, in the characteristics that allowed us not to give up and overcome rejection. When I opened up my journals, there was a lot of stuff I blacked out about how difficult the process was, how many rejections, and how many huge executives told me I was crazy to stick with a band like this. Then [there was] the detailed analysis of how I felt in my own private journal, going through the rejections and then almost having the band dropped at Warner Brothers after I tried so hard to get them a deal. In addition to all the emotional trauma between making the album, and my boss at the record label; we almost didn’t see the album being made. It was very difficult. It was a traumatic experience, but one that forged excellence in the end, because it really pushed me as an executive and the band to excel beyond all our dreams.
BF: Did you have a particular writing process? Did you have to go back to the music itself to work on the book?
JB: When I sat down, I’d always have to force myself to do it, because it’s extremely exhausting. When you’re writing a book about the truth, and everything is specific, and I was giving specific dates, it was extremely stressful because I constantly had to go back and double-check. That takes your psyche out of just writing.
I would have these songs in the background that I grew up with, and that put me in a relaxed [nindset]. If I had listened to Linkin Park, or any rock, I would be in a different mindset, and I would be focusing too much on music rather than going back and talking about the emotion of those moments that I was trying to discuss.
BF: While you were writing One Step Closer, did that make you look at some of those experiences any differently, with the benefit of hindsight?
JB: I realized more that things came out best in my career when I was doing them in a positive, open atmosphere, which was what I had at my publishing company. The minute I joined a large company with people looking over my back and chiming in, it distorted the vision of the band and my vision. I suddenly had to be pleasing and assuaging other people’s vision that wasn’t in the same synchronicity as I had with the band.
I regret that, but that was also a learning process for me, because as an adult, you’re always hearing people say no, it needs to be this way, it needs to be that way. When you’re balancing being a creative executive and a business executive, you’ve got to really stay true to your vision. That’s a difficult thing, because you’ve got other people to answer to. Even as a business person with a CEO and stockholders, people want a certain thing, a certain result, and they chime in.
I was used to, in a creative aspect, having autonomy to work with artists. When I entered Warner Brothers, the boss that had hired me was gone by the time I got to the label. Unfortunately, I had a whole different regime overlooking the project and myself that wasn’t into the band like the other regime was, so it was very difficult.
BF: What do you want readers to ultimately take away from the book?
JB: The biggest honor I have is I didn’t realize how inspirational it was going to be, because originally everybody wanted me to write a tell-all and talk about drama. One of the lessons that I had in writing the book was to go with your gut. I felt better in this piece writing about the positive aspects of the journey, and while I included all the drama, I tried to include the positive life lessons from that, which turned into being very inspirational.
I actually got emails and text messages on my Instagram from coaches that said some of their team members got the book and were super-inspired. The coaches have all the kids on the team who read it. That’s overcoming adversity, and even when you’re rejected a million times or lost a whole bunch of games, you can still come out to be number one.
For me, that’s the most rewarding thing there is, because most of the fans that are reading the book, believe it or not, weren’t even born when this album came out. All these fan sites that are reaching out to me all over the world, the heads of the fan sites are all 18 to 23, and they’re huge fans of the band. I thought our demographic was going to be 30 to 50, but all these young kids are inspired by a band that came out when they weren’t even born, and the message resonates with them.
I’m proud of the guys more than myself. I’m super proud of the band, creating an album with a message that not only saved people’s lives, but inspires them and inspires their kids and their kids’ kids.
One Step Closer by Jeff Blue is now available on Amazon.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.