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Rookie Presents Twin Shadow and John Green

George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, meets John Green, author of Paper Towns, Fault in our Stars, and Looking For Alaska. The two talk growing up, music, inspiration, and Paper Towns, John Green’s best-selling book-turned-film, which features Twin Shadow’s "To The Top" in the end credits.

Connect with Twin Shadow:

 (00:00) to (02:00)

Twin Shadow: Hi Rookie, I'm George, AKA Twin Shadow. I'm here with John Green, author of Fault in our Stars, author of Paper Towns, the movie that is coming out, and he's also a vlogger. Um, I'm here with him, because I want to talk about a few things we have in common, just have a conversation. I, um, host-- am lucky enough to have my song, To the Top, in the end credits of this movie. Um, so yeah, we're just going to have a chat.

I was curious about, uh, you know, reading the book, I really f-- understood and felt an attachment with Flora--Florida, cause I spent nineteen years in Florida. Uh, and I wondered how long you actually lived in Florida.

John: I lived there from the time I was 3 until I was 15, when I went to boarding school.

Twin Shadow: So you have Florida in your blood.

John: Yeah. I mean, definitely. Like, I grew up, you know, in Orlando looking up at the airplanes that flew over my house four hundred times a day and thinking all of these people are coming here or leaving here, and I'm the only one staying.

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: Where did you live?

Twin Shadow: I lived in Tampa Bay.

John: OK, yeah.

Twin Shadow: So, 

John: Yeah, that's-- I feel like Miami, Miami kind of gets an exemption. Um, but yeah, Orlando and Tampa are legit Florida.

Twin Shadow: Yeah. It's, it's, it's, and it's funny, because I, I constantly argue with people about whether Florida's the south or not. And I, and, I always say it's, not only is it definitely the south. It is the south with alligators in bikinis.

[John laughing]

John: Yeah, I mean, it's a fascinating culture. Like, I, I, I've since sort of, uh, reconciled myself to Orlando, I think, and, like, uh, you know, I think, I think where ever you grow up, you want to leave. Like, I think, or at least that's been my experience.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Twin Shadow: Ambitious

John: Yeah, you know. Like, I want my kids to grow up in Indianapolis in part so that they're so desperate to go, um, you know, and, ah, I... I always did want to leave Orlando and I always hated it. And, I hated going to Disney World, and I would just sit at the Hall of Presidents for 8 hours while everyone else was off riding rides. And, I would like, uh, you know, just like sit there, and make fun of everything and write in my little notebook and...

Twin Shadow: Right

John: But, um, but I don't know. I mean, I'm very grateful to have grown up in Orlando in a lot of ways, because it's, uh, it's very American, very American place.

Twin Shadow: Yeah. I was kind of, leads perfectly into my-my next question for you, which was-- I feel the same way. I have slowly become more and more grateful the fact that I grew up there, because it did teach me about, um, my own ambition and getting out of some place that I found, uh, incredibly boring. And, when I read the book, you know, Margo really is so over it.

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: And, I wondered-- But, I did wonder, much like how she does know how to find the magic, I think appreciating Florida, part of that is about finding, uh, kind of the magic in living there. And, I was curious what your kind of most, the most magical things about Florida. Cause, I have, I have my own.

John: Yeah, I mean, uh, for me there's something about the heat in Orlando. There's something about, um, just the way that it feels, that always, is always is going to feel like home to me. The way that like summer time feels, and climbing up an orange tree and you're stealing oranges. Um, that's always gonna be a particular feeling for me. And then, the other thing is, which I did put in the book, is, um, uh, these, these, these empty subdivisions. These places where they laid out the streets and you can see the cul-de-sacs and some of them even have mailboxes, and I just loved walking around those places with my friends when I was a kid

 (04:00) to (06:00)

John: I just felt like I was exploring an abandoned world. I felt like the world had been abandoned, and now it belonged just to us. There's a great line in a Mountain Goats song, um, uh, "we were the one thing in the galaxy God didn't have his eyes on," and, uh, I felt like that a lot in Orlando when I was a kid. Like, I could've, I could be the one thing in the galaxy that God didn't have his eyes on.

Twin Shadow: Yeah. That's amazing. I've, I share so many of the same feelings, you know. All my friends are skateboarders, and--

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: So, you know, that was kind of the greatest thing. All of this abandoned stuff around--

John: Yeah, it's great for skateboarding

Twin Shadow: Amazing skateboarding.

John: Yeah

Twin Shadow: And, also, also like night time skateboarding, because if the moon was out--

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: --then you'd have amazing light reflected off of brand new painted surfaces.

John: Right.

Twin Shadow: And, it was just kind of like you, you kind of got to put on, like, these weird Florida night vision goggles.

John: Yeah, I mean, I remember, yeah, the way the moon, uh, the moon like lit up the night, and night so comfortable.

Twin Shadow: Yeah.

John: You know, like it's the only time it's really comfortable.

Twin Shadow: The stillness, the stillness and the warmth

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: Yeah

John: Yeah, it's still and it's warm, and again, like for me, like, I felt like the world was made for us in those times. Like, uh, like we were the people-- we were the only people out, and like, this, it was all our, it was our town in the night. And, it was our town, you know, like those little abandoned subdivisions we ours, and when you're a kid, like, a lot of times you can't feel like much is yours, you know? There's not much that belongs to you. And, so that was, those are special memories for me.

Twin Shadow: Do you listen to music while you write?

John: I can't do it while I'm writing. Do you?

Twin Shadow: I was just, I, I, I was, I've been thinking about this forever. I have friends who listen, who can listen to music while they--

John: Even if they're hearing a different melody?

Twin Shadow: --while they write. No, no, they listen-- I mean, while they write--

John: Oh, like they're writing prose

Twin Shadow: Yeah, writing prose.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Twin Shadow: And, I've never been able to do it, cause it's always distracting.

John: Yeah, I can listen to it before, um, and I usually do listen to music before.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

John: I don't usually listen to it during. When I wrote my book, The Fault in our Stars, there's a, one of the characters is a big fan of Swedish hip-hop, and I sort of temporarily became pretty immersed in the world of Swedish hip-hop--

Twin Shadow: OK

John: --as a sort of method acting. Um, and I could listen to Swedish hip-hop, because it wasn't that distracting.

Twin Shadow: Right, so, so, would, you know, do, would you write to like instrumental music?

John: Maybe, but that's-- I don't know. But, even like, because I feel like the emotions don't always match where I need to be mentally in the story.

Twin Shadow: Right, yeah.

John: You know, that's the-- yeah...

Twin Shadow: Cause, I've been, I've been wondering for a while now if, uh, or, what about the other way around? What about when you read, can you listen to music?

John: No.

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: No.

Twin Shadow: Me either.

John: I'm not a good multitasker in that way. Like, I need to be-- well, with, one of the things I like about reading actually is that I can't do anything else while I'm doing it, you know? Like, everything else I can play, uh, Angry Birds on my phone and listen to music. I can, you know--

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: I can, uh, do almost anything and listen to music. I can watch TV and check Twitter at the same time. Like, the thing, one of the things I love about reading is that for me it's, it's, it's immersive. You don't have a choice except to pay attention.

Twin Shadow: Right. It's, and yeah, co-- cre-- creating the voices in your head is--

John: Right.

Twin Shadow: --is so key

John: Yeah. Yeah, you've gotta be able to kind of like listen to the words.

Twin Shadow: I try-- I tried for a second to like, I had an Audible account.

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: Um, bec-- mostly because I wanted to, I wanted to read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but, but like I was, it's just such a--

John: But you didn't want-- but you didn't want to read it.

Twin Shadow: Yeah, I didn't want to read it, exactly.

John: I'm totally sympathetic to that.

Twin Shadow: And, I didn't want to really watch the movie, because Gary Oldman is the only thing I like about it.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Twin Shadow: Um, so like, I just, uh, I, I tried to get this Audible account, and it was just like, you know, constantly.

John: Yeah, you just get distracted so quickly.

Twin Shadow: Yeah, and I realized how important it is to create voices in your head while you're reading.

John: Yeah, I, I once listened to, uh-- the time I listened to the most audio books, I signed a hundred and fifty five thousand copies of The Fault in our Stars before it came out, and it was really, it was-- I have OCD, so it wasn't, it was nice.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

John: I liked it. It did something unhealthy to me. Um, but I listened to The Adventures of Augie March, the Saul Bellow novel, and I listened to like, the first like 8 hours of it, and then I was like I've- I just, I have to read, I have to read the book.

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: So it was good as like getting me into the book like a hook--

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: So like, it got me through the first 150 pages, like I was into it, I was into all the characters, but then I was like, "I need the book".

Twin Shadow: Right. Yeah. Cool. So I noticed you have the um, "this machine kills fascists" sticker on it- on your laptop.

John: Yeah, from Woody Guthrie's guitar, yeah.

Twin Shadow: And I was think about, uh. I know when the kids go to Margo's room, they're kind of like, they have no idea who Woody Guthrie is, and I know most of my peers actually have no idea who Wody Guthrie is.

John: Yeah.

Twin Shadow: And I think about kind of old, humble heroes like that, and how. Uh, I was thinking about the story of Bob Dylan going to meet Woody Guthrie and finding him kind of, uh... not well.

John: Yeah, laid in (9:17)

Twin Shadow: And, uh, when I read about it, he almost had this kind of...I think it was...I think the journey of getting to Woody Guthrie was important, but the actual meeting maybe didn't have this effect that he wanted it to. I wondered about you while I read your stuff. Do you... do you have heroes and idols who you've met or who  you'd like to meet? Or more so, do you have heroes and idols who you've met who disappointed you have you had the opposite experience?

John: I definitely have people I don't want to meet, you know, I don't want to meet Toni Morrison, uhm, just wanna leave that there with me thinking about her novels.

 (10:00) to (12:00) And thinking about them being, like, you know, the most important books to me and I don't wanna mess with that relationship that I have built over like 15 years.

Twin Shadow: Right

John: By a real person entering it, you know.But, you know, usually I've found that the people I really admire, are, uhm, really cool in real life. I know that sometimes a lot of deeply, deeply unhappy or, or dysfunctional people make...make beautiful art and make...make good stuff.
But, uhm, I mean the biggest hero I've ever met in real life is, yeah, the lead singer of the Mountain Goats.
And I was super nervous, but he was really cool, and yeah, we've just kinda become friendly, and, uhm, usually people...I think the truth is, like, if you think about people as more than people; you are always gonna be disappointed.
Because when you romanticize or idealize people, like that's just a different way of dehumanizing them.

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: And ultimately, like, they're gonna disappoint you because they're gonna be human and the're gonna be flawed.

Twin Shadow: Right.

John: But if you can...not put that expectation on them. I don't know, I mean, you know what it's like to meet, uhm, to meet people who really admire you and who are big fans of you.
And, uhm, it's always an interesting challenge, because you wanna...

Or at least, like, when I'm, when that happened to me, I really wanted to express my very genuine gratitude to them for allowing my work into their lives and for making use of it and all that stuff.
But at the same time, like, it's very difficult for it to feel like a peer relationship, because...

Twin Shadow: Right

John: You know they know much more about me then I know about them and also because the're coming to this experience from a fan perspective and not from a peer perspective.

Twin Shadow: Right, yeah they have total expectation (?) .

John: Yeah!

Twin Shadow: You have... "Oh really?! Wow, thank you, thank you."

John: And you don't's almost impossible to say thank you, I mean it, but it's also impossible to say thank you in a way that sounds...that expresses what I'm trying to express.

Twin Shadow. Yeah.

 John: And I'm still don't really know how to to navigate that. (12:00) to (12:01)