Andrea Swensson has served as a warrior in the Minneapolis music scene for over a decade, humbly changing the way we connect with and critique other artists’ work. In 2013, she became one of Prince’s favorite local journalists, and in the past month, she has become a champion for the Minneapolis Sound and local music everywhere with her new book, Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound. While basking in the enormous accomplishment of finishing her first book, Andrea has been busy with book signings and public appearances, including her brief talk yesterday at Creative Mornings. This global initiative has 179 chapters around the world, each focused on bringing creative individuals together in a nurturing environment. Their breakfast lecture series gets hundreds of people engaged in their community on a Friday morning when they might otherwise have trouble finding the motivation to get out of bed at all that day. This month’s topic was “Death.”
But let me clarify: discussing death doesn’t always mean wallowing in grief. Acknowledging death also means delving into the beautifully fleeting nature of life. From the very beginning of the event, Andrea as well as host Drew Gneiser were joking about death, creating an atmosphere as light as the breakfast being served. To keep the mood uplifting, Andrea gave a talk interspersed with the topics of sexism in music journalism and the “marriage” of depression and anxiety.
While working on her book, five of the individuals she spoke with died shortly after their interviews. This created a sense of urgency and additional purpose for her work. Dealing with the personal grief of these loses is something Andrea always gave herself space to process but only once the work was finished. The immense pressure placed on her shoulders to honor these artists’ legacies before she can even think about the reality she’s living in during those moments is something I can’t even imagine experiencing.
On the day Prince passed, I reached out first to my most intimate circle in the community to find some solace in the moment. Then, when everyone had left Paisley Park to go to the dance party at First Avenue, we headed out to Chanhassen. The camera crews were gone, and there were only 6 or 7 of us sitting out there at 2am, including two of Prince’s sound techs. I was finally able to find peace in the midst of frantically searching for his energy. Andrea’s experience on that day was almost the exact opposite, beginning her day feeling incredibly alone while she stood outside Paisley Park breaking the news to reporters around the world while trying to hide the fact that her heart was breaking. When she went out to First Avenue that night, she realized that her grief was a community experience and allowed herself to be lifted up by citizens of the world he created.
During the Q&A session, an audience member asked how Prince’s death could create a potential positive change for the Opioid Epidemic. Andrea clarified that Prince’s death was actually part of an epidemic of mental health stigma surrounding musicians and public figures. Prince’s death was the result of being in “a lot of pain and [being] scared to tell anyone.” Shedding light on the constant battle for maintaining a favorable level of mental health among members of the creative community has been a defining aspect of Andrea’s career and shone through during the entire duration of her talk yesterday.
The audience latched on to Andrea’s authenticity in discussing her journey in her career and in her grief, resulting in numerous moments of applause, shared tears, and many comments labeling her as a “badass.” But possibly even more powerful was the individual responses from people who perhaps got the push they needed to find help for their own struggles with mental health, another reminder that our personal well-being is actually a community endeavor.
If today is one of those days that you need a little extra time surrounded by friendly faces, Andrea will be joined by fellow Prince-related journalists Jim Walsh and Chris Riemenschneider for an “Authors’ Roundtable” event at Bryant Lake Bowl in Uptown Minneapolis. Doors open at 4pm and the discussion starts at 4:30 and ends at 6pm. This is a free event.