Taylor Jenkins Reid on learning to write like a '70s rock star in Daisy Jones & the Six
Somewhere between writing her fifth novel in as many years and giving birth to a baby girl, Taylor Jenkins Reid sent herself to rock camp. There were no drum solos or trust falls; it was more like her own self-designed Learning Annex: She read reams of rock biographies and old magazine profiles, listened to dozens of albums, and pored over Pinterest pages, immersing herself in the songs and stories of iconic figures from Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell to Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. And then she funneled it all into Daisy Jones & the Six, a work of fiction so steeped in the long-vanished world of 1970s canyon rock, you can almost smell the eucalyptus and the quaaludes.
It all started, says the bestselling novelist (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), with her fascination with the band the Civil Wars — the indie-folk duo who released two critically acclaimed albums and won four Grammys before abruptly, mysteriously parting ways in 2014. “They wrote these incredibly romantic and intimate songs, and they would perform them so beautifully and so intensely,” Reid tells EW from Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and now-toddler daughter. “They’re both married to other people, and one night they just break up [the group].”
That anecdote, combined with Reid’s enduring love for former Fleetwood Mac bandmates and longtime paramours Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, led her to the bones of the book’s plot — despite the fact that she felt drastically underqualified, at least to start. “I don’t know anything about music!” she says, laughing. “Why would I tell that story? But I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
And so, from much research and fertile imagination, Daisy Jones & the Six were born: a striking, free-spirited songstress with a captivating voice and a terminal aversion to undergarments, and a band in the denim-clad mold of the Eagles or Crosby, Stills & Nash, brought together by a producer with an eye for combustible chemistry. He’s not wrong; a string of hits follow. But so do drugs, sexual tension, and endless interpersonal dramas.
It’s the stuff Behind the Music dreams are made of — though also, for Reid, a chance to “to be realistic about the sort of people we elevate in our culture. If Daisy had an incredible voice but she wasn’t gorgeous, would she have the career that I’m claiming she has in this book? Probably not.” On the one hand, she says, “it is such a heartbreaking thing to be othered the way that we other beautiful women — that they are not so much people to us as things to possess in one way or another…. But it’s very exciting to me that Daisy [refuses] to take on other people’s reactions to her body. Even in 2019, that’s a very daring concept.”
It was important to the author, too, that every member of the band — and some friends and family members — got a chance to say their piece; hence the oral-history format. “It just felt baked into the concept,” Reid says. “I wanted it to feel real, to have an almost voyeuristic aspect to it where it feels not so much like a novel but like a memoir. And the way to tell that type of story in rock just is as an oral history.”
Reese Witherspoon apparently agreed; she snapped up the TV rights months before publication, and Amazon has ordered a 13-episode run. It’s all still in preproduction, but Reid, who began her career as a casting assistant, couldn’t help picturing certain actors (Ethan Hawke, Sienna Miller, Billy Crudup) in her head as she wrote. So she admits she had only one request for the show’s producers: “I was like, ‘Cool, do your own thing! Change whatever you have to change, totally get it! When you start casting, though,’” she adds with a laugh, “‘I want to know everything.’”
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