GQ Style Editor, former Fader music editor, stylish everyman Will Welch keeps a pretty low-key Instagram profile. Gentleman that he is, Welch keeps the party pics to a minimum, promotes his work diligently, and infuses a dash of psychedelic, new age-y goodness into the mix. In other words, his photos are a candid representation of the man himself.
One recurring motif on Welch’s feed is something we’ll call “The Bookstagram.” Among his diverse interests (hip-hop, his hometown of ATL, photography, art, men’s style), Welch is an avid reader, and he uses his handle to share the love. He takes the book he's been reading, shoots it against an interesting backdrop, and rather than tell us something earnest (Zzzz) about the book, he shares a choice passage.
While books don’t immediately spring to mind as the most Instagram-worthy subject, Welch’s Bookstagrams stand out amid the selfies and instabrags. Also, who doesn’t love a good book recommendation? Standard Culture caught up with Welch to hear about prolonging the magic of a good read, styling a Bookstagram, and his some oddball music books.
So are all these books ones you were reading at the time?
Yeah. You know how sometimes you finish a book and you're still under its spell and it's hard to know what to do because you don't want to break it...but there's no more story to read? Going back through your favorite passages and choosing one to post on Instagram — then taking the time to retype it — is a nice way of prolonging the magic.
When do you do the bulk of your reading? On the train? Before bed?
It's pretty sporadic. Planes. Subway trains. On the couch when I can't sleep. Some books take me forever and some I kinda eat too fast.
What sparked the Bookstagram idea and what made you stick with it?
I've always marked up or dog-eared pages of books as I read so it's easy to go back and find passages later. The day I finished Kansas City Lightening: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, I kept thinking about this one passage about how Lester Young's wife would blast Coleman Hawkins into Young's ears, "hoping to remedy the repulsive lightness of his sound." It was truly an aside in the book but it was such a brutal image of a marriage and such a beautiful sentence. I couldn't get that bit out of my head and I wanted to share it. At some point I realized that it'd be useful to have an Insta-diary that marks the books I read at certain times in my life, so that's why I've kept at it. If you can even say I've kept at it. I'm a consistent but slow reader.
How much do you style those backdrops?
Looking back now, not enough. Our Kind of People is sitting on a placemat that was on the coffee table by the couch where I was reading at home. The Ali book is on the bandanna I had in my jacket pocket that day. The backgrounds could use a more artful touch, to be honest — but I usually just want to take a photo of the cover and get it up fast.
Which of the Bookstagrams are worth reading, and which should we pass on?
I guess the answer is whichever ones have a passage that you find compelling. I'd say that most people could skip Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class and Home Before Daylight: My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead. Those are both very unique books, especially Our Kind of People, but I think they're particular to a specific set of interests. Unlike the Malcolm Malcolm X book, or the Remnick Ali book — anyone could love those.
Which musicians’ books would you buy automatically, sight unseen?
I'm not a Dylan scholar by any stretch but when the next Chronicles comes out I will be at the book store at midnight. I'm also excited for the next volume of the Stanley Crouch Charlie Parker biography, but I assume it'll be years before it comes out. A Dwight Yoakam autobiography would be fantastic. That guy has one of the most encyclopedic brains I've ever encountered. I met him on his tour bus one time while it was parked outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. He'd just played Letterman and proceeded to give me a more or less unprompted sociological history of the migration from the coal mines of Kentucky north to jobs in Ohio and Michigan.
What are some of your all-time favorite, must-read books about music?
The one that I would recommend to anyone regardless of musical preferences is Peter Guaralnick's two-volume Elvis biography, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. That is the most American story ever told. If you've read that and listened to the live recording of "An American Trilogy" from 1973, you should qualify for US citizenship. Other personal favorites are the Miles Davis autobiography with Quincy Troupe and Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus.
What's one thing a modern gentleman should never ‘gram?
There are no codes of conduct on the internet. Although I do think it's indecent that Instagram censors users. The fact that a man can show his bare chest on there but a woman can't is scandalous and so dated.