Dave Grohl opened his keynote speech at South by Southwest 2013 by recounting the recent dinner he had with last year’s keynote speaker, Bruce Springsteen. Upon hearing the news of Grohl’s upcoming gig, Springsteen laughed and said, “Good fucking luck.” Of course, Grohl really didn’t need any. Many of the hundreds seated in Ballroom D of the Austin Convention Center Thursday morning would have forgone an afternoon of excessive drinking and free music to hear Grohl rattle off one incredible story after another with his enthusiastic charm and quick wit. From his teenage years growing up in Northern Virginia, tracking demos on tape recorders to recording in a barn with Nirvana for the first time to Grohl’s near retirement in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death.
In many ways, Grohl’s keynote was an updated version of the one Springsteen told last year: a heavily detailed personal narrative with an underlying theme that anyone, not just someone, can be successful. “Who’s to say the value of a song… Who’s to say what’s a good voice and what’s a good song?” Grohl asked. “‘Gangnam Style’ is one of my favorite songs of the last decade. Is it any better or worse than the Atoms For Peace record?”
Instead, Grohl encouraged fellow musicians to “find their voice.. incite a riot or start a revolution, or save someone’s life, or become someone’s hero.” In the wake of Cobain’s death, Grohl explained, Foo Fighters was his chance to start over, following big money, big labels, and trips to Benihana. He described his early recording sessions as very DIY and “therapeutic… there was no right or wrong – it was all mine.” He added, “Foo Fighters exist within this perfect world,” and advised fellow musicians to follow suit, to live by the mantra, “I’m a musician and I come first”.
Replay the full speech below.