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How Playing Music Has Helped with Making Music

Our very own DJ Anne McCue was recently quoted in a feature on how her show “Songs on the Wire” influences her work as a musician and songwriter: “For two hours every week, I’m listening to new music,” McCue says. “That’s been an incredibly inspiring experience. It’s really expanded my mind. That’s really helped with my creativity. You have to let go of the music business and just get back into the music.”

Little may our listeners know, Anne isn’t the only musician-DJ at WXNA. Read below to see how curating a radio show has informed the music-making of several of our DJs, and vice versa!


“I think, to a lot of musicians, listening and playing are almost inseparable. If you think of the most awful, confused, disjointed band you’ve ever seen, the foundation of their horribleness was probably a lack of listening. The act of listening, sometimes seen as mere fertilizer used to serve the playing / creation, is really the soil itself – at least half of the entire equation. If you are a musician, compare the flow states achieved when playing with a tight band where the synergy is palpable and powerful, and being absorbed into a beautiful record through headphones or what-have-you. They are not the same, but I think they’re intrinsically linked. If you’re not a musician, you actually are! Haha. Gotchya. At least if you’ve ever actually listened to music, you’re already most of the way there. For myself, combining the practice of listening with the communal nature of terrestrial radio broadcasting, makes for a ritual that directly informs and encourages good, perceptive performing. Come all, let’s listen deeply together!”

-DJ Trev of Our Golden Tones; making music as Trevor Nikrant and in Styrofoam Winos.


“The link between deejaying and creating music can be identified as mutual growth. All of us should strive to master our chosen craft and ideally we can link different creative endeavors to inform one another. For instance, if a musician is exploring a new genre that technically challenges them, why not explore similar music while deejaying on the radio? For a DJ it is important to allot time in the week to sit down, drop a needle on a record and listen to uncharted territory.  The unknown is the edge of understanding and future growth. As the student, if we only study what we know, then the creative in us has been sealed in a box, only to imitate our narrow scope of understanding. The next time a creative block obstructs our output, it may be time to listen to worlds and stories we do not know, because they may become our own.”

-DJ Brer Sunshine of The Black Gold Historical Society; making music as Brer Sunshine.


If you are a musician, how do you know when something is Done? Good? Decent? Listenable? Play it on the radio. The radio does not lie.  The airwaves are more Democratic than the Bill of Rights. Is loud or just full of volume? Does it sound deep or bassy? Is it loud or dynamic?  As a DJ, I’m flummoxed (flabbergasted) and surprised at how often records made by cool people under cool circumstances–impeccably dressed with excellent smelling hair tonic wearing never-seen-in-stores posh vines–will make records that do not hold up the thrilling prom-heard-round-the-block chaos that is The Kingsman’s “Louie, Louise,” the steel factory smoke of Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing,” or the shiny chrome of B.B. King’s “She’s Dynamite.”  

– Paul Burch of Works Progress Radio Hour; making music as Paul Burch.


“When Shout, Sister, Shout! used to be late at night, I’d often leave a show I’d either played or attended and race on over to the station with a new record in hand from the merch table. I loved cueing up some brand new vinyl and trying to quickly track down a song I’d just heard over at Betty’s or wherever. Nothing seemed more appropriate for Nashville’s airwaves than an echo of her own shows, still hovering in the air. I think there is a natural overlap between performing and playing music on the radio in their real-time urgency, their inescapable live-ness, never existing in isolation or a vacuum, like how recording or writing can sometimes be. Curating a playlist helps me think about “flow”– the way songs can move in succession as almost a meta-song of its own, another art form altogether. Doing this helps me to consider “flow” in my own music– how I want to ease into the hour or so of programming, how I want to transition or pause, when to play a cover song, etc. Digging for radio gems also keeps me on my toes with listening to new stuff for inspiration and never drawing solely upon the same well of influences over and over again.”

-DJ LT of Shout, Sister, Shout!; making music as Lou Turner and in Styrofoam Winos.

The Singular of Vinyl: Kiwi Jr.

Jay Millar from the Plural of Vinyl highlights his favorite album of the moment.

Kiwi Jr., Football Money (Mint Records)

Despite the plethora of current Aussie bands that find their way onto the playlists of the Plural Of Vinyl, it somehow figures that Kiwi Jr. are a Canadian band. And oddly enough, at times they remind me of turn-of-the-century canucks The Flashing Lights, especially on the emotive jangly “Comeback Baby.” The Flashing Lights led by Matt Murphy of Super Friendz, were a favorite of mine so mixing that with some Pavement-ish sounds gets me into a full blown nostalgia love fest. If I’m merely dropping one lazy comparison it would be later era Pavement.

Produced by Alec O’Hanley, guitar player from Alvvays, and released in March of 2019 via Mint Records out of Toronto, it’s an effervescent jangly ball of indie-pop fun with smirk inducing lyrics delivered with a slightly snotty deadpan tone. Largely guitar, bass, drums, & keys but it’s lightly sprinkled with some other fun sounds.

A couple lines I feel like pointing out because they make me smile:

“I’m a salary man, I want cigarettes from Japan… that taste like oranges.” – from “Salary Man”

“Gimme more Star Wars, gimme open bar chords, gimme more, gimme more more more!” – from “Gimme More”

“Last night your dreams were broadcast, but no one you know owns a television” – from “Comeback Baby”

If I had a complaint about this record it would only be that it’s too damn short. Gimme more!

Jay Millar
The Plural of Vinyl
Tuesdays, 7-9 a.m.

Freeform Love: WXNA Turns 3

My indoctrination into music nerd-dom came rather late in life. I spent my high school years as a science fiction/comic book/movie/comedy nerd. My primary access to new music was what I heard on mainstream Top 40 radio, most of which left me cold in the late 1970s. My only source for records was the Russellville, Kentucky, Big K (a local discount store chain that was devoured whole by Walmart in 1981) where I scoured the racks for movie soundtracks, comedy LPs, and Beatles records, the one musical group I was truly passionate about during my high school days.

Growing up in the boondocks of Western Kentucky meant I had no access to a local record store to discover artists I’d never heard before, and I lacked a music “mentor” to say, “You’ve never heard fill-in-the-blank? Here, listen to this!” Occasionally I might see an interesting act on TV like Blondie or Devo, but the musical infrastructure to nurture a budding fascination simply did not exist in my world.

My first year of college at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, changed my life more completely than I could ever imagine. Not only did I feel like I was free from the rural “prison” of my high school teenage years, but I suddenly found the perfect means to express my teenage angst and frustration – punk rock. My first few weeks of college led me to records by the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello (back when he was one REALLY pissed-off skinny geek), and more. But along with the punk rock, I was also discovering 1960s rock beyond the Beatles: glam, ’70s hard rock, classic early rock’n’roll, and more. Albums like London Calling, Jerry Lee Lewis Original Golden Hits, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars all arrived in my growing collection within weeks of each other.

The result was that I quickly developed very egalitarian tastes in music. For me, Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay was just as much “new music” as X’s Under the Big Black Sun. At the same time, I became aware of just how boring and timid mainstream commercial radio was. Records like R.E.M’s Chronic Town knocked my socks off, but you sure didn’t hear it on the big radio stations.

“Someone should start a radio station that just plays great music, no matter when it came out or what style it is!” became one of my frequent rants. “It might not be the highest rated station in town,” I bellowed at passing clouds, “but there are enough people who would dig it if someone just had the balls to just do it!”

It would take me three decades to finally put my time and money where my rant was. Of course in the meantime, I’d discovered college radio, but even it often fell victim to the “format” infection, and its entanglement with university politics and dependency on a young, inexperienced and constantly rotating management team meant that even the best station could be decimated with one graduation ceremony or an arbitrary decision by an institutional bureaucrat.

Around the same time I secured a community-volunteer spot on Vanderbilt University’s WRVU in 1997, I also discovered WFMU and other like-minded freeform stations that were just beginning to extend their programming to the internet. A similar station was what Nashville truly needed — an independent, community-focused radio station, founded on a belief that good programming, no matter how eclectic, would find its audience.

The death of WRVU as a terrestrial broadcast station in the summer of 2011 was a tragedy for Nashville’s cultural scene, but it also presented an opportunity. That’s why I jumped at the chance when Heather Lose called me in the March 2012 to ask if I had any interest in starting an independent, listener-supported community radio station in Nashville. At our first meeting, I said we had to be totally freeform, every DJ programming their own show, and I was pleased and surprised to find that everyone else felt the same way.

Seven years after that first meeting, and three years since WXNA officially began broadcasting that vision of freeform, people-powered radio is not only still going strong but is growing. WXNA is a testament to both our volunteers and our listeners. It demonstrates that real human beings sharing their passion for music, the arts, and the human condition can inspire hope, bring real change to the world, and share our humanity in the moment, right here and now, along with proving that punk fury-powered rants sometimes turn out to be right.

Randy Fox
Randy’s Record Shop
Mondays, 7-9 a.m.

Stuck Inside of DC with the Delta Blues again: The Story of Goin’ Down South

My journey to hosting Goin’ Down South on WXNA started when I was a Capitol Hill reporter, way back in 2001. Washington, D.C., was a stressful place back then. The 9/11 terrorists had crashed an airplane into the Pentagon, and envelopes containing anthrax started showing up in congressional offices. I’d been near one of these offices when one of these envelopes showed up and I couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether there was any chance I had been exposed to anthrax, bacterial spores that can kill you if you inhale them.

I decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. So I took a road trip — not just any road trip, but a Southern music pilgrimage. I’d been to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival a dozen times, but despite growing up in Tennessee, I’d never been to Memphis. I’d never been to the Mississippi Delta, despite my love for the blues. And I’d never been to Duane Allman’s grave. It was time to visit all those places.

So I drove south on Interstate 81, stopping first at the Carter Family Fold in rural Hiltons, Virginia, where Janette Carter was waiting for me on the porch of her father’s store. Janette was the daughter of A.P. Carter and Sara Carter, who teamed up with Maybelle Carter to go over the mountain to Bristol in 1927 to record some tunes for Ralph Peer — part of the Bristol sessions that made the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers the first big stars of country music. Janette, who was keeping the Carter Family tradition alive by hosting weekly concerts, explained to me the difference between old-time and bluegrass music — bluegrass is simply old-time “all sped up,” she said. Somewhere I have a tape of our conversation. Maybe I’ll dig it up and play excerpts on Goin’ Down South sometime.

Then I drove into Bristol, to hear a weekly bluegrass concert at the Bristol Mall, an event held by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which at that point was housed in a vacant space in the mall. Now the museum is housed in a grand old brick building in downtown Bristol, which has smartly capitalized on its place in country music history. Every September, thousands of music lovers crowd the streets of downtown Bristol for the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a 20-stage festival whose headliners this year range from Wynonna Judd to St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

Next stop was Nashville, where I dropped in on the second-ever Americana Music Festival & Conference. I didn’t spend much time at the conference — I enjoyed hearing Rodney Crowell tell stories about the Nashville songwriter scene of the early 1970s, but I didn’t come to Nashville to be cooped up in a hotel meeting room. Instead, I spent hours looking through the 45s at Lawrence Record Shop on South Broadway, which had more singles than any record store I’d ever seen. The now-gone store was heaven for me, since I had a jukebox in my basement that hungered for new records to play.

AmericanaFest was just a small affair then. I saw the Drive-By Truckers at Springwater, of all places, with maybe 40 other people. They played a lot of songs from their newly released Southern Rock Opera album and blew me away.

Then it was off to Memphis, with a stop along the way at the Loretta Lynn Ranch. I hit Beale Street, of course, and Sun Studio, where I posed for a picture with the same microphone Elvis used. I was determined to go to a real juke joint, and I knew there weren’t many left in Mississippi, so I asked the Sun Studio tour guide if he knew of any in Memphis. He recommended Wild Bill’s, a small club far away from Beale Street’s tourist traps. I walked in and the place was packed. There was even a table of deaf people, who could feel the vibrations of the music through the floor. I ordered a Bud, and the bartender gave me a quart bottle and a glass. Until the next band showed up, I was the only white person there. I had found a real juke joint.

I stayed in a hotel downtown, across the street from Memphis’ minor-league baseball stadium. Big mistake — there was a late-night party at the stadium that night with hiphop music so loud that it rattled my hotel room’s windows. I couldn’t get to sleep. I complained to the hotel clerk the next morning, and she said, “Memphis doesn’t shut down at night.” It was Sunday, so I went to church — not just any church, but the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, where the Rev. Al Green preached. I was surprised there weren’t more people there, but Al Green didn’t care. The soul singer turned preacher gave it his all, singing with the choir, preaching a little, singing some more, preaching some more, and so on. After two hours I wondered if the service was ever going to end, and I wanted to get to Graceland before it closed. Graceland turned out to be an island in the middle of a low-rent commercial district. It’s not that big of a mansion, and its stone wall was covered in graffiti. Inside, it’s a trip to see it furnished just like Elvis left it in 1977, and the homemade memorials that had been placed around his grave were touching. Plus Elvis’s cars and his airplane, the Lisa Marie, were fun to see.

I headed to Mississippi as the sun began to sink and landed in Batesville, where I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t buy a beer on Sunday. The next day I headed to Clarksdale, where I visited the Delta Blues Museum and ate lunch at the Ground Zero Blues Club, a sanitized version of a juke joint owned by actor Morgan Freeman and a local lawyer. Clarksdale already was on the map for blues travelers, but it was nothing like the blues mecca that it is today. Since it was a Monday, there was no prospect of seeing any live music that night. So I went rambling.

With Robert Johnson playing on my car’s tape deck, I drove through a bunch of crossroads until I got to Rosedale. Prisoners under the watchful eye of an armed deputy were working on the side of the road. I parked my car when I saw what looked like a juke joint. There was a guy sitting on a chair on the sidewalk by the door. I asked him if I could go in, and he said it was closed, but I could take a look. Inside the walls were covered with graffiti, and there was a DJ station, but no stage for a live band. Hiphop, not the blues, ruled.

I decided it was time to find Sonnyboy Williamson’s grave in Tutwiler. The most direct route, according to my map, was through Parchman. I didn’t realize until I got to a gate manned by armed guards that Parchman wasn’t a town, it was the notorious Parchman Farm, the prison where many bluesmen spent time. I could drive through it, they said, if I didn’t have a camera. I admitted to having a camera, so that’s one site I didn’t see.

I had to drive back to Clarksdale in order to get to Tutwiler, and it was pitch black by the time I got there. I couldn’t find Sonny Boy Williamson’s grave, but I did see where composer W.C. Handy first heard the blues in 1903 while waiting for a train.

I was tired from all this driving around, but I was ready to leave the Delta. So I drove all the way to Tupelo, where I planned to visit the home where Elvis was born. I stayed in a cheap motel and woke up with a fright in the middle of the night — I had dreamed there was a man at the motel room’s door looking in at me. Too much Robert Johnson, I guess.

Elvis’ birthplace was small and simple — a two-room house built by his father, grandfather and uncle. It didn’t take much time to see. I spent more time in a chapel on the museum’s grounds, where I sat alone on a wooden pew surrounded by stained glass, listening to gospel songs performed by Elvis. I found comfort in this peaceful setting, as I did later on this trip when I visited the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, where I listened to the music of Thomas Dorsey, the father of black gospel music, in a replica of a church sanctuary.
The rest of the trip was anticlimactic — I did make it to see Duane Allman’s grave in Macon, as well as the graves of Elizabeth Reed and Little Martha, the inspirations for two of the Allman Brothers’ songs.

I’ve gone down south many times since then, including numerous trips to Clarksdale, but most of my journeys are now taken on turntables and CD players. Thanks to WXNA, you can go with me.

I left the Washington, D.C., area in 2016 and moved to Kingston Springs and opened a record store. Turns out records are a better hobby than a business, at least for me, and I closed the store after one year. I did get to know several WXNA DJs through the store, however, and I jumped at the chance to join the WXNA team.

You can find all kinds of music and public affairs programming on WXNA, and I get the chance to play everything from Celtic music to New Orleans funk when I fill in for other DJs. But Southern roots music is still my first love, and that’s what you’ll hear on Goin’ Down South. Let’s ride!

Hound Dog Hoover
Goin’ Down South
Mondays, 1-3 p.m.

Guilty Pleasures

When I think of Guilty Pleasures, my first thought is, “Why should I let somebody tell me what music I’m allowed to enjoy?” Then I think, “Whatever. I know they aren’t cool, but damn, I like The Carpenters.”

For the uninitiated, The Carpenters were a sister-brother duo that formed in the 1960’s and gained notoriety in the 1970’s for making inoffensive elevator-ready music. Tastemakers will tell you this is banal, Up With People-level grandparent music, but I’m here to tell you to quit paying attention to tastemakers. Why were you ever listening to those people in the first place? How on earth could they possibly know what kind of music you like? Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Singer Karen Carpenter had an objectively beautiful voice. If you don’t agree with me on this, just listen to it when all the instrumentation is stripped away and then apologize for trying to troll me.
  2. She also played drums. Are you trying to tell me that’s not worthy of consideration? WRONG.
  3. Ok, so maybe Karen wasn’t the best drummer in the world. Do you like musicianship? Because if you do, The Wrecking Crew is all over the place on many of The Carpenters’ albums.
  4. Sonic Youth liked The Carpenters. They covered “Superstar” wayyy back in 1994… without irony in the decade of irony! Even though Richard Carpenter absolutely hated Sonic Youth’s version of the song, who cares? Richard Carpenter always seemed like a completely humorless person to me anyway. Incidentally, I know The Capenters didn’t write “Superstar”, but the Sonic Youth version is on a Carpenters tribute album, so take it up with Thurston Moore.
  5. Speaking of cover songs, The Carpenters recorded their rendition of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” in 1977, so if you think they were just some creepy suburban pie-eyed schmaltzball of a band, you’re wrong. You see, they also had some creepy interplanetary telepathic thing going on. That may or may not be cool, but it’s unquestionably interesting.
  6. Richard Carpenter was clearly a control freak and that means he was perfectly suited to compose intricate musical arrangements, which I always appreciate. The guy seemed like he was created in a lab for the sole purpose of sitting in front of a piano and cranking out hits that my parents would play while balancing the checkbook.
  7. Speaking of parents, The Carpenters may be the only band I like as much as my folks do. One of my earliest memories is riding around downtown Nashville in my mom’s VW Golf while listening to “There’s a Kind of Hush” on the easy listening station. Hell, we still listen to The Carpenters’ Christmas album every year and I hate Christmas music. THIS BAND KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER!
  8. Come to think of it, The Carpenters probably helped make a lot of babies in the 70’s. Yay for me, but eww.

Now that you’ve been fully convinced that this is the best band ever, I must warn you to slow your roll. Not everything they did was that wonderful, but the good stuff is very good. Where do you start? This is one of the rare instances where I recommend starting with the greatest hits compilations. Give those a shot first and if you’re still into it, start exploring their catalogue.

Brandon Spencer
Nashville Mixtapes

Let’s Hear It for People-Powered Radio!

When we brag that WXNA FM is people-powered radio, we mean it. Listener support makes possible our broadcasting in Nashville at 101.5 FM and online, with a wide array of freeform and speciality programming coming to you seven days a week. This Spring Pledge Drive (May 13-19, 2019), we thank you for expressing your love for WXNA by making a donation. Here’s what several of our volunteer DJs had to say about what people-powered radio means to them.

 

Leanne Merritt of “X-Posure”

People-powered radio, especially WXNA, is a positive example of a thriving symbiotic relationship. I love seeing how music connects us all and I realize every day just how small the world is as I meet people through music. I believe that music is a powerful connector, and that it creates community. I hope that the joy I get by sharing new sounds on my radio show is also experienced by the listener tuning in and by the artist who is getting their music played on the radio.

 

Plato Jenkins of “The Needle in the Groove”

WXNA gives me a reason to search out new (to me) music. It’s like spinning records in my living room, except I’m sharing with more than just my dog. 😜 And the other shows inspire me.

 

Laura Pochodylo of “Big Little Records” and “Runout Numbers”

For me, being part of a people-powered radio station is an exercise in putting my time, effort and money where my mouth is. If I want an alternative to corporate mass media, I had better help build and support it! Hosting two shows each week is a great excuse I can use to keep buying cool records, and I love that it expands my sonic horizons while building my confidence in my musical knowledge and on-air abilities. Being a part of WXNA feels like having an extended family all throughout Nashville.

 

Alexis Stevens of “Free Association”

WXNA reflects the eclectic tastes of the Nashville community (and beyond), and it belongs to the listeners who support it—that is people-powered radio. On a personal level, it fulfills a deep desire in me to share the music I love with others. I think all WXNA DJs feel that way and take the responsibility/privilege seriously. Long live freeform, people-powered radio! LONG LIVE WXNA!

 

Peter Rodman of “Peter Rodman Goes Off”

Music changed my life the minute WXNA went on the air. It changes my life every day listening to the station. I learn more about music now than I had learned in the 50 years prior to the launch of this station! It shows how much the station revitalizes this 67-year-old–we want to do that for everyone listening!

 

Chris Nochowicz of “The Future of Jazz”

When I found out that I have a listener in another country building their personal playlists off of what I play; when I have a listener tell me that what I played got them out of a tough point in their life; when I know I have sold music for artists because their listeners heard it on my show, I understand how important what I play is. All of a sudden I realized that what I play and say is important. I need to stay fresh and current and keep finding the struggling artist that doesn’t have the money to promote, but has some of the best music out there. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and I could go on forever about why I do this. Better than a paid day at work. Oh, and then the large group of friends I met because of the ❌

 

Nashville Leslie of “Studio & Stage” and “The Soap Radio Hour”

People-powered radio means radio that still reflects free speech and real people playing music they’re passionate about!

 

Lauren Turner of “Shout, Sister, Shout!”

From the late-great “Seaship Auricle” to “Maiden Voyager”—this station has got the whole world’s music covered, as well as the music of the weird and wonderful people in your backyard, making your breakfast, and teaching your children! The magic of the everyday is alive and well on-air, and running on community support is totally a part of that!

 

Celia Gregory of “What Moves You”

When plotting a move to Nashville from my college town a decade ago, aiming to immerse myself in LIVE music, it never occurred to me I might have the opportunity to spin songs and talk to artists I love, sharing their art and perspectives with a wider audience via terrestrial radio. WXNA is a people-powered labor of love, and a dream come true for the volunteer DJs who lend their time and record collections. But we hear from listeners that this is THEIR radio home, too, and there’s room for all! Inclusive. Inspirational. Addictive. For those about to rock (tuned to 101.5 FM), we salute you.

 

Heather Lose, Founding President of WXNA and “Aging Hipster” Host

To me it’s all about connecting with the audience. Our world is a complicated, scary, amazing, beautiful, horrific place. Prepping each week’s show in response to what’s going on out there helps me process, and sharing these songs brings community together to celebrate, mourn, rage, or just enjoy an awesome Elvis Costello song on a pretty day. Because it’s happening live, we’re doing these things together, and anything that helps bring people together is very special and very needed.

 

Lauren Bufferd of “Different Every Time”

I came of age at a time when radio was the primary way I learned about new music or really any music, short of sharing with friends. I first heard Coltrane on a late night jazz show and had to pull over to the side of the road. I’d never heard anything so beautiful–I had to stop driving. Though nothing’s been quite as transcendent since, I have been exposed to lots of new music via radio. When I do my show, I am thinking of someone like me who has big ears and eclectic taste and is going to hear something new and beautiful and exciting on “Different Every Time” and fall in love, just the way I have, so many many times. Also, it’s a great excuse to buy more CDs.

 

Michael Buhl of “The Scatter Shot”

I suppose “people-powered radio” is about individual passions—certainly that of the DJs, who would do their show the same way regardless of whether they had one million listeners or no listeners at all, but also that of the listeners who get their individual tastes and interests catered to as well as being able to discover new ones.

 

Ashley Crownover of “Set Records to Stun” and “The Soap Radio Hour”

Freeform radio is magic brought to you by wizards who are secretly regular people just like you. The songs they play are spells that say, “You are not alone.” The power to cast these magic spells is created via a mystical process of ritual and belief that combines faith, science, and financial support in a big black cauldron of community. DJs stir the concoction at 33 1/3 RPM while cackling maniacally to themselves in a room full of alchemical equipment made possible by listener support. The result is a sparkling fresh batch of people-powered radio sent straight to your head and your heart every single day!

 

Ed Brinson of “Eighties/Schmeighties”

Being part of an organization that is dynamic, growing, and engaged with the community is a true privilege. And planning shows and presenting music beats paying for psychoanalysis!

 

Hound Dog Hoover of “Goin’ Down South”

To me, people-powered radio means that WXNA is bigger than the sum of its parts. Our individual shows might cater to a particular audience, but anyone that tunes it at any time will find some delightful surprises.

 

Drew Wilson of “Loud Love Show

I love having the opportunity to play songs that a listener might not get a chance to hear anywhere else. For that one kid who hears a punk song on the radio late at night and starts learning three chords. To build a community and give an outlet to those that already exist. Music is both a release and a unifying bond. To hear songs that mean something to you, that would never get airplay on a commercial station, that can be life changing.

 

Randy Fox of “Randy’s Record Shop”

Radio is the sound of human voices singing, talking, and connecting with others. It’s one of the most powerful inventions ever created and can be, and should be, more than a means to make money and sell products. “People-powered radio” is real human beings sharing their passion for music, the arts, and the human condition—changing lives and inspiring visions of a world bigger and more diverse than one imagination can contain. It’s also the best means possible to inspire hope, move feet and shake booties, raise a fist in solidarity, rock your ass off, and share our humanity in the moment, right here and now.

 

Some Kind Words from a WXNA Superfan

“Dude, there’s gonna be a street party at Third Man Records during the eclipse.” Those were the exact words my friend living in Nashville told me. Of course I was sold. I live in south Alabama and there was only going to be a partial eclipse here and that’s barely worth looking at. But the rare opportunity to view a total solar eclipse and visit good friends in Music City sounded well worth the drive.

While I was in town, my buddy and I spent a good bit of time cruising around. As soon as we started driving, he told me, “You’re gonna love this station up here, they play everything. I heard Crass on here one morning.” He turned it to 101.5 FM. I was completely enamored from the very first song.

Later that afternoon we visited Grimey’s and my buddy casually said, “I think WXNA broadcasts from upstairs.” I had to investigate and see what this was all about. I saw a small WXNA sticker on the door of an unassuming building and knew it was the place; I went in and up the stairs and lo and behold there was station co-founder Randy (I figured this out later) and DJ Juan (he was training at the time).

I am blown away that this group of over 80 volunteer DJs put together so many completely different sets week after week! I listen to 40+ hours of music at work every week. Iit had been a struggle finding quality music that was also safe for a work environment, but I knew immediately that the problem had been solved.

I found WXNA during a once in a lifetime event in a fascinating city and it has been life-changing. I hear at least 50 new songs every single day! I feel so lucky. I’ll occasionally call a DJ to tell them I like a song or a set or make a request. It turns out one of the DJs has a family member near me and we had a beer together when he was in town. What’s better than making connections with quality people? Isn’t that what music is about anyhow?

A total solar eclipse is an extraordinary experience but I have to say that discovering WXNA has had a more profound impact on me. WXNA helps me keep my mind focused and keep living right. I think I am a bit of an odd bird and have even been dubbed a superfan but I am sure there are many others out there that share my love for the station. I only look forward to the success and growth of WXNA.

Oh, and they have a heavy metal show!!!

Brad Johnson
Fairhope, Alabama

Photo Credit: Wim Mulder, Flickr

Shout, Sister Shout!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is the reason I titled my radio show Shout, Sister Shout!. I have my pal Joey to thank, introducing me to her music years ago while working together at the since-defunct J&J’s Market & Cafe, where all of us baristas frequently played things not only as cafe music, but as our own form of conversation: “Have you heard this?! Listen to this one while you’re doing the dishes!” not unlike many other no-frills haunts in Nashville, I’m sure.

“Have you heard this?!” is something I’m postured to ask every Sunday from 1-2pm on WXNA FM, where I host the show named after Tharpe’s song Joey played for me that day. I delight in asking that question and hearing that question, being surrounded by fellow DJs and listeners who teem with that obsessive curiosity about where sounds come from and what they can mean to us. 

Born Rosetta Nubin on a cotton plant in Arkansas,Tharpe came of age playing thunderous electric guitar in traveling gospel groups and married an evangelical pastor in the 1940’s. Her voice is both cloud and lightning bolt: chilling wisps of tenderness alit by hollers of fury. She would bring gospel tunes to the nightclub via her signature Gibson SG and record all sorts of songs that defy the clarity-grubbing confines of genre. She was at long last inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just last year. Later in life, she became musical and life partners with another woman in a time when that was unspeakable—especially for a woman of color. Her voice continues to cross every kind of boundary.

* * *

When an opportunity arose to host an hour of programming on the community radio waves of Nashville, I thought about existing radio shows and attitudes around the sharing of music. I considered how I would love to have a show defying genre and celebrating the nuances of form as it shape-shifts throughout tradition and culture in our rapidly globalizing world– and did so experimentally, yet accessibly. I thought about what my experiences could bring that maybe others could not, and my female-ness became difficult to ignore.

I felt that sense of delight seeping into my thoughts and my record collection, seeking out women I hadn’t heard of or had previously passed by for whatever reason, mining record shops and deep corners of the internet. I listened for sounds to play in conversation with Tharpe’s, voices of women and non-binary folx who were (or are) complex and genre-defying, marginalized and silenced–people like Beverly Glenn-Copeland or Nashville’s own Jackie Shane. I also looked for records by women that are celebrated but maybe not played as often as their brothers on the radio, for whatever reason. The music I’ve been choosing is personally inspiring, musically exciting, and culturally relevant– and there is almost always a new sister waiting in whatever crate I choose to dig in.

Despite this excitement and sense of certainty, approaching Shout, Sister, Shout! during #metoo and a clamoring, confusing call-out culture was tough. I wanted to approach it with a spirit of thesis more than antithesis, with joyful revolution more than reactionary rebellion. I didn’t want the show to feel exclusive to anyone, men included. The intention was to center the show around the sounds & stories of women, but trace their influences to all kinds of human experiences. It wasn’t necessarily designed to be explicitly radical, but if I’m honest– the show is radical simply by existing in a man’s world.

Playing majority women and nonbinary artists for an hour on the radio is noticeable, where playing all male voices for an hour is just– not. The airwaves tend to reflect the status quo rippling throughout everything else– in festival lineups, media coverage, and opportunities to make music without experiencing harassment. Recently a fellow DJ at WXNA (Hey, Heather!) brought to the community’s attention the sexist attitudes of a self-described commercial radio “consultant” who argued that if women made up 50% or more of programming on the radio, people would start to lose interest and touch the dial. He also added that in his astute opinion, female DJs are great to have for their “mom factor”, another gross condescension that masks as… I don’t know, being a mama’s boy?

* * *

There are endless complexities and nuances to hold in imperfect hands when we speak of gender, sexuality, and art. There are ever-evolving approaches, even in Nashville alone, on how to make safe space for women and nonbinary folx in music specifically. These are exciting times! I am in no way an expert or an authority on inclusivity, and I am not offering my records prostrate at the virtue-signaling-altar of the Goddess of the Politically Correct, who isn’t a substantial entity after all! However, I do think these communities (my communities) need representation– and that representation is more than a buzzword that lands corporate sponsorships and approval from the right kinds of people.

I think representation, like I saw articulated so well by NPR’s Jess Skolnik recently, needs to be paired with revolution. It’s not as simple as playing Joni in equal parts to Dylan or inserting Betty Davis into every conversation about Miles. Maybe it’s noticing the ever-spinning web between all of these artists, and when women are spun with duller thread, inspecting it a little closer and with tenderness. Keeping in mind that history has not been kind to her threads, that they may need some repair and restoration; and that they are not to be objectified on a pedestal of exclusivity, but rather recognized as part of the complex web of human musical history. Being intentional about the voices of women is difficult, painstaking work. It’s delicate and powerful, like I’d imagine adjusting the gears of a clock might be.

* * *

Let’s use The Rolling Stones as an example here. I haven’t played The Stones on my show. I don’t need to expound on this, obviously, something like “Brown Sugar” is not a counterpart to the sounds and stories of black women, not to mention it being overplayed and lyrically offensive. And yet, I don’t think I should “cancel” The Rolling Stones or burn every copy of Sticky Fingers as a listener of American music. But oh boy, do I listen to it with a critical ear, and think about what they continue to mean to our zeitgeist while tapping my toe. Here’s a thought– maybe I would play “Gimme Shelter” and discuss oft-overlooked, dynamite-vocalist Merry Clayton, how her name was misspelled as “Mary” on some of their releases, and play another one of her recordings in the same set. And hell, I’d throw in Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville next to that too, and the whole show could be a self-referencing historical conundrum, and it would sound dynamic and great. As a DJ, I think it’s my responsibility to the community not to censor but to curate, and to play the voices that are less likely to be heard in elevated spaces such as these. Maybe it’s also our responsibility to explore how those voices can respond and add to the existing conversation. Isn’t recognizing the humanity in someone or something you don’t relate to the most radical thing we can do in a world of ever-dividing divisions?

* * *

In Nashville specifically, conversations around music can tend to feel pretentious and stilted. It is sometimes intimidating to do live radio for a city of musicians and critics, to know that my transitions may likely be analyzed, to know that as I struggle to pronounce someone’s name correctly, there is a listener out there in the void– driving their Volvo down Gallatin and cackling at my best. In this cultural moment, specifically in Nashville, I think we need to be able to fumble in front of one another. We need to dig for what delights us and unabashedly dust it off and spin it for our neighbors.

Looking into past generations and histories for the show has been such an enticing and inexhaustible adventure, but I think the most fulfilling points have been connecting them to people and music that are active now. The most meaningful moments of the show thus far have been the live interviews and in-studio sessions featuring women in Nashville who are doing really cool, important shit: Meg Pharr (of riot grrrl punk band Depression Breakfast), Sean Della Croce (singer-songwriter and co-founder of a print publication called Broadside), Ziona Riley (singer-songwriter & bassist for local band Heinous Orca), Kate Haldrup (local drummer and audio engineer), Eve Maret (synth wizard and Hyasynth House co-founder), Dream Chambers (electro-pop musician and other Hyasynth House co-founder), Wu Fei and Celine Thackston of chatterbird, and Peggy Snow (matriarch of the decades-running local experimental folk band The Cherry Blossoms and virtuosic painter of Nashville’s condemned buildings). Each of these women has brought wildly different playlists and perspectives into Martha’s Chicken Shack. Having them with me in that space feels electric and energizes me to ask more questions, to seek out more women, and ultimately to turn people onto more beautiful, meaningful shit.

In these moments when someone else is sharing from behind their particular lens of experience, I feel like I am getting to create the kind of space I intended to make on the show and that I long for more of in the world. I experience this as a listener, too– It makes me feel like the ever-spinning, ephemeral web of musical history is being held to new light, refracting incessantly for whoever chooses to turn the dial and tune in.

DJ LT
Shout, Sister, Shout!
Sundays, 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

Music-makers as Community Change-makers: Let’s Hear ‘Em Out

Shut downs, (democratic) socialists, and supreme court battles, oh my.

It’s April 2019, and we’re still here, somehow, some way, with our new(ish) Congress ushering in all sorts of new stories, drama and eventually — fingers crossed! — new laws to debate, celebrate or mourn. You don’t have to be fan club president for a famously ripped-and-dissenting octogenarian, nor a click-baiter’s MAGA dream, to be an informed and politically engaged American these days. The info (and infotainment) is all around us, downright inescapable unless you unplug all media but your FM radio with the dial set to 101.5. (We WXNA volunteer DJs approve of that path, for the record.) But even then, Twitter app deleted, cable news shunned, you might tune to a show on the X — yours truly with “What Moves You” Wednesday mornings, perhaps, or Laurel’s “All About Nashville” midday Friday — and stumble upon an interview with someone who makes music, and also chooses to make statements about that which influences life and music. For many, arts and activism (<< the name of a former WXNA interview show, incidentally, big ups to Ariel!) are not mutually exclusive pursuits, and I, for one, am grateful for the blending.

Obviously, art has forever accompanied and in many cases helped to power political and cultural movements. (I love this collection of important works in the Civil Rights era from nonprofit Teach Rock.) But midterm elections aren’t sexy — it’s far too easy to generate a weary “meh” about down-ballot races, disconnecting oneself from policies that actually impact the day-to-day (hello, Nashville transit referendum). It’s in fervor for or against executive candidates that we usually see the artists and other pop culture influencers out flexing their sway over us commoners (see: Rock Against Bush, this Millennial’s first memory of real-time music made and marketed in protest, plus countless others).

But the year 2018 was a surprisingly major one for political activism, locally, nationally, globally, and musicians were both participants and soundtrack providers in the democracy we made. Speaking as a community-loving freeform DJ, but also a superfan of civic engagement and voting rights, I’ve never seen such galvanized support from the music community to make changes in our country, and at the neighborhood level, too.

Early last year, I interviewed local soul-rock bombshell Alanna Quinn-Broadus of Alanna Royale the week of the second Women’s March. Additional “What Moves You” interviewees, Nashville-based artists Will Hoge and Ron Pope, respectively hosted spring and summer “& Friends” benefits for nonpartisan nonprofit HeadCount, for which I moonlight as a Team Leader registering voters at concerts. Come September, my show guest Kyshona Armstrong was pairing up with Nicki Bluhm to celebrate “rowdy women” at the book release of local author Sarah Hays Coomer. In that same month, an embarrassment of riches put me in a room chatting with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, a duo historically vocal about and involved in many human rights and environmental causes, before both Amy and Emily Saliers played a National Voter Registration Day concert at City Winery alongside an impressive slate of singer songwriters. Sheryl Crow, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, Billy Ray Cyrus and Brit songstress Lucie Silvas, among others, played a free, Saturday morning “Party to the Polls” event that culminated in a march from Ascend Amphitheater to Howard Office Building to early vote.

With even more national relevance and resonance, Jason Isbell’s August performance at Marathon Music Works in support of 2018 Senate candidate and former TN Governor Phil Bredesen drew the ire of GOP leaders and voters who just want their Americana uncluttered with/unfettered by their politics, thankyouverymuch . Down in Texas, Willie rallied for then-Senate and now-Presidential hopeful Beto and hordes of fans were shocked and appalled by Nelson’s affiliation with the progressive young candidate, despite decades of overt activism for left-leaning priorities. And then, who could forget previously mum (or at least middle-of-the-road) Tay-Tay’s extraordinary impact on last-minute registrations in the Volunteer State by Istagramming her support for Dems in early October? WHOA.

I’ve volunteered for more than a decade with HeadCount, founded on the very premise that live music fans can and should all be participants in their democracy, so let’s meet them where they are (music venues) and make that first step (registering to vote) convenient and fun. It never ceases to amaze or delight me the difference made in our engagement with fans when the (wo)man with the mic casually nudges the captive audience to “check out the HeadCount table in the lobby” or “register to vote if you haven’t already, it’s too important.” Roots-rock darling Michael Franti made such a call to action from stage in the summer of 2008, remembers my husband and co-Team Leader, spurring an immediate and steady stream of potential voters to turn their heads to the top of the amphitheater lawn, and make their ways to complete an official voter registration form in an exciting if not eerie Walking Dead effect.

Save the “sheeple” jabs: if artists recognize their influence and choose to use it beyond music, we should appreciate and celebrate this conscious choice to not just “shut up and sing,” as the anti-war Dixie Chicks were advised nearly 16 years ago . Maybe music is your escape from the madness, and I can certainly appreciate its life-giving powers as divorced from any other belief system, including our hyper-divisive American politics. But I’ll continue to dig into what moves artists to create their work, and to — as our fellow (concerned) citizens, real people seizing their status for good — advocate while amplified.

DJ Celia
What Moves You
Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

Photo credit: Romel Sanchez, Flickr

Mr. Narrator, This Is Joe Strummer to Me:

Hello, my name is Ed, and I am a Clash-a-holic… (In my mind you are calling back “Hello Ed!”)

Today is International Clash Day. We should give a shout out to fellow DJ John Richard at KEXP in Seattle who initiated Clash Day in 2013. Yay John! Really, it should be called International Clash FAN Day. We celebrate not only the Clash themselves but the brother/sisterhood of Clash fans worldwide, and here in Nashville. In the teenage recesses of my mind, I still think the Clash are somehow on the edge—weird, marginal—and I’m still kind of shocked when I run into other passionate Clash fans. So cheers to us! Passion is the fashion!

Personally I came to the Clash, I’m sure like many of my generation, overnight. One day it was Yes and Rush and 20-minute rock concertos; the next it was Year ZERO, laser focus on what matters, and London’s burning AND I’m SO Bored with the USA. The Clash gave us bullshit detectors!

To borrow from Duke Ellington, there are three types of Clash music: early, middle, and late. And I love them all. The fury and pure punk of early Clash with “White Riot,” “1977,” “Jail Guitar Doors,” and “Garageland”; to the expansiveness and cinematic quality of middle Clash with “London Calling,” “Spanish Bombs,” “The Card Cheat,” and “Death and Glory”; and finally to the experimentation of late Clash with “Magnificent Seven,” “Washington Bullets,” “Lose This Skin,” “Ghetto Defendant,” and “Straight to Hell.” It’s all fantastic!

The Clash broke up in 1983; Mick Jones was fired in September of that year. So that’s where I mark their end. To hell with post-Jones Clash! Wait, back up. Even I can learn a thing or two about the Clash. This year on WXNA I interviewed Kosmo Vinyl, sometimes known as the fifth member of the Clash, about his time with the band. He mentioned that a new book about Clash 2.0 had just come out and that I should check it out. Mark Andersen’s We Are The Clash covers the band from Mick’s ouster to the finale. This book radically changed my view of this period of the band, and I highly recommend it. It may challenge your likely derisive view of the band during this era. (You can listen to Kosmo’s interview here: http://www.wxnafm.org/broadcasts/7776.)

Regardless, the Clash came to an end over 35 years ago! And here we are, celebrating International Clash Day in 2019. What’s going on here? Perhaps the Clash, their music, their example, their inspiration persist because we need them to. These times require deep reserves of musical, artistic, and spiritual sustenance. The Clash really only existed from 1976 to 1983. In those six years they put out six full length albums (two of which were multi-disc) and many EPs and singles. Digging into that output, you will find much that speaks to us today. What I’m struck by is the deep humanism of the band and Joe’s lyrics in particular. They weren’t perfect, they weren’t the best musicians, they didn’t invent punk, but they were true believers for a time. It was and is true rebel music.

The Clash were not Joe Strummer’s band. They were a collective unit: Joe’s lyrics, Mick’s arrangements, Paul’s pure style and chutzpah, and Topper’s solid drumming chops came together to create a unique sound and sensibility. In ways not true for other punk-era bands, they continue to spark our imagination and our collective will to resist. And to rebel in the Albert Camus sense of the term—or as Joe had slapped on his battered Telecaster, “ignore alien orders.” They were sincere without being goofy, they were ironic without being distancing, and they believed what they were saying even if they were at times naive. “I think people ought to know that we’re antifascist, we’re anti-violence, we’re anti-racist, and we’re pro-creative. And we’re against ignorance.” Tell it, Joe!

The Clash and the spirit of Joe Strummer are still with us. In 2016, after what seemed like a calamity, Henry Rollins put it as succinctly as I’ve ever heard: “This is not the time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.” Goddamn, I can hardly say that without tearing up. WXNA, the DJs and the volunteers, are proud to be on the side of our community and when necessary to be part of the fight to make this community open to all. That is the spirit of the Clash, and that is what Joe Strummer taught us. “Without people, you’re nothing…”

I’m a collector of Strummer quotes. There’s one for just about any situation. Here’s one for right now: “If I had five million pounds I’d start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn’t make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.”

The creation of WXNA in 2016 gave us a chance to re-enchant our love affair with music, and through music to connect with each other: My long love for this band has been reawakened. And I am heartily grateful, because, damn, I needed it. So let’s raise a glass to St. Joe Strummer and to The Only Band That Matters. Cheers and Solidarity.

DJ ED
Eighties/Schmeighties
Friday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.