Meet Your Wizards: Laura Powers

Wherein we pull back the curtain for a personal visit with one of the wonderful wizards of the X. In this case, the DJ keeping us on Needles + Pins weekly — Laura Powers.

Born: Knoxville, Tennessee
Home: Nashville, Tennessee
Drafted into WXNA: 2014
Spins: Right
Fades: Right

I fell in love with independent radio back in high school when I discovered WUTK, the University of Tennessee’s student-run radio station. Doing Needles+Pins each week makes me feel like that 13-year-old kid hearing the B-52’s for the first time. In an increasingly algorithmic world, I love that WXNA is a place where you can still be surprised and excited by music, whether it’s brand new or just new to you.

Most played song:Sonic Reducer” by Dead Boys

Vinyl, CD or mp3? All of the above. Love LPs but definitely not a format snob.

Fave WXNA shows: Runout Numbers, Bedazzled Paradigm Jukebox, Punk Not Punks

Pinch-me moment: Throwing an on-air dance party with Vanessa from Pylon

When I die: Sprinkle my ashes in the New Arrivals section at Wax’n’Facts in Atlanta

Meet Your Wizards: Ashley Crownover

Born: Sixth-generation Nashvillian, but
Number of states lived in: 9
Drafted into WXNA: 2011
Show: Friday Friday, Fridays from 7-8 a.m.

I helped found WXNA, mostly by providing massive quantities of unrestrained enthusiasm. I discovered non-mainstream music during my teen years in the ‘80s thanks to the University of Tennessee’s WUTK and Vanderbilt’s dearly departed WRVU, while my love for ‘60s and ‘70s rock comes straight from my dad’s record collection. These days I learn about new music by listening to my fellow WXNA DJs (and, I’m ashamed to admit, via Spotify’s weird algorithms).

Artist Obsession: David Bowie Forever

Favorite WXNA DJ Collaborators: Jonathan Grigsby (Dance Party XNA) and Michael Roark (Hazy Ways)

Biggest (and Funnest) Challenge as a DJ: Playing ear-catching new music in addition to my beloved “oldies”

Most Awkward DJ Experience: When I phone interviewed Denny Laine of Wings and was so in awe I could barely speak. The most notable thing about it was his boredom

Something Listeners May Not Know About Me: In 2008 I wrote a retelling of Beowulf from the female characters’ point of view (Wealtheow: Her Telling of Beowulf, Iroquois Press), and in 2016 I published a children’s book called Nashville Boo (Reedy Press) featuring the ghost of Hank Williams as narrator.

Meet Your Wizards: Sirena Wilson

Born: Nashville, Tennessee
Home: Inglewood, East Nashville
Drafted into WXNA: 2018
Shows: Music for Grownups, Bring Out Your Dead

In the 20-oughts, Sirena loved to listen to two DJs: Bob Parlocha, host of the syndicated show Jazz with Bob Parlocha, and Pete Wilson, host of Nashville Jumps on Vanderbilt University’s WRVU. In the teens, both jocks suffered major blows: Pete’s station died in 2011, and Bob died in 2015. Sirena was cheered to find out, though, that a group of ex-RVU jocks, including Pete, were suffering years-long withdrawal symptoms and trying to get a brand new station off the ground. Miraculously, they succeeded. Sirena attended an event held by the new station in the summer of 2016, found out which of the middle-aged boys was Pete, and introduced herself. A little less than two years later they were married. Before honeymooning in England, they spent a couple of hours the day after the wedding doing Pete’s Sunday show Music for Grownups together. As she did in Pete’s life as well, Sirena morphed from guest to partner, and now she’s the better half of Music for Grownups. As DJ Indigo, she’s also one of the growing rotation of DJs who take turns hosting Bring Out Your Dead. She spent many happy days as a Deadhead and brings flair and savvy to her presentation of the Dead and related bands, Dead-inspired groups, and related musicians like Elizabeth Cotten.

Salina at Tomato Art FestYou may not be surprised when I tell you this is Pete writing this. You surely will not be surprised when I say Sirena is my favorite DJ. I admire her great work as host of Bring Out Your Dead, but her co-hosting of Music for Grownups is closer to my heart. Before WXNA went on the air I knew I wanted to do a show of good old pre-rock pop music, jazz vocals and show tunes. To my mind when I was a youngster in the 60s and 70s, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole were the Music for Grownups–NOT the Eagles or the Stones or the Allman Brothers or even the Beatles. I wanted a show that would appeal to the inner adult inside each of us. Or even the inner nerd–at one point I wanted to call the show “Music for Squares,” which I guess might have been heavier on polkas and Lawrence Welk. Randy is still mad that I abandoned that name, but I wasn’t sure listeners would want to self-identify as Squares.

STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF PETE! I was just leading up to why the show is better with Sirena. Each week we choose some themes, or songwriters to celebrate, or we find out whose birthday it is, and sift through stacks and stacks of CDs (we may be old-fashioned but not so much that we play phonograph records on the show!) to find great and appropriate songs. So many times Sirena has stumbled across an intriguing title that led to a three-minute gold mine. She finds cuts that sound great in succession but contrast enough to keep the ears perked, and has a great ear for a witty lyric. Working together, we’ve come to love many particular singers in common–Lee Wiley, Matt Dennis, and the king of them all, Bobby Short–while also individually claiming certain songs as our own pets. For Sirena those include “Big Spender” from the show Sweet Charity, Bobby Short’s cut of “I’m in Love Again,” and Stacey Kent’s version of “He Loves and She Loves.” Kent herself is an example of something else Sirena brought to the show: contemporary performers whose styles and choices absolutely fit our premise. Kent and Harry Connick Jr., for two examples. The contemporary crooner she’s championed most is the handsome singing archivist Michael Feinstein, whom we both call Candy Face out of love and respect. What’s more, Sirena’s playful enthusiasm on the air makes our talk breaks a blessing. She is audibly pumped about introducing our listeners to standards of the Great American Songbook.

Also, she rustles up new PSAs for the station. SO MANY NEW PSAs!

Pete Wilson, Nashville Jumps