It’s a funny thing – though I grew up a child of the radio age, I didn’t quite understand the power of it until I moved to Los Angeles and spent nearly two hours every single day commuting to and from my office in Downtown LA, completely dependent on the able hand of KCRW to transform that painfully long stint behind the wheel into something I actually looked forward to. Because I was raised in a walking city, radio didn’t dominate as much of my youth as it could have – I’d always lose reception once the subway went underground, so my bulky yellow Walkman and stacks of endless tapes were actually my prized possessions (along with a set of headphones held together like a corrective dental device – how far, ye earbuds, we have come).
I don’t think my drive from a poorly-chosen apartment directly above Hollywood Boulevard to a new high-rise just beyond the 110 overpass was much more than 10 miles, but it took at least three times as long as it should, bumper to bumper down Beverly Boulevard, made even worse by my stubborn refusal to ever actually enter the freeway myself, because I had only learned to drive a few months ago and enjoyed being alive. So I’d spend every morning, afternoon, and in-between ride tuned into KCRW, the world’s best radio station as far as I’m concerned – with Nic Harcourt and Jason Bentley, feeling like I was actually being guided by a person with real taste and a sense for curation, not just someone who thought it was funny to throw up nineties grunge against a current Vampire Weekend album cut, just for shits and giggles.
I’ll never forget the day that I first heard Jason Bentley play “I Break Horses” by Smog, a band/moniker I didn’t know well enough yet to identify as belonging to the one and only Bill Callahan, or grow to love as much as I now do. This was before the days of Shazam, so I pulled over one avenue before parking on Melrose, where I was to meet a colleague for lunch, and waited through four songs and some commercials to find out exactly what that was I had listened to, the voice that had stopped me in my tracks. I trusted Jason and Nic, and their shows were journeys – not particularly tagged to any generation or theme, but somehow united in a point of view. I don’t know how they did it; mixing Sex Mob with Dirty Projectors and Santigold and Juana Molina and old Portishead but it merged, beautifully, like a perfect mix tape should. I endless albums in my time in LA thanks to KCRW, from that year or thirty before it. Radio was my magical vehicle for musical discovery then, Pandora be damned.
I always wondered why Nashville – the music city, ya know? – didn’t have more radio stations that rivaled KCRW’s sense of exploration, taste, encyclopedic knowledge and curiosity of songs old and new. WXNA is set to change all that: founded by a group of experienced DJ’s with distinct points of view and personalities, it will be broadcasting on 101.5 FM should it complete the funding, via Kickstarter, to get things off and running. Under the motto of “Low Power, High Voltage,” they’re planning on using the platform to shape a station that reflects the diversity of our fair town: from old, weepy country, to dissonant punk, to pedal-steel tinged folk melding them both. Like my beloved KCRW, they’ll be driven by careful curation – you’ll feel like you’re being guided by a very thoughtful, very knowledgeable friend (they will operate as a “freeform” station, like another favorite, Seattle’s KEXP). Should they reach their goal, WXNA will be on air by next summer.
We thought we’d let the folks of WXNA tell you, in their own words, five reasons Nashville needs WXNA, for their Nashville Five. If you agree, donate to their Kickstarter here. We certainly do, and did.
Five Reasons Nashville Needs WXNA, by WXNA :::
1. We’re Music City, for Pete’s sake! We should have a radio station that reflects and celebrates the diversity and wealth of talent in this crazy amazing town. We want to turn on the radio and hear Bully, Tim Carroll, The Lees Of Memory, Nudity, Adia Victoria, JAWWS, Protomen, Richie Owens and The Farm Bureau, Jeff The Brotherhood, Amanda Shires, Los Straitjackets, Tommy Womack, Steelism, Chuck Mead, Hillbilly Casino, Chris Scruggs, William Tyler, The Dynamites, Hogslop String Band, Thunderbitch, Idle Bloom, Big Surr… See what we mean? (Even better, we’ll be able to stream this homegrown awesomeness to the entire planet via the world wide web!)
2. Music ain’t milk. Homogeneity is fine for dairy products, but not so much for radio stations. The music that gets played on the radio today is just a microscopic sliver of what’s out there. Old stuff, new stuff, weird stuff–we want to play it all. We guarantee we’ll play more Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon songs than any other station in town. Frankie who? Exactly.
3. Nashville is teeming with people doing incredible things that enhance the culture of this city. People involved in the arts, in fashion, in maker culture, in small businesses–we want to hear them. And we want to hear them talk to each other! How cool would it be to hear Nashville Fashion Alliance talking to Josh and Ivy from Wilder? Or The Skillery folks talking to the Fort Houston peeps? Or Bingham from Grand Palace talking to Linus from Yazoo Brewing? Our wish list gets longer by the minute.
4. Nobody knows Nashville like Nashvillians. Our friend Aubrey Preston calls what we’re doing the farm-to-turntable movement. Nashville deserves–yes, deserves!–a station that’s programmed by locals for locals. No algorithms need apply.
5. Nashville needs surprises. In this searchable, on-demand world, terrestrial radio is one of the few places left where you can be surprised by a new song, a new perspective, a new way of thinking. Surprises can change your life. They sure have changed ours.