Unless this is the first time you’ve visited life + running, there’s a pretty good chance you already know that I’m a huge fan of the Minnesota radio station 89.3 The Current. The Current is a non-profit public radio station that’s part of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), and is nine years old this year. The reason I like to listen to The Current more than any other station is simple: they don’t just play darn good music, they provide a wealth of information and trivia about the music they’re playing. It was by listening to The Current that I was finally able to fulfill my 13-year-old-self’s dream of seeing the Smashing Pumpkins live in 2012. And it was by listening to The Current that I was inspired to start my very own radio show on the college station, 88.5 KURE Ames Alternative.
I started listening to The Current sometime in 2008 or 2009 while on a business trip and after meeting with Mark in his hometown for dinner and drinks. Funny story: Mark and I weren’t dating then. He just so happened to be the kind of friend who not only had fantastic taste in music, food, and drinks, but in women as well. 😉
Anyway, I can’t remember what it was that tipped me off to the fact that I wasn’t listening to a regular radio station. It could have been the exceptional amount of David Bowie that they play, the all-around entertainment factor, or possibly a track from some obscure punk or new wave favorite of mine. Either way, I was hooked, and was bummed when I hit that sad place on US 35S where The Current turns to static. I started streaming online when I got back to Iowa, and shortly thereafter I became a member during a member drive. What sold me on membership is that MPR’s stations are very interactive with the listeners, so I felt like I was part of their family, and it made me want to give back.
Part of the all-around entertainment factor that I mentioned is the segments that each on-air personality does during their respective shows. For instance, the morning show does the 9:30 Coffee Break, which is a half-hour of songs based on a theme and curated by listener request. Mary Lucia, the afternoon host, does a No Apologies track at 4 PM every day, which could be anything from “Ice Ice Baby” to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. Barb Abney, the host that is on the air for most of the day when I listen, does a My Three Songs set at noon. These songs are listener requested and usually have a theme of sorts, but the theme is chosen by the listener …
… which brings me to visiting MPR Studios in downtown St. Paul last week. But first, let’s back it up a couple months.
My birthday marked the start of MPR’s fall member drive. I’m already member, and I’m guilty of switching to Spotify when drives happen, but this time I decided to listen, and try to encourage others who listen to become members as well. So I sent in a request to play My Three Songs for my birthday. Here’s the email I sent to Barb:
Hi Barb: I’ve got a set that I’d like you to play for a few different reasons.
1) Thursday is my birthday. It’s the last one I’m celebrating, though, I’ve heard that life doesn’t end at 30.
2) Thursday is also the start of the member drive. I’m a sustaining member, and I don’t even live in Minnesota. I stream online daily while I’m at work. So, in honor of my birthday, I’d like to ask anybody out there whose not a Minnesotan and who streams online to become a sustaining member or to increase their membership. It would be a great birthday present!
3) I’ve always wanted to be a DJ, and finally was inspired enough by the programming on The Current to apply for our on-campus radio station at Iowa State University. Ten years ago I was a student, and now I’m staff (and a part-time grad student). I started out wanting to do radio, had an internship in radio, but it passed by the wayside when my first job offer came up. I’m a graphic designer, and have worked for higher education for 7 years, but my passion lies not only in design, recruiting, and fundraising — but in music as well. So, in a few short weeks I’ll be polluting the air waves with my new radio show on 88 5 K U R E Ames Alternative (I’m @DJchimes if you’re interested).
That’s a mouthful and I don’t expect you to pick me OR read all of that.
Anyway, here are my three songs (I’m pretty flexible too — there are a few options from which to choose):
• Michael Jackson — “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”
Been an unabashedly bold MJ fan since I was a little kid. I will break out into the Thriller dance in public if it’s played on the radio (Thriller would be preferred over this song, but Halloween is coming, and I’m sure it’s going to get overplayed on the radio in general).
• “Delirious” by Prince
Recently started collecting vinyl, and didn’t realize how much I love Prince until I picked up 1999. Can’t get enough of the Purple One.
• CHVCHES — “Recover”
This is off my current favorite album
• Andrew WK — She is Beautiful
This is kind of my anthem …
• Smashing Pumpkins — “Cherub Rock”
Smashing Pumpkins are my all-time favorite band (since I was a little kid, and my mom wouldn’t let me go see them when I was 13 — then they broke up), and I finally got to see them live last year since I heard about the show very early on thanks to The Current — yet another reason I listen!
• David Bowie — “Ziggy Stardust”
Another thing that I love about The Current is that it seems you enjoy playing Bowie just as much as I enjoy listening. This song holds a special place in my heart because my (Minnesota native) boyfriend used to play the acoustic version of this a lot when we first started dating 4 years ago.
I was thrilled when I heard that Barb was playing My Three Songs, and that she was going to surprise me with the ones that she picked. She ended up playing Michael Jackson, Prince, and David Bowie — a perfect set. She forwarded my story along to the membership department and eventually I was asked to come in and chat with them a bit about why I’m a member, and how being a member influenced me to become a DJ. The interview was short and sweet, and I got to meet Barb, who I felt like I already knew because I’d been listening for 5 years.
The experience made me remember how much I love radio. I worked at Des Moines Radio Group in college (as an intern), and loved every minute of it. There’s something about the personalities that come together at a radio station that I love. I also love the type of people who work for non-profits, so it’s no wonder I’ve had such a love affair with this station. When I finish my grad degree and move in with Mark in Minnesota, I’m definitely going to be checking the job board at American Public Media on a daily basis.
Finally, visiting a professional radio station made me want to do a better job with my show and keep things as interesting and informative. I’ve been coming up with themes for my shows and I’ve also realized that I can come up with a show on the fly if something interesting happens, instead of sticking to my spreadsheet of planned music. For instance, yesterday was David Bowie’s birthday, so I decided to put together a Bowie-flavored show with some of his songs, covers of his by other bands, songs he produced, and covers of other bands’ music. I had to cut down the amount of music because I’m going to be talking a bit more than usual, but it will be a good show. I say “will be” because the confines of college radio prevented me from doing the show ON Bowie’s birthday, which would have been ideal. My show goes back on the air either next week or the following week, depending on some things hanging in the air. In short: NEXT SHOW IS ALL BOWIE.
So much to say in one post, but I can’t say enough good things about this station. Thanks again to MPR for providing such great programming that I can listen to here in Iowa!
Do you listen to music at work? What do you listen to?