Ashley, we were working on articles and interviews of folks around the country, and the world, who have a finger on the pulse of the songwriting and performing scene in their home cities and towns. Our ‘Homegrown’ feature articles focus on the people responsible for promoting, encouraging, and offering support to their local songwriters, musicians, and performers. We found you while searching personalities to feature on our site, a serendipitous event for sure. Thank you for the terrific conversation on the phone and for graciously agreeing to the interview. Let’s get started.
How about letting the readers know something about you and your remarkable journey?
At a young age I’ve always been interested in live music, so naturally local music was my ability to see live music “on the regular”. My first experience with radio was a job shadowing exercise in high school for a small radio station in my hometown (WBYS), which initially sparked my interest. I really started in radio at 18, because of my love for music, as well as my distinct deep raspy voice and my love and natural ability at the “gift of gab”. Working part-time in radio came right away, and I worked on-air or interned all through college. I attended Parkland College in Champaign, IL, gaining an associates degree in Mass Communications, and finished my four year degree at Columbia College in Chicago, earning a BA in Radio with a focus in Talent/Production. While in Chicago I got a start with local music for Q101’s Local 101 show hosted by Chris Payne. Following college, I landed my first full-time gig in Champaign, IL, doing nights for a rock station, Extra 99.1, where I launched a new music/local music show; Rock’n Local with Bad Ash. The show mainly sampled new music hitting the charts, and weaved in only some local bands. Next came my current gig in Asheville, NC, Mid-days on a rock station, where I have had the opportunity to start another local music program; Local Licks on 105.9 The Mountain. My company expanded & gained another radio station, which gave me a chance to open up the variety of local music I was playing, so I started Homegrown on the new station, 98.1 The River. Currently I host 4 radio shows, including the night shift on the River if you’re counting, and I am also the Assistant Program Director for 98.1. Being APD consists of me working with lots of big name artists, including Warren Haynes, Matisyahu, Amos Lee, Yonder Mountain String Band, and many others. I’ll schedule these artists into the River’s Studio AVL (acoustic sessions), coordinate intros and meet n’ greets with artists, and so on. Plus being APD I’ve have the opportunity to coordinate smaller station events, and much more!
We were surprised when we learned that Ashville not only offers great local talent, but a steady showcase of top name entertainers as well. Tell us about the amazing music scene in Ashville, NC.
It really is quite incredible the vast amount of music that is in Asheville. Not only does it produce musicians, but people move here from all over the country, because of their aspirations in music, and the ability to work with so many people alike. When I arrived I was unfamiliar with how major the music scene was (I moved on a whim with little research done for the job), but quickly started spreading the word about my opportunity to host a local music show. The sheer volume of music I received from local and regional bands convinced me that I stumbled into the local music mecca. The best parts of the Asheville music scene; the quality of the music, the presentation, and the fact that the musicians in this area take the music very seriously. It’s not just their past time; they’re out working to have it heard. What made it more exciting for me is that I had a platform for them to let their music be heard. Also… I listen to everything, and I can get ANY kind of music I want in Asheville. Whether it’s rock, pop, jazz, indie, funk, blues, Celtic, folk, bluegrass, salsa, classical, metal, experimental, or electronic, you will find it in Asheville, being done well.
You support Homegrown Music on your sites, how important is it, in your opinion, to get behind homegrown music?
Getting behind any good music is important, it enriches our lives, and being lucky enough to have such an amazing community that supports local music is fabulous. Homegrown music in Asheville is playing everywhere; coffee houses, large venues, pubs, for benefits and festivals. So if you support local music, you are supporting local business and helping your community thrive. So why wouldn’t you support Homegrown music?
From what we read of you on your websites, and correct us if we’re wrong, you’re into Rock and Roll. We get a sense that the town’s music scene is pretty eclectic. Would you give us a musical tour of Ashville?
I’m definitely a classic rock chick at heart, my favorite bands are Led Zeppelin, Sublime, Clutch, but I also listen to Big Band Swing and can’t resist a good Salsa band. Nothing really turns me off. And like I said, you can get it all in Asheville… it might just depend on the evening. Heck yes, I’ll give you a musical tour, come see me!
You mentioned in our phone conversation that you had some remarkable venues in your town. Tell us about that.
There are so many, I’m scared I’ll leave one out, but here goes. Well, The Orange Peel is the venue that brings in everyone (and were recognized in 2008 as the fifth best venue to play in the US, by in Rolling Stone Magazine) from Smashing Pumpkins to The Beastie Boys to Donavon Frankenreiter to Toots & the Maytals to GWAR to OK Go to Rodrigo y Gabriela to Bob Dylan, but they also do local showcases around once a month. There are many other venues bringing in great acts and supporting local music too; The Emerald Lounge a great place to get a variety of funk & rock. Mo Daddy’s brings the soul, blues, funk, and more! Jack of the Wood is where you’ll most likely find bluegrass, folk, and old time music. The Grey Eagle is a great venue bringing in acts like Marcy Playground to David Wilcox to Alejandro Escovedo, and many up and coming touring indie bands. The White Horse Black Mountain has become a staple for many singer songwriters, as well as your more traditional folk and bluegrass, but they never shy away from a hard hitting blues show. The latest edition to the scene, The LAB, tucked away in a very popular brewery, has showcased singer/songwriters, hard rock, rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, jazz, folk, to funk. Bobo Gallery is a wine bar that will bring in your folk, but you’ll also find punk & hip hop on occasion. Stella Blue and the Boiler Room gives you everything that rocks from light to heavy to metal, but sometimes surprise you with a country show or even a more intimate songwriter performance. All of this alongside the large variety of pubs, restaurants, and coffee houses that have acts performing on a regular basis. And just so I don’t fail to mention them, the Asheville Civic Center and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium bring in a number of great shows ranging from singer/songwriter to rock band. The Civic Center holds the Annual Christmas Jam, which has featured Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, John Paul Jones, Gov’t Mule, among others (the Jam is in its 22nd year and hosted by Warren Haynes), and Thomas Wolfe has brought us Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, Ray Lamontagne, just to name a few.
Are there any acts, or people, in Ashville that we should know about?
Many people are doing some great things here, but there are a few stand outs for me. Singer Songwriter Jenna Lindbo came here from Oregon, and she has such a sweet sound, along with a positive enthusiastic attitude towards her music that captivates me. Jason Decristofaro is a vibraphonist, who is inspiring some well known musicians in town and working on some great jazz that is new and inventive. Pierce Edens is an up and coming Tom Waits in sound, with such an old school blues style that you would think he was in his 50s, yet he’s an exciting young musician bringing you some real soul. The Stereofidelics, a duo, show off their amazing looping skills along with musicianship and they always impress me with their work ethic. The Nova Echo is already making some buzz in the electronic world. Josh Phillips is really starting to work the festival scene and his jammy playful energetic style has been drawing huge crowds often. There are really so many people that I could talk about… how long is this interview supposed to be? However, people can check out some of Asheville favorites in our local free paper the Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC 2010 reader’s poll; the community votes for their favorite bands, venues, restaurants, yadda-yadda.
The reason for this site is to support songwriters, their fans, and those that promote songwriters and songwriting. Is there a songwriting community in Ashville? Are there venues for the singer/songwriter?
Oh yes there are many songwriters; Jen Greer of Jen & the Juice even hosts the Big Brown Bag singer/songwriter competition at Mo Daddy’s, I was lucky to be a judge once. Plus, there are a few other similar competitions and showcases that feature artists of the like. There are people busking every day in downtown Asheville and usually you’ll find them at the lounges, pubs, breweries, and coffeehouses aroundtown. Some examples are; the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Lobster Trap, Highland Brewing Company, Pisgah Brewery, French Broad Brewery, The Thirsty Monk, Tolliver’s Crossing, Westville Pub, Firestorm Café, and the list goes on.
Of the questions we always ask are those concerning the change in the music industry and how it will affect artists. You being so involved in radio would have a helpful perspective. How do you see the industry today and in the future?
It’s a tough industry; tough competition, tough to break into, and tough to stay in, but there is a bright side. There are people like the authors of this web-site and myself who still believe in the music, and maintaining respect for quality musicianship. With that, there is a way for many musicians, singer/songwriters, bands, and artists to create awareness of their work, but they need to create it. Using social networking, and even the old fashion way of spreading the word on the street, keeping it relevant & producing a quality product, and making everyone (newspapers, web-sites, radio stations, blogs, etc.) aware of it will help. Yet even with all this, being fresh, original, and truly talented is really what is going to get you far. Unless of course you are extremely connected to people that can just make it happen for you… unfortunately those are examples like Paris Hilton and as of late Kim Kardashian. Horrendous. In the future, I would imagine it’s going to be consistent with what we’re seeing today, as far as making a splash in the music scene. We’ll probably have more social networks to deal with, and more people will probably be giving their music out for free (example: The Smashing Pumpkins have been giving out free singles for a while now.) It will be more about making the money through ticket sales and merchandise.
As for the future of radio… terrestrial radio (trusty old am/fm) is going nowhere. It’s the only thing left local and entertaining that you can find on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that it’s not going to change to mold to society and with pop culture, it will have to.
What, in your opinion, is the best way to promote an artist today?
Send it EVERYWHERE; college, public, commercial radio, newspapers that have music coverage, magazines, local publications, etc. Follow-up with e-mail, always keep it short and to the point (people have less time these days), and don’t ever send out your music without ALL of your contact info.
Here’s a question we have always wanted to ask someone who would surely know. ;)What makes a hit record? Lyric, Melody, Hook, Riff, Arrangement…or?
In my opinion all or any of the above, and it’s only my opinion. A song has to be catchy, have a hook, something people will remember, but also something revealing and emotional. Musicianship, personality, and sometimes collaborations through writing with people can help you look outside the box of your own music. It’s great to ask for feedback, and regardless of whether you like it or not, really think through that advice. Advice can go either way; just remain true to your music and message.
Is there some advice you would offer to the songwriters out there?
Make realistic goals for yourself, stay true to yourself, and stick with it.
When readers Google you they are going to find your terrific blog from your alter ego, ‘Bad Ash.’ Tell us something of her.
It’s really more of a nickname than anything, because I’m honest, very direct, and bold as hell. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that it gave me a wilder confidence behind the microphone. Not fearless, just more confident.
Thank you, so much Ash, for a great interview. We have posted links so the readers can learn more about you and the wonderful town of Ashville.
Ken and Dave