January 2, 2012

My NPR appearance this weekend

This last week has been a delightful unplugging for me, off exploring Colorado via its craft beers and its snow-covered mountains with a good friend in from out of town (he’s a Red Sox fan but I overlook that).

On Friday, we caught my NPR’s World Cafe with David Dye interview segment, and in case you missed it or live somewhere that you can’t stream it, I’ve made an mp3 for ease. Here I am talking about some of my favorite picks from 2011 with the always-wonderful David Dye — I love doing this because I’ve found I really like playing DJ. And cracking lame 30 Rock jokes.

My World Cafe Appearance – Dec 30, 2011

November 2, 2011

hey mom! i’m “a big something” today

During a break in the middle of my crazy workday on Monday, our college radio station/local NPR affiliate KRCC had me over to the studios to interview me about the Fuel/Friends Chapel Sessions, my house shows, and the development of my blog and my perceptions of independent music in general over the last six years. They’re featuring that interview today on their “The Big Something” feature, as well as highlighting a track from my chapel sessions as their free song download of the day:

The International is Local: COS Music Blogger Heather Browne

Fuel/Friends Free Song of the Day, 11/2/11: “Josh McBride” by The Head and the Heart

According to the write-up, I am mild-mannered by day (I apparently fooled them) and they also caught me wearing my “Halloween costume” in the picture — I went to work dressed as ‘a business-casual SF Giants fan living in Colorado.’ The colors were so right.

In all seriousness, it feels really wonderful to continue to meet all sorts of passionate music lovers in Colorado Springs and work to further cross-pollinate and support good music here. I may work more with KRCC in the future on some rad collaborations. Stay tuned.

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January 14, 2010

A Danger(ous) radio appearance


Hot on the heels of my NPR chat, I recently stopped by Danger Radio studios in a top-secret location in Denver to record a show with Tyler “Danger” Jacobson and Jake Ryan. In between playing songs we’re digging, listen to me get feisty and flushed about defending bands I love from marauding curmudgeons with strong opinions.

danger radioDanger Radio Episode 47 with Heather Browne (playlist)

[Just kidding, we love each other. But we did disagree, which is kind of fun. Top photo by Todd Roeth, from this excellent piece.]

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January 4, 2010

So I was on NPR on Friday…

…and I forgot to listen! I did the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day, and I do believe that diving into the 35° Boulder Reservoir may have frozen my brain.

In any case, my conversation with David Dye is streaming online now (so I can finally hear it!) and I would love to invite you to come take a listen while we talk about some of my favorites of 2009! Anthony DeCurtis from Rolling Stone is on the other half of the broadcast with David this year; it is always a joy to be a World Cafe guest.

LISTEN: Heather Browne on World Cafe (1/1/10)

WorldCafe Logo CMYK wDye

December 31, 2008

I’m inside your radio


Thanks to the great folks over at NPR’s World Cafe, I get the distinct pleasure again this year of joining David Dye to talk about (and spin) some of my favorite albums of 2008! It all goes down tomorrow, January 1st, and you can listen online!

I’m boarding a plane in San Jose to fly back to Colorado, and I wish all y’all a safe and happy New Year’s!

January 3, 2008

Re-run: Me on the radio

My guest spot on NPR’s World Cafe with David Dye aired on Tuesday, much to my mom and dad’s delight. After I spent approximately seventeen years trying to find a way to stream it online, I was finally able to hear my sleekly-edited interview late in the evening. Over about thirty minutes, Dye and I chatted about a few of my favorite albums of 2007, and my impressions of the current blog world/digital music landscape.

The conversation was a ridiculously fun one to have, and most of the time I forgot that they were even recording. It is a credit to Dye that he can make jittery first-timers feel so relaxed and get to the core of the matter, which was the slew of great music this year. I didn’t get a chance to cover all my picks, and they cut some of the portions (plus I am kicking myself for not even mentioning the lyric + sentiment that I borrowed the oft-confusing name of my blog from!) — but overall this was something I deeply enjoyed doing.

If you missed it, you can take a listen now:
Heather Browne on World Cafe 01-01-2008

August 7, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Color me tickled pink.

I had such an interesting, surreal time at the Radio & Records Triple-A Summit in Boulder on Friday. I got to meet a lot of interesting record reps and label folks, came home with a huge stack of new CDs to listen to, and learned about some cool radio stations and programming in the U.S. right now.

The day was this weird combination of folks who truly KNOW and LOVE music (I had more fantastic conversations in 18 hours than I have in the last 18 weeks) right smack alongside the business side of things, this pushing of music as a commodity. I saw the side of marketing and branding and distribution and all the things that are undoubtedly necessary in today’s world to have music be heard, but also seems in a weird way (to my naive and idealistic mind) to somehow contrast the beauty and art contained in a great song. But it’s necessary, so there you go.

It also felt a bit conspicuous being a blogger alongside radio programmers. I love radio, I love a good radio station, there is fantastic variety and quality on a lot of these stations. But I felt as if I might get run out of there at any moment because a blogger is kind of the anti-radio-programmer: instead of me waiting for a radio programmer at a big station to add the artists I feel passionately about, now with the internet and mp3 blogging, I can just go right to my computer, find cool new stuff, create a playlist, and essentially be my own programmer. So I am not sure how the two fit side by side. I think that a lot of folks there may have felt the same way: there was certainly a lot of warmth and interest towards what I do, but I was very aware of the dichotomy and wondering how, in the future, the two will intertwine.

The best thing about the day was that I found enough fodder for dozens of posts about new artists. Musicians were milling about, I got to talk to several on your behalf, hear about their musical philosophy, how their records were created, their backstory and their songs. It was beyond cool.

Here are some of the best new songs that caught my ear from the event:

Balancing The World
Eliot Morris
I believe this recommendation came about from a conversation wherein I was saying something about Counting Crows. The name of this artist immediately followed, and if you like Counting Crows, please give Eliot Morris a shot (I also hear some reminiscence of Matt Nathanson here). Uplifting, intelligent pop at its best. Check him out on MySpace – his album What’s Mine Is Yours comes out August 15th on Universal and I will definitely pick it up. The new release features collaborations with Dan Wilson of Semisonic and David Lindley (Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, James Taylor). Funny, I just noticed that he is on tour with Counting Crows. Well, good pairing I guess.

You Made It
DJ Shadow feat. Chris James
From DJ Shadow‘s upcoming release The Outsider (Sept 12, Universal), and featuring Chris Martin Chris James of Stateless, this sounds like nothing I would have ever thought I’d hear from DJ Shadow. The electronic effects are restrained; this is mostly an acoustic guitar based song over a subtle, tense beat with soaring, melodic vocals. Very nice. DJ Shadow is currently on the road, through Asia and the UK (with one rad stop at the Greek in Berkeley, opening for Massive Attack in September).

I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)
Sandi Thom
Please be aware before you listen to this that it will stick in your head and you may find yourself singing it all day long, with its clever lyrics of nostalgia and being born in the wrong era. I saw Sandi Thom perform at the luncheon on Friday and I was impressed. She’s in her early 20s, a rosy-cheeked, passionate Scottish-Irish vocalist who was quite charming. There was a definite rootsy vibe and strength to her demeanor. Her accompaniment on this tune was a guy sitting on and playing an amplified wooden box, which fascinated me. Check her out on MySpace and her album Smile . . . It Confuses People. She plays Atlanta tonight and has a handful of U.S. dates coming up. I liked her and would see her again.

Fire Island, AK
The Long Winters
Okay, so one of the best sessions for me was the Rate-A-Record deal on Friday afternoon. Moderated by my friend Bruce, ten “mystery tracks” were played for us and we had these little handheld boxes that let us rate the songs on a scale of 1-10 and then discuss them. I could do that every single day of my life and be content. Sitting around and talking about music with real people (as opposed to blogging about it) was stimulating. This was one of the toe-tapping tracks that I liked (others hated), from The Long Winters‘ third release on Barsuk Records: Putting The Days To Bed. The Long Winters are doing what I think every band should do by offering 5 full-length mp3s on their website, if you want to hear more. “Members Emeritus” of their band have included Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies.

Timely note: Nada Surf just sent a post on MySpace saying that The Long Winters are playing a secret show tomorrow in New York City. They say, “If you are interested in attending a free Long Winters show on August 8th in NYC (and are at least 21), send an email to secretshow@barsuk.com and we’ll send you all the details.”

To Go Home
M. Ward
Another one I liked from the Rate-A-Record session, from M. Ward‘s forthcoming album Post-War (August 22, Merge Records). Where the Eliot Morris track above is pleasant and melodic and everything fits together, this track is thrumming and thumping with borderline dischordant piano in the background – but somehow it still all works together in a very compelling way. If you’d like to check out more from M. Ward, eMusic has a good selection of stuff from him. He is also currently on tour, and SO WORTH NOTING: The 3 California dates are supported by the formidable Mike Watt.

More music from the conference to come. Stay tuned.

June 27, 2006

Heather takes a field trip to the college radio station

Remember when you were a kid how you got to go on all kinds of neat field trips to see how things worked? Whether it was the bank or the fire station, I loved learning about how the world operates with all the behind-the-scenes goodness.

For that reason, I decided to schedule myself a little field trip to the local college radio station, KEPC. I love listening to their variety (recently in one set I heard: Springsteen’s “Pay Me My Money Down,” followed by “The Only Lie Worth Telling” by Westerberg, “Playing In The Distance” by Grand National, and rounding it out with “Long Road” by Pearl Jam), and I have long-wondered how radio had changed since the last time I was in a college radio studio, KSCU at Santa Clara University back in the day (’93 or ’94 when I was in high school). I wondered how technology has impacted operations, how songs are selected, what’s hot, etc. Sharon Hogg was just the gal to help me out.

Sharon is the station manager and one of the main instructors in the radio program at the college. She gets to do the fun work of deciding which songs to add to rotation on a weekly basis, and with the help of an intern, programs the massive system called Simian that runs everything. And like all good music lovers, she has a Beatles poster on her office wall, even though she claimed that there was no Beatles in rotation at the station. The grizzled engineer disagreed, and we found 5 tracks that they do, in fact, play (most from later albums). With a rotation of 57,000 songs it can be easy to get confused. Sharon showed me all around the station, answered my interminable questions, and made me want her job.

To answer my first question, most of what KEPC plays (like most radio stations now) is all pre-programmed. It’s not as I may have pictured at one halcyon moment; sitting behind the soundboard, taking requests, stacks of records to my right and left, thinking to myself, “Hmmm, what would go good with this song? What should we throw on next?” No, my friend. It’s a hard and fast science nowadays.

All the songs are on .wav files on a massive computer system; no more actual putting CDs or records or anything else in and out of players during the show. And get this – the system is programmed with what is essentially a mathematical system: Sharon tells the system roughly how often to play a song (for instance, that Grand National track –which I love– is fairly new and hot, so it is scheduled to play once every day-and-a-half). She also dictates the general overall order: One older song, followed by two newer songs, then one brand-new addition, etc. The behemoth brain of the radio station can be programmed to run for weeks with no one even in the station (like during Christmas: 5 weeks of pre-programmed!). Good luck calling in with that request (when there is a DJ in house, they can play one request per hour).

New songs are added into rotation weekly. They get about 20-25 new CDs a week (but she didn’t know about music blogs! I filled her in) and the intern compares what they have received with the college radio and AAA charts. Most of the songs they add each week come straight from the charts. She gave me copies of this week’s charts from CMJ -

…that’s the top 20 from the Radio 200 Chart above.

And those are the top 20 songs from the AAA (Adult Album Alternative) Chart.

There is leniency to add local bands, personal favorites, etc. On a yearly basis the station has to submit playlist information to ASCAP and BMI, which charges them a certain amount in order for them to have the rights to play those songs (I think she said about $700/year). All DJs are students and, obviously, unpaid. The format of the radio station is consistent all the live-long day: No “Electronica Hour” or “Emo-Screamo Saturday Night” shows. She said it just got too crazy and they standardized all their music across the spectrum for consistency.

Some of my impressions: Is radio losing its immediacy and its connection with the individual listener? It all seems to be so mechanized, based on formulas and charts, pre-programmed systems. While there is some freedom and flexibility for sure (especially up at the station manager’s end because she can add anything she wants) overall it is pretty structured for the little people, the DJs. The business model is tightened up towards perfection. But perfection doesn’t always equal passion, and that’s what I think listening to and sharing music should be about – that free-flowing blending of favorite songs, where the DJ’s personality can come through. I know that at KEPC the DJs are obviously encouraged to let their personality come through in what they say, but that is rigidly segmented into time slots and station breaks, and if they don’t personally like or know anything about the music they are playing, how can they be passionate?

Perhaps the freedom-seekers are shifting more towards mediums such as podcasting, blogging, or satellite radio where everyone from Bob Dylan to blogger Chris from Gorilla vs. Bear can have a show to suit their specific tastes.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, especially those of you who may work in radio. Is radio just changing to suit the slick production of our times & giving us what we want? And in doing so what is happening to the relationship with the audience? Is traditional radio becoming obsolete, with customizable internet radio stations, satellite radio, iTunes and iPods with the ability to store 10,000 songs and listen to them in any order you choose? Do we still need traditional radio?

All that being said, it was a very cool visit. I loved digging through their new CDs for this week (got me some good ideas) and if they ever call me, I’m definitely ready for my show. Here’s the obligatory touristy shot (ha!).

Pump up the volume.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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