Talkin’ tunes with ‘Morning Music’ host
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The glue to Wyoming’s music scene is Wyoming Public Radio, reflecting the colorful character of the state yet keeping a finger on the national pulse. WPR program director and Morning Music host Grady Kirkpatrick took the reins in December 2007. With WPR’s on-air fund drive that began last Saturday, Kirkpatrick discusses station happenings and what’s to come.
Planet Jackson Hole: Morning Music has hosted more live bands and musicians in the studio during the last couple of years. Is this a reflection of WPR’s willingness to have more live music, or is there more demand from bands that reach out?
Grady Kirkpatrick: Live music has always been a part of Morning Music and we’ve been fortunate to have more national and regional musicians coming through the area wanting to play on both Morning Music and the Ranch Breakfast Show. We are lucky to have many talented musicians in Wyoming and all over the region. WPR has hosted artists that are playing the Live at Dennison Lodge music series in Dubois. We would love to bring in more national touring musicians that play in Denver, Jackson and Salt Lake, and route through Laramie. We just added eTown to our schedule Saturdays at 1 p.m. It’s a music performance program based in Boulder, Colorado, so there’s an opportunity to collaborate with them to bring in musicians in for live or recorded performance.
PJH: What is the mentality/benefit of having live, in-studio bands performing as opposed to just spinning their latest album on-air?
GK: Most musicians have good stories to tell about their music or their inspiration behind the music. I think our listeners appreciate hearing “live radio” and in-studio performances along with a bit of conversation. They also appreciate hearing where they can catch bands that may be playing in their area. A good example is the WYOmericana Caravan that has toured for the last two summers at venues in Wyoming and to most of our border states. WPR has a great sound engineer/musician in Ben Slater to mix our performances that makes a big difference. We also will choose to combine live and recorded songs from CDs, especially if musicians are promoting a new release. Micah Schweizer, WPR’s Cultural Affairs director, added an online series, Single Shot Live, over a year ago, taking a song from a live or recorded session then posting online with some very nice still photo shots. We plan to expand this series into WPR’s Studio Sessions beginning in October with video of studio performances. We also plan to share these music videos with other public radio stations in a nationwide collaboration project.
PJH: Has your process/preparation for Morning Music and how you arrange your playlist changed since you first took over the show in December of 2007?
GK: I’ll not forget how much fun it was moving to Wyoming in the middle of winter. Not much has changed as far as arranging playlists. I still hand pick the playlist every day and try to make the sound both cohesive and adventurous, combining well-known artists with the best, up and coming new musicians. I really enjoy combining songs with great segues and selections that surprise listeners. We do seem to be getting and playing more requests.
PJH: In 2009, I asked you to name three worthy bands/musicians that you’ve discovered in the last few years. You said, “Ryan Bingham, Grace Potter and Bell X1.” Which three would you name now?
GK: The Rosebuds from North Carolina, El May, moniker for L.A.-based Australian, Lara Meyerrtaken, and Luke Bell from Cody who recently released a great CD, Don’t Mind If I Do.
PJH: How much does WPR rely on the donations of private contributors vs. public/taxpayer funding?
GK: WPR’s and public radio’s funding nationwide has always relied on listener contributions and that reliance has increased in recent years with reductions in Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding. WPR is now at nearly 50 percent for listener/member support. Here is a breakdown of our current funding sources: 9 percent CPB, 49 percent members, 15 percent business, 22 percent University of Wyoming, 5 percent grants.
PJH: You certainly listen to more music than most other people, and I know you do a fair bit of traveling around the state for music festivals and other events. Does the live experience help balance the necessity of your professional obligation of listening to a lot of recorded music?
GK: The live experience definitely helps balance and inspire considering all the recorded music I review. There’s nothing quite like a great live music performance. Sometimes seeing and hearing live music increases the chances for airplay on Morning Music. There are a lot of great music festivals and events in Wyoming. It’s a challenge to attend all of them because they are packed between late June and late August. The best part about traveling to festivals and concerts in Wyoming is getting to meet WPR and Morning Music fans. They rock!
Photos: The Rosebuds (right), out of North Carolina, are among the burgeoning artists on Grady Kirkpatrick’s (left), radar.