Voice of the Past
Lessons from making a radio show.
I have a new-ish job: hosting a radio show! It’s called the Jax Music Hour. If you’re here in Jacksonville, you can catch it every Saturday night at 8PM on WJCT 89.9FM. It’s also available to stream live.
In middle school, whenever I’d make mix CDs for my friends, I’d daydream about playing my playlists on the radio. In other words: this is a dream job for me.
And the dream job is teaching me an awful lot. On top of hosting, I produce every episode myself: something I’ve had to learn how to do. There are all these weird little standards that you don’t think about when you listen to NPR. Each episode has to be exactly 58 minutes and 58 seconds long. An episode promo? 14.79 seconds. They call it a “breath.”
I’m also recording each episode over a month in advance. So whenever I’m brave enough to listen to myself on the radio, I’m hearing Hurley from a month ago. My voice from the past, shaky and nervous and vulnerable.
It’s been humbling, to say the least, hearing these month-old attempts. Reminds me a little of looking back at old journal entires or first drafts of novel chapters.
When I was in high school, I would stay up past my bedtime to listen to a show on the same station that airs mine. The show was called Indie Endeavor. The host, Erin Lee, played the best music, including tons of Jacksonville artists.
With a notebook in my lap, I’d sit in front of my boombox, the volume as low as I could get it so my parents wouldn’t know I was awake. I’d write down all the bands I was hearing and loving. Bands who were making music right where I was living.
Nothing excited me more than that.
In listening to my past self on the radio—the self of a month ago, hunched over a microphone, cosplaying as Cheryl Waters on KEXP—I have also been listening to a much younger self from more distant past.
A self who’d think it is cool as fuck that I get to play my playlists on the radio.
A self that still speaks up, saying, “Hey. Hurley. Fall Out Boy is coming to town in May, and if you don’t play ‘The Take Over, the Breaks Over’ on the radio, I’m going to be so pissed at you.”
Little Hurley doesn’t care that Fall Out Boy sucks now, that they’re playing a Live Nation venue that certainly doesn’t need the free press.
“This is your chance,” she tells me. “How many times did you listen to that song on the bus ride home from middle school? Just play it, you elderly freak.”
Nowadays, my Saturday nights look similar to my high school evenings with Indie Endeavor, except my radio volume is much louder now. I listen to the music shows that come on right after mine—Mr. Al Pete’s The Neighborhood and David Luckin’s Electrolounge—with a notebook nearby. I pay close attention to Al and David’s DJing tricks, jotting down ideas for my own shows.
And whenever Al and David play music I like—which is all the time, because their shows are stellar!—I write those down, too.
I love this process of gathering and collecting. It makes me feel like a kid again.
I want to weave these behaviors into my writing practice. Not just the gathering and collecting, but also:
finding patience with the self of a month ago, the one who had the nerve to hit RECORD
honoring Little Hurley by hearing her out when she suggests an idea
doing my very best with what I have and what I know
trusting that my best will get better and better and better
FROM THE RADIO SHOW
I spoke with singer-songwriter Hiss Golden Messenger about his songwriting process. He’s coming to town later this month, and I was lucky enough to get to ask him some questions about his process.
Catch the full interview here. I’m proud of this one!
And here’s one of my favorite songs of his:
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