By Stevie Connor
An Essential Journey To Discover Great Music
It has always been our aim at Blues & Roots Radio to present the listeners with new music, music that they would never have heard before, out with the main stream. I have sought out show hosts who see beyond the boundaries and constraints that pigeon hole specific genres, radio hosts have sought us out, presenting me with shows they think will fit with our format.
I often get asked the question ' How do you pick the shows for the schedule ? '
I have described it in the past as being akin to a football manager ( soccer coach ), every one of the hosts has an integral part to play in the grand scheme of the weekly broadcasts, it's knowing where to place the members of the team and at what time is the tricky part.
I served my time as an apprentice groundsman in Scotland, my boss always drummed into me while building golf greens and golf tee off areas the importance of a strong foundation, I have carried that philosophy into all aspects of my life, especially Blues and Roots Radio which has been my labour of love for the last seven years. I have surrounded myself with positive people who emit good energy and have let negativity go it's own way.
I've been head of programming at the station for six years, and I have had a long term goal since day one, I've stuck to that and have to thank the other co-founders Anne and Neil for giving me free reign to build my vision.
We have had over one hundred shows that have at some point in time been part of the schedule, we have a core of twenty that have been with us since the beginning and early stages of building the foundations, I call those shows the backbone, everything else is built around them, they are loyal, knowledgeable, committed to Blues & Roots Radio, importantly for me, they have a sense of humour and even more importantly they get my sense of humour ( I'm Scottish and can be sarcastic ).
We currently air forty six shows on our network from Canada, the USA, Australia, Germany, the UK , Italy and Ireland.
It's always been important to me to stay within the guidelines of our company name - Blues & Roots Radio - and as a rule I have tried to go for shows that fit into certain parameters.
The hosts have to be nice people ( not nice people don't last long on the schedule )
The hosts have to like Blues & Roots Radio ( That sounds a bit strange doesn't it, one host in the past told me he did not like where we were going with the music, we were becoming more than just a blues station ) - the clue is in the name... Blues AND ROOTS Radio.
The hosts have to have a passion for independent artists and their creations
The shows should be presented in a professional manner
We have had some amazing contributors in the past from around the world, in some cases daily life, work commitments, family commitments have meant that it became impossible to carry on, they have all been a huge part of the stations history !
When I think of some of the hosts who have left their mark like Daria Kulesh ( F Spot Sessions , UK ) Glen Morrow ( Rhizome, Australia ) Dave Walker ( Big Island, Australia ) Zoe Garden ( The Secret Garden, Canada ) Neil Mitchell ( The New Horizon, Australia ) Hamish Burgess ( Maui Celtic Show , USA ) Mike Harding ( The Mike Harding Folk Show, England )
It gives you an idea of the quality we have had throughout our existence. My job has been to maintain that standard and add shows that compliment the varying genres that we love to play, so for the next couple of blogs I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to some of our radio hosts and their amazing shows from around the world.
I am going to start right here in Canada
The Eastern Passage with Craig Mills ( Toronto, Ontario )
Craig started out on a local Mississauga online radio station recording a weekly show focusing on the maritimes region of Canada and the plethora of amazing artists in the contemporary folk music scene in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
When I became the head of programming at Blues and Roots Radio Craig's was one of the first shows on the schedule, it has remained ever since, Craig educates his listeners each week on a who's who of amazing east coast artists that you may or may not have heard of, Steven Bowers, Ian Foster, Maddison Violet, Amy and Rachel Beck, Dave Gunning , Charlie A' Court and the list is a long one.
He has gained the respect of the artists he plays and can frequently be seen at venues in Toronto, Halifax and St John's attending performances and supporting the artists.
The Eastern Passage - Saturdays 9.30pm ET
Sundays 7pm ET
When I began to expand the schedule by adding new and exclusive shows to it, Craig was one of the first to ask if he could add a show which would give him the scope to play music that would not be constrained by the east coast borders, Craig has always been a big fan of Country and Americana music and he pitched a show to me which I knew was going to be a big hit.
The Lost Highway with Craig Mills ( Toronto, Canada )
The Lost Highway was created to play Alt Country, Americana, Contemporary Acoustic by artists established and new to the scene dipping into Craigs early love of the genres. Frequently on the playlists you can find artists such as Roseanne Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Graham Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Rolling Stones, Townes Van Zandt sitting next to artists like Mandolin Orange, Terry Penney, Glenn Skuthorpe, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and the amazing list could go on forever.
Each show marks a mile down The Lost Highway and we are currently travelling Mile 107, two years worth of fabulous music.
The Lost Highway - Fridays 8pm ET
Saturdays Noon ET
Unsung and On The Side with Carolyn Fe ( Montreal /Toronto, Canada )
Talk about multi talented, Carolyn has been a dance choreographer - she currently splits her time between Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario - Carolyn is a Singer, Songwriter, Actress (Film, Television, Theatre), add to that fantastic radio host of Unsung and On The Side, an exclusive show she produces for Blues and Roots Radio, she champions artists in many genres from Blues and Jazz to the occasional ' curve ball ' from artists that might sit in the Folk / Celtic world or the Alt Country / Americana vein, whatever it is you can guarantee that it fits seamlessly into the playlists and you will get an in depth and knowledgable overview of the artist and their music.
I first met Carloyn as we were about to get on an elevator at a music conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago, we got chatting about music and we talked about her show possibly joining our schedule and after a few weeks of discussion she agreed to join the team.
This goes to prove that the music conferences are not only a meeting place for artists, but can be a place where the media platforms and presenters get the opportunity to share ideas and find a way to work towards the same goals, namely sharing the artists music to a wider audience.
We are blessed to have Carolyn as a member of our team.
Unsung and On The Side - Saturdays 10am ET
Mondays 6pm ET
Wednesdays 4am ET
HeartBeatTrue Radio With Ken Stearns ( Gainesville, Florida )
I put out an advert for anyone interested in joining our schedule to get in touch and pitch any ideas they had, a few days later Ken contacted me from Florida and said he had a show on his local community radio station that he felt would fit nicely with what I was putting together, he sent me a pilot of one of his shows and it blew me away.
I contacted Neil Mitchell in Australia ( co founder ) straight away and asked him to listen to the show, he immediately came back with ' Who is this guy !? What a show ! '
That reaction pretty much sums up the feelings of everyone who listens to HeartBeatTrue Radio for the first time, the show has it all, it could be a ' Patty Griffin Tribute ' ' Luther Dickinson Special ' to a ' Less Honkin' More Tonkin' show ' , artists that are featured include Pierce Pettis, Molly Tuttle, Hayes Carll, Abigail Lapell, SUSTO, Anna Tivel, Mandolin Orange, Willie Nelson, Cory Branan, The Birds of Chicago, Josh Ritter, Tim Barry and lots more.
He does Blues Tributes, Rock Tributes, Country Tributes , Americana Tributes .... Ken calls the content of his show
" Wide Open Country... Whatever The Heck That Is ! "
He has one of the coolest and most listened to shows on the station, he is followed by many of our show hosts who regularly enquire to him about tracks and artists that he plays each week.
There is also one other element that Ken introduced a while back, he asked me what I thought about his grand kids hosting a show, I said go for it, the result was an amazing one hour special hosted by the youngest radio presenter on the station to date, his grand kids regularly make contributions each week, it's very cool.
HeartBeatTrue Radio - Fridays 9pm ET
Sundays 11am ET
I hope I have given you enough food for thought and not overloaded your senses with cool radio shows to listen to, if you get a chance please do check them out over the course of the next week or two,
I'll give you some more options next week as we have a ton of great Blues, Folk, Celtic, Americana and speciality shows featuring Albums and Featured Artists.
The Essential Channel has some brand new exclusive shows coming to it's schedule very soon too, and as usual the amazing mix of shows that is currently on that particular platform will keep you happy and entertained, there is literally something for everyone.
A full list of our shows HERE
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Thanks for all your support
Until next week, happy listening