The first time that I was given a microphone—a cheap, little plastic deal attached to a toy keyboard—I thought it was funny to mash my lips into it and make farting noises. As far as I was concerned, that joke stayed fresh for a whole year, but I was just a kid. I know better than to try that at WNXP, even if it is my inaugural radio gig.
I’ve been immersed in thinking, talking and writing about music as a Nashville-based critic and journalist for the better part of two decades, long enough to witness radical revolutions, slow-moving evolutions and recurring cycles throughout the music-making world. For the last several years, I’ve been contributing a lot to National Public Radio, NPR Music and other big outlets, like The New York Times and Vulture, often interpreting Nashville happenings for national audiences.
As a kid, I traipsed around outside a lot. Still do. But indoors, I found a lot of ways to get into music. My immersive study of rhythm began when I took up clogging, a percussive folk dance influenced by Black, indigenous and Irish styles and lots else besides, and I eventually shifted that energy over to drumming. I played in church, and everywhere else. When I marched on the high school drum line, one of the cadences in our repertoire was a riff on the 69 Boyz’ banger “Tootsee Roll.” In the first of many all-female bands I was in, we crammed into my bedroom to scream Courtney Love lyrics a capella and I pounded the shit out of my pawn shop drum kit. By college, I was trying to emulate John “Jabo” Starks’ wily, funky-footed groove on James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”
I also want to understand the contexts in which music is shaped, shared, categorized, marketed and experienced. Filling in those gaps in knowledge is an unending project, one that I’ve worked at not only by reading everything from articles to liner notes and conducting my own interviews, but also by citing and collaborating with scholars who are doing the work of bringing hidden musical histories to light.
On the air, you will most definitely hear me letting my curiosity lead. (And not my fart sounds.)