Trish Lewis is one of those people who supports independent artists by interviewing them and playing their music on-line for the world to hear. It seems that she got started down this road by accident, but we know this wasn’t an accident, it was a coincidental event that put her in the Eclectic Chair to do what she does.
How did you start out?
In the fall of 2004 I was too broke to offer a pledge so I wrote an email to my local college NPR affiliate station and wound up as a volunteer for the pledge phone lines at Delta College WUCX-FM thanks to the Radio Program Manager, Howard Sharper. When we met, Sharper asked what kind of music I enjoyed. My all over the map styles of music answer to that question must have struck a chord with him. The station had lost through an early death an alternative local music radio host and former production manager Mark Domsic, who hosted the original version of The Eclectic Chair. His hour show was often focused on features of one band at a time with occasional interviews both via phone and locals recorded at the station. Sharper asked me to choose a playlist with some of Domsic’s mostly unopened music since his last show and add to it my own music picks and return with my own playlist and he would help me technically produce what I named “The Resurrected Eclectic Chair” for a debut broadcast on Wednesday 29, December 2004. It went over well enough that I returned and within a few months I was producing the show and added a playlist offered via my email that grew into a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It drew independent artists to the show. My version of the show wound up popular enough to expand to two hours and lifted up Monday afternoons to pledged heights the station didn’t expect from the likes of a self-actualized radio producer.
Not to date. I have had a few offers. One internet station from Texas and one locally here in Bay City, Michigan have offered to broadcast the show. Not yet certain how I want to proceed. My playlist and blog have quite the loyal following all over hill and yon.
Bob Hausler approached me when he was promoting local musicians through his own version of “Songwriters in the Round” style live shows and asked my permission to begin podcasting my reruns since the college didn’t (and still doesn’t) stream their signal. I had Hausler on live for a few pledge drive editions of the show. He was then and remains a huge supporter of live music, local musicians and The Eclectic Chair broadcast.
Why did you start doing this thing where you play independent artists’ music?
Much of the music I am drawn to is something different than what ever gets heard on the airwaves local or otherwise. I have always enjoyed the B-Side and songs forgotten or ignored by the charts. When I offered to listen to music “with big ears and an open heart” and as anyone can tell you, I have extremely eclectic taste. Even if I don’t particularly like a song, but find it worthy for other ears, I may like the song for air.
Was interviewing them part of the process from the beginning, or did you add that component later?
It began out of the live pledge drives. Often people approach a radio host with an agenda of their own, like promoting shows or newly released music. I’m not so certain I am a gifted interviewer, but I do enjoy hearing new music and love live music being performed. Truthfully, there are already many great radio shows and podcast interviewers. I wanted to offer two hours of music with as little talk possible. I usually simply back announce the music and refer the listener to the posted playlist via radiochair.com where I include every link available, photo of the artists and even a video or two if available. This work also draws the independent musician to the show for the exposure. My blog gets far more hits to date than the actual podcast. But the podcast is growing. Time will tell. I will produce it as long as I love doing it.
Now you are “podcasting.” How did that come about?
The Eclectic Chair is now off the local airwaves. The station has changed their format and I refused to let go of final edit of the show, website, blog, Facebook and even my Twitter accounts. They wanted to take creative and technical production control away that I’ve been trusted with for over nine years. I told them I would happily return to being an unpaid community volunteer, as I was for nearly half my years there at WUCX-FM as long as I could retain creative control. Their answer was an ultimatum filled policy contract. No dice. My last locally broadcast show aired August 26th, 2014. Bob Hausler remains the show’s biggest supporter as the host of the podcast.
What is your goal with The Electric Chair?
As one of my early promos states; “It’s not the Electric Chair, it’s the Eclectic Chair! (Hear the Electric Chair sound effect sizzling sound in the background.) Thanks so much for letting me use the old joke one more time! The goal has always been about the music with less talk.
Speaking of “electric chair,” where does that name come from? What’s the meaning behind it?
As I said, it’s named the Eclectic Chair. The late Marc Domsic was the original creator of the program. Keep in mind he was a lawyer with a sense of humor and fierce love for alternative music sources both local and otherwise. Here’s a post I occasionally use to explain the name via Merriam-Webster:
ec·lec·tic/iˈklektik/ Adjective: Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. Noun: A person who derives ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
chair noun \ˈcher\ : a seat for one person that has a back and usually four legs : the person who is the leader of a department at a college or university : the person who is the leader of a meeting, organization, committee, or event…so, Take Your Seat!
Thanks for the correction Trish! — Eclectic!
On your website, you have posted that artists can send their music to you for review. What do you do when music and responses come in?
I listen with big ears and an open heart. I try to always air at least one song and try to connect with the musician, band or publicist. Some weeks I run out of time, but usually manage to connect on Facebook to let the musician know their music is included on the show.
Where else do you find the artists that you talk to and feature?
I listen to all kind of podcasts, radio stations, Blip.FM and my own lucky ears. I feel like my whole life has had a tragic, comical, musical background that bleeds through no matter how hard I try for silence. I always trusted there must be a reason the reins to the music at the party was often left up to me. Luck is always an element too. I have happened to hear a song in a film or on an elevator that takes me down a musical path. Just lucky to always be listening, I guess.
Do you concentrate on finding people in a certain area or do you feature people from anywhere?
I feature people from anywhere. I lived in New Your City in the ugly 1980s and met all kinds of musicians from everywhere. Now the World Wide Web is a definition in itself, right? I needed and totally depended on local music connections for the college radio pledge drives to be kind enough to volunteer their talents on air, especially live. Now I know I must pick the very best of these many talented folks to showcase on the podcast.
What are you looking for when you select artists to speak to?
I’m learning to let the chips fall where they may. I’ve found when I’m pressured hard by an artist or publicist, the interview either doesn’t happen or isn’t worth the production time. I love a good story. I did an interview recently with Hurricane Ruth LaMaster about her new disc “Born On The River” and she had great stories of the history of her small town and family.
What if someone sends you music that is really – don’t want to say bad, but just not very good at all. What is your response to that artist?
I often will find one worthy song to air. It’s very rare that I won’t air an artist. I will never be that person who crushes the spirit of anyone who has the desire to share a song from their heart. When I was a young member in a church choir, my voice was silenced for life (to date!) by a careless choir director with a wicked tongue. I never want to be like that guy.
Do you offer any additional services to artists other than to review their music and interview them?
In 2014 I began doing occasional recorded music reviews in the local alternative Review Magazine. I also occasionally record great music (but admittedly low tech) videos of local live performances and publish them on my YouTube Channel. My home studio is improving in fits and starts on a very tight budget.
Are you a musician also? Where does this love of what you do come from?
Not a musician. I’m poet and weaver. I learned to read music as a child but loathed piano lessons. I have sung harmony with some satisfaction but usually alcohol is involved!
Where is Trish and The Eclectic Chair in five years? What’s the plan?
It’s this kind of question is what makes a person like me jump ship and find a new place to ask for a job! My hope is that The Eclectic Chair will remain fun and finally become truly prosperous sooner than five years hence. I do want to attract a larger audience. But don’t want to sell out to pay for one. Thank you for asking. I’ll keep you posted. Peace.
The 10th Anniversary of The Eclectic Chair airs Monday 29 December 2014 at http://bobh432000.podbean.com/
Like The Eclectic Chair on Facebook:
Contact Trish Lewis Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trish Lewis’ Farewell to WUCX-FM Open Letter