There is increasing focus on and growing interest in local original music in the Fox Cities. One of the engines driving the growth is the Home Brewed radio show hosted by Len Nelson on WAPL Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.
The show is a growing labor of love.
“I’ve always played local bands on the Rick and Len Show which I co-host every morning on WAPL, but John Jordan, WAPL Home Brewed producer and Road Show host, and I wanted a dedicated time and place where fans of Wisconsin music could go for more of it,” Nelson said. “With the Fox Valley music scene in the pretty healthy place it’s in right now, it just seemed like a good time to revisit a concept we hadn’t done since many years ago when I hosted a show we called WAPL Home Grown. Since both John and I are avid fans of local music and supporters of the people who make it, we also had a selfish interest in providing some exposure for them to a wider audience.”
There’s been a heavy influx in recent years of amazing local music talent in the area.
“Len and I thought it would be a great idea to bring that concept back to WAPL,” Jordan said. “It wasn’t hard to pitch the concept of Home Brewed, but getting and soliciting artists for their music and the initial rollout took many, many hours to facilitate. The objective is simple. Get the music of these talented musicians in the ears of as many people as possible and getting a community excited about how special the live music scene we have in the community. If it’s good and it has ties to Wisconsin, we might play it. We’ll bend genres, too. The music on the show doesn’t necessarily have to fit the exact style we play on WAPL the rest of the day.”
They did have a place to start….
“I already had stacks of local albums on my very messy desk because for years I’ve encouraged artists to make sure that we get a copy when they make a record,” Nelson said. “Some of the local studio guys, especially Marc Golde and Tony Anders, have also helped by making sure we know about who’s recording, but mostly we hoped word of mouth would pick up, and musicians would make getting their music to Home Brewed part of their to-do lists. Social media helps to foster that culture, too.”
“We went out and bought a lot of CD’s from bands at live shows and the good people at the Exclusive Company in Appleton, particularly Mark Steven Hillstrom, who’s a musician himself, contributed to the cause,” Jordan said. “By the way, having Len Nelson as the voice of Home Brewed is such a tremendous asset for the show. His personal relationships to the musicians and knowledge of the history of the area has been absolutely invaluable to the success, and I need to mention Marc Golde, without whom I’m not sure there would be a music scene here, he’s an incredible advocate and spiritual advisor of everything music in the area and we’re so blessed to have a relationship with him. Honestly, rarely a week goes by where we don’t play a song that he hasn’t played on or produced at Rock Garden Studio.”
Station support was critical.
“Well, the cool thing is that the bosses here at WAPL were pretty enthusiastic from the get-go. The challenge for John and I really was to make sure we put together a quality program which would treat our local artists the same way we treat national artists,” Nelson said. “I think we’ve succeeded. It’s important to us to include gig information when the bands we play are performing locally, too. We don’t just want people to hear these artists on the radio, but also to go out and see them.”
The backing was a consensus.
“I was given full support from WAPL/Woodward Radio management to create Home Brewed,” Jordan said. “That’s the benefit of working for an independent/employee-owned radio station. We can do original programming and not have to run it by a corporate board for approval. Having only an hour to work with is both a blessing and a curse – a ton of artists/music to choose from and only time to feature 12 artists on every show. And, yes, there have been talks on expanding the show to two hours.”
The show’s ratings doubled almost immediately and the feedback from listeners was….
“Very positive,” Jordan emphasized. “I’m always so proud when someone goes out of their way to tell me that they listen to Home Brewed every Saturday and really enjoy it. Another benefit from that is the listeners are my ears at times and love to tell me about bands they saw recently that I should put on the show. I love that.”
The musicians have been very enthusiastic.
“Nothing but love, man,” Nelson said. “Lots of players tell me they’re tuning in or listening to the podcasts of it at wapl.com. I also love it when I see bands posting about their own appearances on the show in Facebook and Twitter. Face it, I don’t care who you are, it’s the coolest thing to hear your music on the radio for the first time…or every time!”
And yet they insist, it’s not about ratings.
“We aren’t doing the show for ratings. We’re doing it because we value the local musical and arts community we’re part of,” Nelson said. “If that translates into some good ratings, we’re not going to complain about it. Plus, playing good local bands gives WAPL a bit of a cool factor, too. Who doesn’t want to be cool?”
“I’m personally not a ‘ratings guy’ but I’m all about tying ourselves to the local music scene and community by promoting original music made here,” Jordan added. “In my mind, that’s one of the main purposes of radio, to be very community-oriented and, by promoting the local music scene, it’s a win-win for everyone. Pride in your community takes many forms and music is certainly one of those.”
Nelson and Jordan believe the show has a lot of potential.
“We hope to attract a little more statewide attention, both from bands and people who might listen to Home Brewed online at wapl.com,” Nelson said. “Statewide syndication is a possibility. We may also feature some specialty programming on the stream like a radio version of a new local music TV show in development from Marc Golde called “Live from Rock Garden Studio.” Stay tuned!”
You can listen to the show online at: WAPLHomeBrewed.com; you can “LIKE” the WAPL Home Brewed page on Face Book and, if you are a musician or band, you can submit your CD for consideration to: WAPL Home Brewed c/o John Jordan 2800 E. College Ave. Appleton, WI 54911.