Radio is one of the most important mediums for musicians. Nowadays there are seemingly endless options online for discovering music but it’s tough to beat the kind of exposure radio stations provide.
The beauty of radio is the way it can “force” (for lack of a better term) someone to hear a song they might not have heard while searching online for new music.
To get a better idea of how radio stations operate I interviewed my cousin Joe Morawczynski (pronounced More-Shin-Ski) about his experience working at a country station and his thoughts on “classic” country music.
Joe is pictured here, with his arm around Chris Stapleton in the blue flannel.
What was your job in radio?
Joe: I worked for TownSquare Media in St. Cloud, which owns 6 radio stations in the area. My work was with the country station 98.1 FM, in the afternoon hours I worked with Ava, did the morning show with Pete and Ashli and of course the classic country show on Sunday mornings with Dick Nelson.
What were your responsibilities when you were working on the shows?
Joe: Pretty much everything, researching for the show, making sure everything was running smoothly.
What did you learn about the radio business that surprised you?
Joe: The amount of work it takes to actually have a show running smoothly. It might sound like easy work to people listening on the radio but there’s a lot more going on behind-the-scenes that people don’t necessarily factor in. The on-air talent has to be able to ramble on for hours, which is really impressive. Plus they’re also producing a lot of the content people hear on the radio.
What do you think is different between the responsibilities of someone at a smaller station like 98.1 compared to a bigger market station coming out of the cities?
Joe: Well at a station the size of 98.1 the on-air talent is also doing the producing of the show, whereas with a larger market station they have full-time producers and the talent is separate. It’s really interesting seeing how much actually goes into getting the show to run smoothly because it can go off the rails at any second.
What was your favorite part about working at the radio station?
Joe: Definitely sitting across from Dick Nelson on Sunday mornings for the classic country show. The guy’s been a Sunday morning legend for what, like the last 50 years?
Why did you choose to work on the classic country show with Dick Nelson?
Joe: I would say it more chose me. Working with a radio legend like Dick Nelson is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I’m not going to pass that up.
Has he been doing strictly his classic country show for all these years?
Joe: No he’s been all around the radio business, he’s got experience with news directing and other aspects of running a station, he’s a pro.
How hard is it to promote the “classic” country genre?
Joe: It pretty much promotes itself, it’s the best genre out there. You know, it’s already got a kind of built in audience that has been listening to these songs for years. It’s awesome knowing that people are for sure sitting on their porches listening to Dick Nelson put on great country music.
What do you personally like about that style of country music that you wish more people would appreciate?
Joe: I grew up on it; I like the “realness” of the songs. I’m not going to tell anybody what they should like or what makes it good music, that’s not my job. Whatever people find “real” in music is up to them.
How do you think country music has changed over the years to what we generally hear today on country radio?
Joe: I think now artists are making music that is “easier” to listen to, it seems a lot more “bro-y” than when those older artists were writing. To me, the older stuff seems a lot more “real” but that’s because I grew up listening to it so it’s easy for me to relate to those songs. I know it’s a kind of genre that people aren’t going to jump into if it hasn’t been something they’ve heard all their life, which makes it harder to expand the audience.
Who are some of your favorite artists that fit into the “traditional” country mold?
Joe: Waylon [Jennings], you know when a song of his comes on when you’re in the car driving, it’s gonna get things going. Don Williams on Sunday mornings of course. Merle Haggard, a lot of those kinds of artists.
Artists like Eric Church and Chris Stapleton seem to be really popular today and definitely fit into that “traditional” style while doing their own thing musically, why do you think that is?
Joe: Well like I said, those guys write about what’s “real” to them, and it shows through their music. It doesn’t have to necessarily have to be a certain way for it to be good music, as long as it’s “real”.
END OF INTERVIEW
98.1 FM can be heard anywhere in the Central Minnesota area or streamed online here.
“Dick Nelson’s Classic Country Show” can be heard on 98.1 Sunday mornings beginning at 9 AM.