Herald Interview, text version

Realize I had a scan of it, but not the full text version of the interview. Oops. So here it is.

Up Close and Personal by Toni Marie Wiseman
Rob Carnell – Airing the East Coast

There’s no questioning the popularity of East Coast music. Our talented musicians and their catchy tunes have been enough to fill bar-rooms and concert halls from here to Vancouver, throughout the United States, Europe and even the Middle East. But a radio show in Kingston, Ontario, of all places is stretching the reach of our music even further.

The show, called Salt Water Music on Queen’s University’s CFRC, is hosted by Rob Carnell, a Newfoundlander by birth who has found his niche in the Ontario radio market by playing music to expatriates. What he didn’t expect was that his show would become popular, not just in Ontario, but around the globe.

“I’ve heard back from people listening all over the world. I’ve received email from the U.S., France, Japan and Australia,” says Carnell.

His Salt Water Music show was conceived almost by accident. While working at CFRC as a technical producer for Queen’s football games, he started going on air either during intermissions or after the game until the next show started.

“I was mostly reading sports or playing music,” he recalls. Then the time came for him to actually fill on the air for an hour. “I had an hour to play whatever I wanted. It was a Sunday night, Oscar night as a matter of fact. The weekend before that I had seen the news about Dermot O’Reilly’s passing, so that Sunday I scrambled and put together an hour of Ryan’s Fancy.”

By spring the station management asked Carnell to host a regular program. He mentioned he’d like the format to be all East Coast Canadian music. His reasoning?

“We always had that music in my house. I thought it would be nice to get some airplay in Ontario for those artists. In the 1980’s there was a radio show in Toronto that played music from Newfoundland. I thought there are many people in Ontario that would like to hear some music from home.”

The show is now in full swing and a summer fill-in program is a regular weekly fixture on CFRC. It airs Friday nights from 7:30pm to 9:30pm Newfoundland time. The station can also be heard online at http://www.cfrc.ca

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Why did you want to do a radio show in Ontario featuring East Coast music?

I always tried to keep tabs on East Coast Music. I left Newfoundland at a young age and my family moved around Canada. My family always had some music from home with us. Remember listening to that growing up.

So I looked around and saw there wasn’t a lot of radio shows focusing just on East Coast music in Ontario. Since it was a genre I was familiar with I thought it might be an idea that could work well.

Was it difficult convincing the radio station to go with your format?

No, not at all. Since CFRC is a campus/community station they’re always looking for Canadian music to play. An hour of that type of music was right down their alley.

What was their reaction to what you wanted to do?

They liked the show, since it was a lot of music that they hadn’t heard before. It started out as fill-in show for the summer months in 2007. But the show was well received and I’ve been doing it every week since then.

Who are some of the NL artists you play?

In the first year I played over 120 artists from Atlantic Canada so it’s a long list. But ones I can name off the top of my head include Ian Foster, Teresa Ennis, Gulliver’s Spree, Great Big Sea, Ryan’s Fancy, Shanneyganock, Ron Hynes, Joe Belly & the Sin City Ramblers, The Idlers, Damhnait Doyle, Hey Rosetta!, Duane Andrews, Allison Crowe, Rawlins Cross, The Irish Descendants.

Where do you get the music?

A lot of it I find online. Either through an artist’s website or their MySpace page. Some email me MP3’s of their music or send along a CD of theirs. Then someone points out another musician I might be interested in. Start networking with people you talk to.

The station also gets new CD’s every week or two. I go through them and find artists from the East Coast. With that I have to sit down with a pile of CD’s and find out which ones are from Atlantic Canada. Little more time consuming but I always find some new artists that way that I hadn’t known before.

What has been the reaction by East Coast artists to your show?

Very positive. With the online feed it allows them to hear the show. More than a few of them tell me it’s been the first time they’ve heard their music played on the radio. That’s something I never expected. Someone from my home province saying I was the first person to play them on the radio.

What has been reaction from your listeners?

Great and far reaching. Heard from listeners who tune in every week to the show, or who listen to it online afterwards. They say they really enjoy the show. Gotten emails from one listener in Sydney, Australia. She’s not from Canada but listened one week for a specific band she liked. Became a regular listener ever since.

Are more and more East coast artists sending you their music for your show?

Yes, I’ve found more artists sending me their music. Having a MySpace page and blog for the radio show helps a lot. People who hear about the show can find out where to contact me fairly quickly.

Have you interviewed many of these artists for your show? (Who have you interviewed?)

I have done interviews with musicians over the phone. Ian Foster is the first one I ever did while he was on tour in Ottawa. Interviewed him again this past summer. Also spoke to Teresa Ennis earlier this year.

Who’s been the best interview to date? (Why?)

That would have to be Teresa Ennis. Main reason is the background before the interview.

My radio show was the first one anywhere to play her some of her solo work. I found some songs on her MySpace page in the summer of 2007. Emailed her about playing them that week on the show. I didn’t know she had just uploaded them that very week. So Teresa and her friends ended up listening online to the show when I played the music that week. That was a fun interview since I got to ask her about that night when she got to hear it for the first time on the radio.

How much did you know about East Coast music before you started the show?

I had a general knowledge of East Coast Music. But I’ve learned a lot about the depth of talent in each genre. Internet has made it much easier to find out more information. Even 10 years ago it would’ve been much harder to do a similar show.

Do you ever get the chance to meet these artists in person or hear them live?

This past summer in Toronto I went to see Allison Crowe and Ian Foster. Luckily both were playing on the same weekend. Was fun to see two people I’ve played on air come to Ontario for a few shows.

How do you stay on top of what’s happening in East Coast music?

I read online sources like magazines, newspapers or radio websites. Since I have satellite TV I do watch some local news broadcasts from Atlantic Canada. Always find some new artists mentioned on those.

Do you get the chance to visit NL often?

No, it’s been too long. Last time was 10 years ago. One of those things where I never thought it was a long time ago then I realized 10 years had passed.

What does your family think of your show?

They enjoy listening to the show. On Boxing Day my Mom phoned me to tell me my Aunt in Placentia was listening online. I was born in Placentia that was nice to hear.

What’s next for your show?

Looking to do more interviews with artists in 2009. I have two almost lined up so that’s a good start. Other than that I’m always looking to get the word out about the show. More listeners would mean more exposure for the musicians on the show.

Which NL artist would you most like to interview for your show?

That would have to be Denis Ryan or Fergus O’Byrne. 6 months before my first show I filled in for someone at the station. I had free reign to cover any topic. It was the week after Dermot O’Reilly passed away so I put together a tribute show to Ryan’s Fancy. So that ended up being a precursor to what my show became. So interviewing Denis or Fergus would be a great honour.

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