G: People get access to things now with the click of a button. Is it a challenge to stay relevant in the age of Spotify and streaming services?
JM: There are a million of them out there. When I got started in radio you were just competing with radio and it was easier to see the differences, but now we’re really dealing with listeners that have a lot more choices of where to go for music. A station like The Current only succeeds if the curation that we create is unique and valued and also if the things that we provide that you can’t get from those services is valued. So that could be the context that a host gives to a song or a band. It could be the way that we integrate local music in a mix. It could be the shared communal experience of you and I both listening to Mary Lucia play a No Apologies track and laughing and then talking about it later. You don’t get that from Pandora. Hopefully you value it from The Current.
G: Do you have a favorite moment in The Current’s history?
JM: Every year at Rock the Garden near the end of the show a couple of the staff likes to go up to the top of the hill and look over the city and the crowd and the band on stage and that’s always a great thing.
I also have a lot of memories of seeing my son who’s now nine—when we moved here he was three—grow up at various Rock the Cradle events.
Hearing from artists that we’ve supported locally, nationally, and internationally that Minneapolis has become maybe their favorite city thanks in part to the support that we’ve given them.
Then also meeting great artists. We had this dinner a couple of years ago with Ian McLagan who was the keyboard player in The Faces. Getting to meet someone who had been through so much in the ‘60s and ‘70s and regaling us with stories was one of those pinch myself moments that I’ll never forget, particularly when he then passed away a few months ago which brought it all back home.
G: What excites you about this year’s Rock the Garden?
JM: I’m excited to see Babes in Toyland reunite and bring the rock. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Modest Mouse. I’ve never seen Sean Lennon in this band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. I love the eclecticism of having Seun Kuti, JD McPherson, Babes in Toyland, and Modest Mouse on a bill on Sunday. Every year it’s fun. This year the line-up seems more eclectic.
G: There aren’t too many copycat stations in ten years. Why do you think it works so well in Minnesota?
JM: We think it could work in a lot of places and there are a few stations that have launched in the last few years that definitely share some attributes with The Current in places like Colorado, Dallas, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and others.
Clearly there’s something special here. Whether the passionate audience of music fans here exceeds other cities per capita or something about the fact that we’re big enough and isolated enough and cold enough that we already have a tendency to favor our own music scene. It just seems to have worked.
G: Your staff’s enthusiasm seems to be part of what sets you apart. How do you keep that up ten years into the station?
JM: Because we focus so much on new music it’s always changing. Living in this century, the technology is changing so there’s new challenges, new opportunities, new music to discover and celebrate. I think when you get positive feedback from an audience that fuels all of us. You feel like, “I’m just picking songs to play on the radio,” and then you hear the impact it’s had on somebody’s life and it fuels you. There’s a lot to be enthusiastic about: I’m not digging ditches. I get to open boxes of records every day.
Read the full interview here.
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