As I type this, I’m positioned at a Starbucks hightop across the street from Boston University’s College of General Studies. I attended the (eye-sore) that is CGS four years ago, without any hope of doing anything in the music world. My sights were set on Film & Television, until a screenwriting class took me out of the running. I couldn’t motivate myself to write creatively, while also adhering to a strict (and I mean strict) structure. I failed that class. I didn’t give it much effort,my heart wasn’t in it and I was unhappy. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, that I am completely useless if I’m forced to do work while I’m mentally disengaged and distant.
Whatever chaos was happening in my brain (think Jimmy Neutron “THINK, THINK” neurons) was made tangible when I played a song that somehow embodied it. A chill-inducing guitar solo, a mesmerizing drum beat, a whispered thrust of a vocal break – they all made me believe my feelings, or lack thereof, could be embodied in an art of some kind. When I got to play whatever I wanted, I was free to express what I was unable to put into words. A small part of me feels compelled to follow that admittance up with, “I know it sounds dramatic but,” or “I know it’s absurd but,” — but, no. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to find and know this medium, to share my voice and lend it to others. I got to meet amazing musicians who opened up to me about why they create. Some would say it’s all they knew how to do, others would speak of seeing a show growing up and idolizing the lead singer and some even told me they, quite simply, followed a crazy dream.
I learned more by talking with others about the thing I loved than I ever did in a classroom. I flourished intellectually when I socialized with artists who made music that told my story, yet had never even met me.
College radio gave me that.
For two hours a week live on air and for the countless hours I spent making rotation, I got to daydream. I’d be on that stage strumming along with Brandon Flowers or fine-tuning lyrics with Kid Mountain. The next day, I’d imagine Pinegrove telling me what solipsistic meant, Oso Oso explaining the significance of The Yunahon Mixtape or I’d be groaning the lyrics to ‘Marinade’ with Dope Lemon as the sun set at Splendour in the Grass.
In real life, I watched Tash Sultana loop ‘Jungle’ in her bedroom right before the video went viral, stood in a barren room watching Covey and Tor Miller sing the songs that meant something to their stories and felt the earth shake when Catfish and the Bottlemen opened with ‘Rango’ at the House of Blues after seeing them just a year before at dive bar called Great Scott. I heard a young kid tell me his band was ‘gonna be the biggest band in the world’, I tried communicating with a French band, Talisco, in a broom closet upstairs at the Middle East Club (genuinely a broom closet) and hear SOAK tell me how important the purity of one’s emotional and creative voice is to the quality of one’s work.
I carried boxes of Fenders to a U-Haul in Manhattan, booked bands for charity events, made major mistakes and pushed amps, mics, lights and a mix board a mile down Commonwealth Avenue for a benefit show I’d planned after our entire station was engulfed in flames.
And I’d do it all again.
For all the mistakes I got to make at WTBU, I learned that the most important one was ever thinking that making more would hinder my success. Freeform radio taught me to fail better, not less. Through the progression of failures, you find a tiny piece of your self and story that you had no plan of knowing prior.
Now that I’ve graduated, I hear one phrase ringing in my ear when I’m most submerged in self-doubt and that’s one that a friend of mine told my old boss, “It’d just be a fucking shame if she didn’t make it in music, you know?”
I never started radio to prove something to anyone, to talk about music with authority or amp up my resume. I didn’t start it to ‘make it’ at a label or iHeartRadio station. I just did it because I loved it.
I might love something else, I might keep failing on the path to my next destination and I could very well never be on the radio again.
What I do know for sure, is that I hope I love something else as passionately as I’ve loved WTBU. I know I’ll fail and fail better on the way to my next chapter. And I’ll always have the option to broadcast the voices of artists who create not only for themselves, but for the kid feeling a little numb to the world and disconnected from her heart. One who wanders into a dive bar to feel something deeper in her bones. That’s the magic that brought me where I am.
“I know that’s dramatic but…” I really don’t give a fuck.