What I Did On My Summer Vacation
July 31, 2014
Back in the day, during the peak of what can best described as my "warrior phase," a stage in life when I ate, drank and slept my job to the point where it completely defined me, vacations were a source of personal conflict.
Sure, it was time away from the radio station, but not actually working ... God forbid.
Once, while "vacationing" in Breckinridge, CO I frantically searched for a Kinkos so our programming assistant could fax (I did say "back in the day," remember?) Spring book results to me and by that, I mean page after page of every possible demo and daypart.
My family decided they needed a vacation. From me. I was unceremoniously sent home so they could have some actual fun.
But I've evolved. Nowadays on vay-cay, I don't stress about work imploding just because I'm not there. Instead, I fret over how much better things at the office are probably going in my absence.
Last week I found a happy medium. In the midst of four days off, I attended a listening party for Brad Paisley's upcoming "Moonshine In The Trunk" album, due later in August.
The setting was Santa Barbara, CA, sometimes referred to as the "American Riviera." I grew up in So-Cal, visited Santa Barbara frequently and had another term for it: F-ing awesome. The weather, the ocean, the architecture and the people -- even the homeless ones -- are all beautiful.
Already in Los Angeles, I decided to train it to SB on the Pacific Surfliner and convinced my longtime friend, KKGO/Los Angeles PD Tonya Campos, to join me. We've known each other 20 years now; during the course of two hours and 15 minutes we slammed two Heinekens while talking radio, music, jocks and family, pretty much laughing our asses off the entire ride.
The hilarity continued once we arrived, met up with 20 or so other radio programmers, whisked off to a picturesque location somewhere in the hills of SB and were immediately ushered to a full bar overlooking a magnificent Pacific Ocean vista.
I've said it before and it bears repeating: When those of us in this business are in a social setting outside a work function and someone asks what we do for a living, we automatically have the coolest jobs in the room. The only possible exception would be if there was an astronaut present.
That's why an opportunity to hang with Brad Paisley before, during and after hearing his yet-to-be-released album was such a privilege. Some of us met Brad when he was a brand new artist and it's great to see that while many things in his life have changed, he's still down to earth, a nice dude and gracious host.
Brad gave the small gathering of programmers a personally guided tour through "Moonshine In The Trunk," cut-by-cut. I know reaction to last year's "Wheelhouse" was somewhat mixed; I have disagreed with that assessment and felt the album was a bold and interesting listen. Then again -- full disclosure -- I am a longtime, huge Brad Paisley fan. I played his first-ever single while in radio and nearly got fired for it. I programmed KCYY/San Antonio at the time and as a company, we rarely if ever played anything new, regardless of how good it was or whether our competition, KAJA was banging it.
We had to send our playlist to the President of the radio division each week; I remember getting a plain white envelope in the mail seven days later, with copies of my rotations inside. There in my "C" category, circled in red ink, with a giant question mark -- like in Jr. High English class - was "Who Needs Pictures." Discussion, lectures conference calls and reprimands ensued. Miraculously, I was retained. History has shown me to be right about Paisley. So there.
Not that I'm bitter.
Getting back on track though, Paisley is back on point with "Moonshine In The Trunk" and its debut single was the first sign. Like "Riverbank," the rest of this album is also fun -- "Limes," "High Life" "Cover Girl," "Gone Green," "Crushin' It" and the title cut showcase what he does so well: turning a clever phrase with lyrics and his always fantastic musicianship.
If the label and Brad are thinking of something more serious or thoughtful for single #2, "Moonshine" has viable options. Not that anyone has or will ask, but my suggestions would be "You Shouldn't Have To" or perhaps even better, "Perfect Storm," one of my faves on the album. These are also signature BP sounds to my ear and the kind of songs that were always important in getting him to this dance. The latter reminds me of previous Paisley power ballads (and big hits) like "Little Moments" or "She's Everything."
I realize the format is generally more about tempo and good times right now but ballads, while taking a minute to kick in, usually test better and last longer (recurrents, gold). Additionally, perhaps the tempo/party tide is turning, evidenced by Chris Young's recent #1, "Who I Am With You" and Lee Brice's soon-to-be chart-topper, "I Don't Dance." Also, Florida Georgia Line's "Dirt" and Jason Aldean's "Burnin It Down," while not ballads, are much more subdued and contained that what they've sent us in the past two years.
I'm a little tired of the chanting in songs which Brad's been doing the last few albums, but to be fair, that's my pet-peeve about current Country music in general. We've been hearing that production touch on a lot of new music recently; frankly, I'm over it.
Everything on "Moonshine In The Trunk" will translate well into Brad's live show and there may be no one better at bringing songs to life than Paisley, with his animation and dazzling special effects integrated into his concerts.
Oh yea -- another fave? A hidden track dedicated to the late George Jones called "Me And Jesus." I know that could never be single but holy crap -- what a great tune. Just Brad and a guitar. I loved the simplicity of it.
After dinner and a brief stop at a nearby Irish pub where Brad expertly poured Guinness from the tap (no easy skill), it was back to the hotel for cigars with Brad and the chance to hang with radio guys, solving every single problem our business faces.
I could talk with radio people all night and I practically did, uncharacteristically calling it a night somewhere past 2a. Being a KNIX/Phoenix alum, I especially enjoyed my visit with Steve Geofferies, the station's current PD. And just by chance, at dinner I was seated next to Tim Richards of crosstown KMLE. Both are great guys and sharp programmers. Each station posted their highest 6+ shares of the year in June, with KNIX leading the Country race and ranked #1 overall. Phoenix has traditionally been a great Country market; both stations are obviously serving fans very well right now.
I'll spare you complete details about the rest of my week but to sum it up, there was cycling up and down the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, quality time with Eleanor LoCurto, a field trip to the All Access home office, 5:00 mass at Our Lady Of Grace and at least one more cigar.
So ... how was your vacation?