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The soundtrack of our lives
Guests talk about their musical loves on 89.1’s Under the Influence
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Back in high school, Carrie Boylan listened to an REM song over and over again, “ad nauseum”, in her own words.
“It was the last song on side A of Automatic For the People,” she recalls. “It just seemed to sort of embody a lot of different things I was feeling at the time — a new school, making new friends, a first love, and figuring out myself a little bit…”
“I was trying to think of what I got out of that,” Boylan continues. “Music is something that’s been important to me — the listening of, not the playing of — probably since middle school, as an emotional outlet. As I got older, I wanted to know if other people felt the same way.”
Boylan hatched the idea for Under the Influence, a local radio show she hosts on NIPR 89.1 FM on Wednesday nights at 8 pm.
Under the Influence bills itself as the only hour on public radio where you can hear Metallica and Mozart (and Ke$ha, apparently, but more on that later), and the format is pretty simple — Boylan asks guests, mostly from around Fort Wayne, to bring in a selection of songs that have been important to them, or have meant something to them, and talk about how the music has influenced them.
Boylan and producer Jason Thompson have recorded about 20 shows, with 10 airing since the show debuted in February. “Everything we’ve gotten has been really positive,” Boylan says. “Men seem a lot more open to talking than women are. I’ve had two or three people say ‘no,’ and they’ve all been women; they’ve all said they’re not comfortable sharing or reliving some ‘hard times.’ That makes too bad, because I think those would be some of our best interviews. I think our listeners would get the most out of them, because I’m sure there is some kind of shared experience in there.”
“You can tell a lot about a person by what they’re interested in musically, and how that might intertwine with stories of their lives can be fascinating,” adds Thomson, who handles the technical side of things in the studio and edits the show. “I was surprised that people really opened up. Certain people have, talk about difficult times of their lives, where music helped them out in a difficult situation, and the power of music overall, how it can bring them out of the dumps.”
While Boylan says that every guest has brought in at least one song where the lyrics meant something to them, that’s not always the case. Hearing guests — especially non-musicians — try to explain their responses to what is happening musically is pretty interesting. “So far, and this is a very small sample pool, there seems to be this appreciation of what’s going on musically,” Boylan says. “Not that anyone, myself included, has been able to articulate what it is, whether it’s harmony, melody, or something more complex going on. But that’s something I love, because I’m not a musician — I took 2 years of piano in grade school and hated every second of it. So I think having to describe what’s going on in the music without that vernacular makes it even more universal. The musicians have been able to go way more in depth with what’s going on with the music, but for the listeners who aren’t musicians, I think it makes it more relatable.”
And if some of this sounds a little personal, or heavy, that isn’t always the case. Boylan talks about having her nephew’s band on, who came up with their list a few minutes before recording the show, and didn’t have a lot to say about it. “They were just, ‘we like it. Because it’s cool’,” Boylan laughs. “That episode was heavy on the music, light on the talking.”
Then there was Alex Jonathan Brown, a friend of Boylan’s who chose Ke$ha as one of his selections. “I asked him, ‘did you put Ke$ha on your list to get Ke$ha played on public radio?’ But the whole premise of the show was that it could be anything, so…”
But according to Boylan and Thompson, their guest made a really good case for Ke$ha. “He definitely believed what he told us, so I guess that’s all that matters,” Thompson says.
Boylan adds: “I’ll enjoy her a little bit more when I hear her on the radio. Maybe.”
Under the Influence airs at 8 PM on Wednesday nights on 89.1