It’s no secret that the Current plays a lot of local music (fun fact: there are 6,430 songs by Minnesota artists in the station’s digital library, which amounts to about 15% of the total catalog), and it’s a practice that dates all the way back to the first day the station launched in January 2005.
As part of our big 10th anniversary celebrations this week, I thought it would be fun to hear from a few of the local artists the station has spun over the years. What’s it like hearing your own voice coming across the airwaves for the first time? And what does it mean to hear yourself on the Current?
I also asked artists to reflect on other bands or songs that they have discovered by listening to the Current, so you’ll also find some of those stories here. Enjoy!
Hearing one of my songs played on the Current for the first time was one of the most euphoric moments of my life. I knew Mary Lucia had a copy of my record; well, it wasn’t much of a record really, just a CD-R wrapped in a paper bag. I was driving home from my day job and as I neared my house I heard Mary talk about the next set of music. I don’t remember any of the songs she mentioned, but I remember she said, “We’ve also got some new local music I don’t think anyone’s heard before.” I knew she was going to play “Novocain”!
I raced in the door, grabbed my wife and we sat in the living with the station cranked to full volume. Then Mary played my song. The scene was a total Hollywood cliché: dancing, laughing, bottle of wine opened and consumed. For the first time in my life I dared to think that maybe I could do this music thing as a career.
The Current had just come on the air and I had taped a segment for the first Local Show (I got called in when the Owls fell ill). I was driving with my wife up to Duluth for a show and, leaving town, heard them play one of my songs and plug my upcoming appearance on the Local Show.
It felt like such a big moment for me—like I had “arrived” and now we had this cool radio station in town that was actually going to play a wide variety of local music. I can still remember the exhilaration—and then my cell phone started ringing (people I know texted less back then) with words of congratulations from friends and family who had heard me on the air. Of course, that’s the best feeling of all.
John Mark Nelson
The first time one of my songs was played on the Current, I didn’t even get to hear it. Still, it is a memory I won’t forget anytime soon! I was a senior in high school and was playing percussion in a friend’s theater show. It was a Sunday evening, 6 p.m. show, full house. The lights went up and the show starting running as usual. In the true character of a high school kid, I had my cell phone next to me, even during performances. Sometime during the first act, we were playing one of the musical numbers that I played percussion on. The song was rolling by, and my eyes followed the music bar by bar, playing when prompted. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that my phone starting erupting in a storm of texts, tweets, and you-name-its. I got completely sidetracked from the music that was going on, and totally lost my place. After a few embarrassing moments of being completely and utterly lost, the song ended and I reached for my phone. Chills ran down my spine as I read text after text from friends, family, and distant relations: One of my songs had just been played on the Current!
Claire de Lune, Tiny Deaths/The Chalice
The first time I heard one of my projects played on the Current was actually when you (Andrea) played the Chalice’s “Push It” on your all-female edition of the Local Show. Me and Lizzo and Lauren (Sophia) were in uptown in my car waiting for it to come on, and I remember when it actually happened we were parked in front of a basketball court on 25th and Bryant with the windows down and when we heard you announce the song we all screamed and the boys playing basketball looked really terrified at this car full of screaming girls. We were so excited, I couldn’t sit still anymore so we just started driving around in circles bouncing up and down and singing along. I’ll never forget it.
I also distinctly remember the first time I heard “Skinny Love” was on the Current and I remember thinking “who is this guy with this insanely beautiful Skip James falsetto?!” It was one of those moments where you hear something and you just instantly know it’s gonna be a part of your life forever.
Jake Luppen, Hippo Campus
The first time I heard one of my projects played on the current was in 2013 on the “Back to School” students-take-over-the Current edition. It was the song “Dustpan” by my band Whistle Kid and it was truly a surreal experience. I have a pretty vivid memory of us sitting around the computer, all collectively freaking out when it was played.
The first time I heard Hippo Campus on the radio, though on “accident,” was when I was driving. I flipped on the Current as I was pulling out of my driveway, and I heard the beginning of “Little Grace.” It was almost a spiritual experience. Your song takes on a completely different life when it’s coming out of the radio.
I remember first time I heard myself playing live on the Current. Immediately, I turned the channel because I could not believe it. I almost got into an accident. Also, I have a hard time hearing my own voice. I can’t stand listening to myself.
Holly Hansen, Zoo Animal
I was driving home late after work and exhausted around 1am. Driving on downtown Hennepin Ave headed to Northeast from Uptown. Radio was soft, turned it up to stay awake and WHOA. That’s me. I was no longer exhausted. I also felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility. People are listening, better be worth it.
I’m not sure I remember the very first time I heard myself on there, but I do remember that the station debuted on my dad’s birthday. He had recently retired and would often listen and print out playlists from the times I would get played, mostly from my third record, at the time.
The three (?) times I’ve taped live sessions have all been special. The studio is such a great room. Both Chris Roberts and Dave Campbell dig deep for those interviews…
I remember hearing many projects that I’ve been a part of the first time on the current. It’s always fun to hear how the music translates in different settings, whether it’s a car, furniture store, insurance agents office…taking a piece of music that was living and breathing and finally sending off the final version and hearing it played next to an artist like Prince or whomever, it feels like a finished product all of a sudden.
Kevin Kniebel, Pert Near Sandstone
I remember hearing both Iron and Wine and later Fleet Foxes for the first time on the Current… Always been a great source of new music for me. Lately, tuning in to Bill DeVille’s United States of Americana has been a treasure trove. Sturgill Simpson, Parker Millsap, and so much great local music that I’ve gotten to hear for the first time there. Not sure what my musical life would be like without the Current. It’s like tapping in to the fifth dimension or some other cosmic source. We should blast a stream into deep space in pursuit of other intelligent life—or, is that what they are already doing with Radio Heartland??