Real People, Great Radio (Part 1)

AshevilleFM curates all-local project spotlighting Asheville music

When the internet developed to the point at which it could support high quality audio and video, pundits prognosticated the imminent death of terrestrial radio. But in the same way that streaming music hasn’t spelled the end of vinyl records, FM radio remains a creative medium, and a force for good. Local station WSFM-LP – better known as 103.3 AshevilleFM – began broadcasting in 2015; today the nonprofit, community radio station occupies an important place in the city’s cultural firmament. Underscoring AshevilleFM’s role in the regional music and arts scene, the station is partnering with local businesses to present Real People, Great Radio, a compilation record showcasing local musical artists.

Set for release ahead of this year’s third annual AshevilleFM Record Fair, Real People, Great Radio features ten Asheville-based acts. Each is represented by an original track on the record. All sessions took place at Drop of Sun Recording Studios in West Asheville.

Real People, Great Radio is curated by Greg Cartwright, musician, producer and recording artist (Oblivians, Reigning Sound) and AshevilleFM deejay. He explains the multiple inspirations at the core of the project. “Whenever it’s time for an AshevilleFM fund drive, we [offer] a promotional premium for people who donate to the station,” he says. In the past, the station had organized raffles, and offered branded tote bags and t-shirts. But everyone involved wanted to take things to the next level.

The timing of this year’s fund drive lined up with the Record Fair. “So it seems like a great match to do a record,” Cartwright says. “And we want to do something that’s about local music and some of the assets that are there for local bands and artists.” Cartwright emphasizes that even though Asheville is a comparatively small city, it’s home to a robust music infrastructure. “There are lots of cool recording studios,” he says, “and there’s also a record pressing plant. Tying all those things together to show off some of what Asheville has is a really good idea.”

Diverse cast, eclectic lineup
Bringing a project like Real People, Great Radio to completion requires a lot of work and cooperation, with great attention to scheduling and logistics. Artists have to be selected, sessions need to be put together, and vinyl records have to be manufactured. So in addition to partnering with Drop of Sun, Cartwright and the AshevilleFM team worked with Citizen Vinyl. The downtown Asheville pressing plant fit production of the album into its schedule, providing the critical final link in the chain of this all-local endeavor.

Cartwright says that beyond the local focus, there was one important goal when curating the selections. “We wanted to be as diverse as possible,” he emphasizes. “We’re trying to [create] an experience where every song is something a little bit different.”

And the eclectic Real People, Great Radio succeeds on that score. Fleur Geurl (the solo project of Asheville musician Danielle McConaghy) conjures a dreamy, contemplative vibe with “The Woods.” Lewis Dahm of Walkhome (featured on “The End”) quips that his group creates “dumb songs played smart,” and names Jesus & Mary Chain, Oasis and the Beatles among primary inspirations. Improvisational percussionist Thom Nguyen describes his track, “Residual Reflection” as an example of the experimental technique known as musique concrète.

A prolific local rock band, Powder Horns turns in the hardest-rocking cut on the AshevilleFM collection, “Cherub.” Other artists featured on the compilation include Astoria, Bex, gator pools, Adriana McCassim, Secret Shame, and Dexter Webb.

People will always find good music in every genre,” says Brett J. Kent, Powder Horns’ leader and songwriter. “That’s what drives me, and I know I’m not alone.”

Here comes the Sun
Drop of Sun Studios’ Sara Jane Whatley says that she was excited when she had a brainstorming session with Cartwright and AshevilleFM station’s general manager KP Whaley. The studio is within sight of the radio station on Haywood Road, and Whatley says that partnering “was always a goal.” She says that it was important to the studio – which launched in 2015 and moved to its current location in 2021 – to be “in community with already existing pillars of the Asheville music scene.”

Whatley says that Real People, Great Radio was a “passion project” for producer/engineer and studio co-founder Adam McDaniel. “It never felt like an option to skimp on making it something we loved,” Whatley says. “This record feels like the ethos of Drop of Sun.”

She notes that her most cherished moment of the entire project was when she, McDaniel and studio co-founder Alex Farrar sat down in the control room and listened to the finished LP in its entirety. “I felt so excited and so proud,” Whatley says.

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