MARSHALL TERRY: Starting on Monday, WFAE is launching a new local music podcast called Amplifier. And joining me now is host Joni Deutsch, who interviewed all of the musicians. So Joni, obviously after hearing all that, it’s easy to see there’s a lot of diverse music being made here in Charlotte.
JONI DEUTSCH: It’s amazing how many artists came out of the woodwork for this series. We put a call out in July of this year, just asking musicians in the community to submit their work for this series. I was expecting maybe 50 artists or 100 artists, but we received more than 300 submissions from people who work in R&B, pop, folk, Americana. If you name a genre, they probably were included in this series.
MARSHALL TERRY: So what was the inspiration to do this?
JONI DEUTSCH: Well, it came about from my love of music, but it also came about because of my previous work. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I was working at the NPR station there for a number of years. I noticed in West Virginia there wasn’t a music scene of sorts. When you think of West Virginia music, you may think of banjos and Brad Paisley, but there is so much more to music in the state than that. So I did some local music work up there, highlighted artists of different genres. And it really brought about a kind of a sound and sense of community of what music could be in the state.
So I moved down to Charlotte last fall. And I was so excited to work at WFAE, and I thought, “Wow! Charlotte is so great, it’s so great, it’s booming. Surely there is a Charlotte music scene here.” I asked around, and I received a lot of shrugs as to what music is in Charlotte. And that’s what kind of spawned this series. It’s a way to promote what is already here to a wider audience.
MARSHALL TERRY: As you said, you did a call out and heard from a couple hundred different musicians. So how did you go about picking the ones that you ended up interviewing?
JONI DEUTSCH: You know, I listened and read every submission we received. And it was just trying to figure out who could speak to a certain genre of music in the city, who could speak to the number of years they’ve worked in the city and seeing it evolve in sound and structure, but also seeing the up-and-comers who have bright eyes and want to do more in Charlotte.
MARSHALL TERRY: Well, all this talk about music, let’s hear a little bit. Is there an artist you can play for me right now?
JONI DEUTSCH: Yeah! Just for the time being, let’s go ahead and play Jason Jet and the song is “When I’m Gone.” He was raised on the classic 60s soul and 70s Earth Wind & Fire, so you can kind of hear that in the music. And Anthony Hamilton, who is a big name when it comes to Charlotte R&B (and even international R&B), called Jason Jet the next best/big thing coming out of Charlotte, so I think Jason’s a really great act to include in this Amplifier series.
MARSHALL TERRY: What surprised you the most about Charlotte’s music scene since you’ve kind of taken this deep dive?
JONI DEUTSCH: I think one of the things that has been brought up a lot in conversation has been this idea of Charlotte’s identity, which is something that we hear about on Charlotte Talks and elsewhere on WFAE about how Charlotte struggles with being either a big town or a small city. And I think that holds true with the music scene in a way. You know, some artists are wanting it to be the Nashville or New York City or L.A. music scene of sorts. There’s so much diversity to the music here, it could be that with the proper promotion and community building. But then some artists are thinking, “No. There’s a lot of space to fill here. If it were Nashville or New York, it would be oversaturated.” So having those spaces to be able to breathe and to be able to experiment and not have to feel like there is a crazy amount of competition, it’s a struggle but it’s also a reason to grow professionally and personally for these artists.
MARSHALL TERRY: So as we said, this series starts on Monday. Joni, what can we expect in this first episode?
JONI DEUTSCH: You can expect the “Godmother of Charlotte Rock Music,” as some call her. Hope Nicholls will be on that first episode on Monday. She was part of the band Fetchin’ Bones, she’s been a staple of the Charlotte music scene for decades, and she has so many thoughts on the past of Charlotte music, the present, but also what it can be in the future.
MARSHALL TERRY: Well, we can’t wait to hear it. Thank you. That’s WFAE’s Joni Deutsch, host of Amplifier. Thank you for taking the time.
JONI DEUTSCH: Thank you, Marshall.
MARSHALL TERRY: The Amplifier music podcast launches on Monday, with new episodes every weekday in September. To get the episodes as soon as they’re available, subscribe to Amplifier on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, and WFAE.org/Amplifier.