This is the second in a series featuring interviews with the KUVO 89.3 FM on-air hosts who also work as musicians—serving two roles as album players and bandstand players. They step up to two mics. In this series we are discussing on-air hosting to which these deejays bring a professional musician’s perspective. In explaining what the musician brings to the on-air studio, Andy O’Leary, my interview subject this week, had this comment: “I rely on my instincts and ear to make the call for what I play on-air; the way being a musician helps is being able to recognize talent, virtuosity, and raw emotion in a musical performance.”
Having worked as volunteer host in many different time slots and as station music director, Andy O’ has been a station mainstay for well over twenty years. He currently can be heard spearheading “The Nightside with Andy O’” on Sunday nights from 8 to 11 PM. The KUVO website describes this program as a “unique mix of radio theatre, jazz from Armstrong to Zorn, poetry, storytelling, interviews and features.” The listener can expect relaxed Sunday listening with a humorous bent and an absence of ego. Andy O’ the musician plays bass and serves as leader for the group Coyote Poets of the Universe. The band has produced six CDs to date. My conversation with Andy was completed by email messaging.
PF: You go into the KUVO studio to work as an on-air host. Or, you take the performance stage to do a set of music. Describe the similarities and differences.
AO: The main difference between on-air and live on-stage is the amount of control you have over the show. In performance anything can happen—you have a room full of people and you have to deal with distractions from the audience (e.g. eating, drinking, and talking). Not that this is a bad thing, but it is what it is; in the studio it’s you and the music—you know the audience is out there, but you don’t see or hear them.
I have been performing so long the mental preparation is mostly just letting yourself be the music and staying out of your own way, plus being ready to welcome the duende to the room. On air, it’s just making the show be about the music and the listener; and, hoping they like what you play for them. To me the two processes are as different as night and day.
PF. What to you is the meaning of the KUVO slogan “It’s All About the Music?”
AO. In my early career period I used to think I was there to educate and inform. I found out it was just me being full of myself—who cares what I think of this sax player or that song. If I have anything to share, I try to keep it brief and out of the “duh” factor and try to share something the listener might not have known about the song or artist. The bottom line is its entertainment; the best way to be entertaining is to let it be music, not me!
PF. Has it been difficult finding an on-air time slot for your jazz show that fits your schedule?
AO. I am very fortunate that my new show “The Nightside” is at the perfect time and perfect day. As a musician, I don’t get a lot of Sunday night gigs; Sunday 8 to 11 is perfect.
On the subject of selecting tunes on-air, Andy offered, “the time of the show sets up what you play and I try to avoid repeating myself each week.” I reviewed Andy’s program playlist for the past five weeks, approximately 140 song selections—not a single song repeat and about ten artists played twice in the period. These ten jazz artists may be a sampling of Andy’s current music preferences: Wynton Marsalis, Ben Sidran, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Kevin Kling, The Bad Plus, Patricia Barber, Esperanza Spaulding and Cowboy Poets of the Universe. No artist was played more than twice. Among word jazz and poetry artists you would find Nikki Giovanni, Li-Young Lee, and Ken Nordine. Enjoy “The Nightside” with Andy O’Leary every Sunday night on KUVO 89.3 FM.