WTTS Radio celebrates 20 years of rock

This year marks 20 years for Bloomington’s WTTS radio to be playing its mix of rock music. We’ve been pretty lucky to have a station around for that many years that can be comfortable mixing stuff from John Hiatt and John Mellencamp with newer music like the Black Keys and Arcade Fire. We caught up with longtime WTTS Program Director Brad Holtz to see what he liked about music in 2011, what he sees for 2012, and what are some of favorite things about the station.

Rockforward: First, let’s look back at 2011. Tell me a couple of your favorites, and why.
Brad Holtz: I think Adele has to be on everyone’s list. That an artist so genuine and heartfelt in their approach can translate into a mass-appeal performer in the face of some rather “manufactured” competition is pretty inspiring. Aside from that, in 2011 we continued to see the rise of indie artists. The Head & The Heart, Blitzen Trapper, Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes were a few. Arcade Fire winning the album of the year at the 2011 Grammys has to be a high point too.

Rockforward: What about American guitar rock and roll?
Holtz: As far as American rock and roll, The Black Keys are the real deal. Although they’re new to a lot of people, the guys have been around for seven albums. WTTS was playing them five years ago. It’s nice to see them getting the wider attention they deserve.

Rockforward: As a radio station that has continued to embrace the music of John Mellencamp, I’ve heard rumors (and talked to Larry Crane a while back) of the old band (Crane, Aronoff, Toby) getting back together. What do you think?
Holtz: I can’t speak to these rumors, but everyone loves a comeback, right? I think such a reunion would mean a lot to the many fans touched by their music over the past 35 years.

Rockforward: Lots of great music from women played on WTTS. Some favorites?
Holtz: I already mentioned Adele for all the obvious reasons. I think Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) is a tremendous talent who translates beautifully live. Speaking of live, I just caught a new singer-songwriter named Katie Herzig at a recent WTTS Emerging Artist show at Creation Cafe. A very gifted writer, musician and performer who sounds great on the radio AND on stage.

Rockforward: Has WTTS changed over the years?
Holtz: I really don’t believe we’ve changed our approach. It has always been our goal to expose a variety of great rock music from different eras encompassing different styles. And as an independently owned radio station, we’ve also felt that part of our mission was to expose new artists not played elsewhere, and to give newcomers a chance. So basically, play a lot of great music and play some new stuff nobody would dare touch. That’s what WTTS did 20 years ago, that’s what we’re doing today and that’s what we’re going to be doing for years to come.

Rockforward: Love the Sun King Studios live music stuff you guys do. How has that helped WTTS?
Holtz: We love it too. Studio 92 opened seven years ago, if you can believe it. Our downtown performance studio houses 40 listeners and we’ve had well over 100 performers come by. And the range has been awesome – from newcomers like Amos Lee and Ray Lamontagne, back when they were newcomers – to legends like The Doobie Brothers, Joan Armatrading, Suzanne Vega, Ziggy Marley and John Hiatt. This year, Sun King became our official partner in the studio. It’s a relationship we value tremendously. Listeners watch these performances, meet the artists, get their CDs or posters signed, have a Sun King. I mean, how cool is that? I sit there watching these performers while sipping on a Sun King and I think to myself, “this is really my job?”

Rockforward: Any bands that we need to keep an eye and ear on in 2012? Who’s going to break out and be heard?
Holtz: I wish I had a crystal ball but all I can say – we’re always listening to new music, especially our incredible Music Director, Laura Duncan. New Music Monday, Indy Underground and OverEasy are all great WTTS programs where we love to expose the next things.

Listen at 92.3 FM or online.

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