New Appalachian Radio aims to share West Virginia’s music with the world
By Bill Lynch
Jody Herndon gets wound up when he starts talking about New Appalachian music, the music he says people in West Virginia are mostly listening to, even if they don’t know that’s what they’re hearing.
He’s passionate about it. He preaches.
“New Appalachian music can sound like a lot of things,” he said, building up. “It can be country or rock or rap or even metal. It’s just all influenced by being here.
“Its roots are in Appalachia. This is us. We own this.”
Building that brand is at the core of what he and computer technician Eric Meadows are all about with their Internet radio station, New Appalachian Radio. They started it in March with help from the Digital and Social Media (DigiSo) project through West Virginia State University’s Economic Development Center.
Meadows, who works in the oil and gas industry, said the idea of an Internet radio station started as a side project, a hobby, when he met up with Herndon.
The two had known each other years before as students at Glenville State College.
Herndon said, “Eric was a resident assistant during my first year.”
They were friendly, but not especially close friends. After graduation, Meadows said they didn’t really see each other for more than a decade.
“We just sort of bumped into each other and started talking,” he added.
Herndon was performing locally, and between the two of them, they came up with the idea of filming and recording local musicians to be used for a radio station.
Songwriter Kristen Costello was one of the first people the pair reached out to, and she helped put them in touch with DigiSo through West Virginia State University.
“Eric was bringing equipment to people’s homes,” she said. “And they wanted a permanent place.”
“We explained the project to DigiSo, and they jumped on board,” Meadows said.
He added that they had some of their own equipment, but WVSU was able to enhance and add to that, as well as give them a reliable space to operate in at the Economic Development Center.
Meadows and Herndon feel like they’re off to a good start, but they have been taking it slowly.
“We haven’t made a big splash, haven’t made any huge announcements to the public,” Meadows said. “We didn’t want that.”
They’re pacing themselves and keeping it personal.
What they hope to do is to give local people the chance to hear their favorite local bands someplace other than the clubs, as well as spread that music farther out.
Right now, the plan is to collect the music from as many local musicians as they can.
Meadows said, “We’re giving everybody a listen, but we’re trying to get the best we can.”
According to Meadows, they have about 400 songs from local acts and a fair mix of what’s typically played in the clubs. Very little of it is cover tunes.
“That was sort of surprising for us,” he said. “Almost all of it was original material.”
The chief exception being bluegrass and string band music.
“But that’s to be expected,” he said. “A lot of bluegrass bands play traditional tunes.”
Not all of it gets played, however.
“We’re refining what we play,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got around 200 songs that are in rotation. The better stuff gets played more often, of course.”
They also hope to expand. Right now New Appalachia Radio is drawing mostly from performers who play in the Charleston area, but they want to expand to other parts of the state and eventually, maybe all along the Appalachian region.
They also hope to help stem the tide of creative people leaving Charleston and West Virginia.
“For years, West Virginia has exported its natural resources,” he said. “We’ve exported our coal, our gas...we’ve also exported our artists, our songwriters and musicians, who’ve left for Nashville or New York.”
Coal and gas aren’t renewable resources. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, but Herndon believes music could go on forever.
“Other states, they’ve taken ownership of their music,” he said. “Kentucky has taken ownership of their music. We think West Virginia ought to, too.”
To listen to New Appalachia Radio, visit www.voicesofappalachia.com. There are also apps available through the site for iPhone and Android.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.