I've known Brad Hunt for many years and he always seems happy and usually has an amusing story to share. I always remember and love that he accepted an Americana Music Award for Sonny Landreth, walking to the podium in a T-shirt and shorts. That's total Brad!
Bill Frater: What got you started in the music business and and why?
Brad Hunt: My connection to popular music started with a transistor radio, like many others of the baby boomers who found access to a wide range of great radio playing incredible music that crossed all genres, and we called it all ours. I never really thought about the business until I got my first check for a week's worth a radio, and I haven't looked back for almost 50 years.
What have you done since then?
Radio, retail, and then stints with majors including a good run at MCA and 10 great years at Elektra. including the last four as general manager. Then on to Hollywood and Zoo and for the last 20 years me, myself and I with my trusty crew of management clients, Steve Forbert, Sonny Landreth, Tim O'Brien, and the most recent to join the clan, Martha Scanlan. I was enlisted by my friend Jack Emerson soon after leaving Zoo to lend a hand with helping to find a home for his partner Steve Earle and then was a consultant in not only the marketing and promotion of Steve but the establishment of E Squared Records as one of the preeminent Americana labels, launching the careers of the VRoys, Cheri Knight, 6 String Drag and Ross Rice. It was during this period that I was called upon to lend a hand with radio promotion for these acts and several of the distributed labels, and by the late '90s it was back to where it began and I started doing independent radio promotion incorporating AAA, Americana, blues, bluegrass, folk and jam radio into one cohesive and sometimes coherent plan.
How do you describe what you do?
What I described above for a number of great clients including the Concord Label Group, Signature Sounds, Compass Records, Mascot Provogue, Rock Ridge Music, ADA and many more, including some great independent releases which have recently included Jeffrey Foucault, Caitlin Canty, Kaia Kater, Dori Freeman and Mo Kenney.
How do you define what Americana or roots music is?
I remember having an animated discussion with Rob Bleetstein after the first Americana chart was published in Gavin about the fact that he had excluded the Little Feat Ain't Had Enough Fun project from the chart. I had Ray Geminer and Ken Anthony go through his reporter list to see which of them were playing the record and when faced with the results the CD debuted at #1! There was an early effort to have Americana and alt country be seen as one and the same and I never accepted that from the start, and pushed for blues, cajun, zydeco and any indigenous North American music to be included. That has given us a great alternative to mainstream Triple A, although jazz still seems to have a home of its own elsewhere.
What was the first artist or album that got you into roots music?
I was a big Johnny Horton fan with his historical epics, and that was probably the start, but by high school I was always headed to the near east side of Buffalo to Audrey & Dell's for the latest offerings of Chess, King, and others, and then early on college was swept into the DC bluegrass scene with the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene and then Gram and Emmylou and the most influential show of my teen years, Screaming Jay Hawkins and James Brown at the York County Fair!
Who are your favorite artists from any genre and what artist define Americana music for you ?
Lowell George and Little Feat, The Band, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, Alan Wilson, Ronnie Bowman, Clifton Chenier, Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Mose Allison, and Glenn Gould, to name a few. Probably if I had to pick just one that represents Americana music more than any other it would have to be four Canadians and a pretty great drummer from Arkansas, The Band.
Where do you see Americana radio going in the future?
I hope that we continue to see some stations evolve like WEXT in Albany to a hybrid Triple A, playing a lot of new roots music and at the same time the standard bearers like KRSH, KPIG, KHYI, KNBT, WDVX, KVMR continue to find support in their local communities. Also I hope that there continues to be great specialty radio like Jerry Treacy at WFDU, Mary Tilson at KPFA, Cousin Kate at WZBC and all the great blues shows across the country and the new shows like Luke Church at WVTF Roanoke. I also thank all the internet operators who do all this for almost nothing and hope everyone keeps doing it so I have something to listen to.
What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
Every day great records find their way to my door, including the new Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Sam Bush, Sarah Jarosz, Valerie June, Paul Simon, Moreland & Arbuckle — it just doesn't get any better.
What inspires you or what keeps you going?
Learning something new about the music business everyday and knowing that I will at some point everyday have to join in conversation with my closest friends.
What are your most memorable experiences or memories from working in the music industry?
Working for Morris Levy and living to tell about it (only kidding, Moshe), breaking a lot of bands, and helping to make some hits along the way. As I am often heard to say, living the dream.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or interests you wish to share?
I am involved in not-for-profits that are trying to open a presidential center in Buffalo to commemorate the two presidents who came from here and the 33 presidents who have visited here, and also the Olmstead Conservancy that is trying to restore the original parks and parkway system that Frederick Olmstead designed for Buffalo.