I've seen Bill DeVille around the "halls" of the Americana Music Conference for a number of years. I finally struck up a conversation with him and immediately knew he was a kindred radio and music junkie.
Bill Frater: Where and when did you start in radio? What other stations have you worked at?
Bill DeVille: I started at a country station in South Dakota back in the '80s. I also worked at the Triple-A station Cities97 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul [area] for [about] 11 years. Then I was a “music research specialist” for Media Base.
Where do you work now?
I joined The Current in the Twin Cities when they signed on in 2005 and have been here ever since. I am a weekend host, night and fill-in host. I have also hosted my specialty show, United States of Americana, Sundays, 8 - 10 a.m., for the past seven years.
How do you describe your show?
The Current was founded to bring a younger demographic to Minnesota Public Radio, so the playlist reflects that. We blend local music, hip-hop, and indie rock, and play the artists that influenced it. United States of Americana, my Sunday morning show, features the "rootsier side of The Current." The show features new Americana along with folk, bluegrass, alt-country, and more, along with the music that influenced it. The USofA also touches on historical dates and local Americana concerts in and around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
How do you prepare for your shows? Do you have theme shows or sets, or spotlight certain artists?
I spend an hour or more scheduling music for any of my shifts. Themes, cool segues, and history highlights are always stuff that I touch on.
How many new releases and independent artists do you play?
The Current plays about seven newer releases an hour. We probably play a couple songs an hour from the '80s or older. We play a bunch of independent artists. United States of Americana plays about 60 percent new stuff.
What was the first artist or album that got you into roots music?
The Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin -- a record store clerk turned me onto it, when I was buying stuff like the Long Ryders, Rank and File, and Jason & the Scorchers.
Who are your favorite artists from any genre?
Let’s start with the Clash & Johnny Cash! I am a big fan of Americana artists like Sturgill Simpson, Justin Townes Earle, and Lucinda Williams. I also love local artists like Frankie Lee and the Cactus Blossoms.
How do you define Americana music?
To me, Americana is music is rooted in folk and country, and sometimes the blues.
Where do you see Americana radio, or radio in general, going in the future?
Just read that Americana outsold country last week. I am optimistic about American radio and its future. As for radio in general, I’m not so sure. Ask somebody under 25 how much they listen to the radio.
What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
I am excited about Margo Price. She is playing my United States of Americana birthday show in a few days. I am also excited about new album from Jamestown Revival, Chelle Rose, Brent Cobb, and the Walcotts.
What inspires you or what keeps you going?
I’ve been a radio geek all of my adult life. It’s all I know and I still love it! I am lucky to be employed at Minnesota Public Radio.
What are your most memorable experiences or memories from working in the music industry?
One experience I won’t forget is broadcasting live from Austin City Limits Festival in 2005, in 105+ degree temps. We also had to have an evacuation plan in effect due to the nasty weather and threat of Hurricane Rita. Also, the many interviews from the unknown [artists] to Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, and Robert Plant.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or interests, or anything else you wish to share?
I dig music, a nice hat, a good martini, running, and the Green Bay Packers.