W.B. Walker lives in the small mountain community of Dingess, West Virginia, and he is also a freight train conductor. His podcasts are very popular and uniquely brilliant! And he knows how to use social networks to promote his shows.
Bill Frater: Where and when did you start in radio?
W.B. Walker: I started doing my online radio show, called W.B. Walker's Old Soul Radio Show, in June 2012. In May 2013 I changed the format up some and submitted it to iTunes as a podcast. I have been in and around radio for most of my life. My mother did numerous live events and advertisements for Coal Country 96.5 WXCC. I have had numerous opportunities to work for local stations and such. But myself, I kinda like the freedom of being able to be myself without being censored. So it's probably best that I just stick to train conductin’, which is my day job.
How do you describe your show?
My show is sorta like a showcase. When I do a regular show (no live music, interviews, etc.) I always feature the latest albums from three musicians. I go back and forth between the three in hopes of turning folks on to the music I played on the show. I kindly think it gives the artist exposure, and gives the listener a great chance to find something they like, that sticks out to them, instead of just playing one song per artist per show.
How do you prepare for your shows?
There is only one rule with my podcast: I won't play anything for my listeners that I wouldn't want to listen to myself. It's pretty simple. Once I pick out the albums I will be featuring, I go through the music and pick out four songs per album that I want to feature, the four songs that really stick out to me. Then usually I drink some beer, shoot some whiskey, just whatever I feel like a-doin’. Then once I start feelin’ good, then it’s showtime!
How much new releases and independent artists do you play?
I try to play the latest release from the artist that I am featuring. Sometimes their latest release may be 4 or 5 years old, depending on how active an artist has been from the time I myself heard about them, but I always try to feature the album they are in support of. Sometimes I do "special" shows where I change the format up and do more of a traditional style radio show. On these shows I play a lot of deeper cuts and such from back catalogs. Ninety-five percent of the time the music I feature is from independent artists who are trying to get their names out there. Real artists, real music, that's what it's all about.
What was the first artist or album that got you into roots music?
The first musician that got me into the whole "Americana" or whatever-you-wanna-call-'er thing is Chris Knight. I was born in Pike County, Kentucky, so hearing him sing about my home on "Hard Candy" truly changed my life. It showed me there is so much good music out there that doesn't get a fair shake on today's country radio.
Who are your favorite artists from any genre?
Hank Williams, Roger Miller, Townes Van Zandt, Nirvana ... hell, I could go on all day. I think Americana is a term that was created to call what is truly country, country. Since 90% of music on country radio, well, isn't country.
Where do you see radio going in the future?
I think radio in general (FM, AM, XM) is a dying breed. People nowadays just wanna put 'er on Pandora, or whatever, and let 'er go. It's the times we live in, man! Most people are all about simplicity. It's sad. It's defintely going to be interesting to see how outlets like NPR and such fare with all the budget cuts and etc.
What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, Justin Wells, The Local Honeys, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. Hell, once again, I could go on all day. Colter Wall has a album that Dave Cobb produced that will be out in May. I'm really looking forward to that one.
What are your most memorable experiences from working in the music industry?
Getting to stand on the stage at The Ryman when Colter Wall made his Ryman debut. Now that was special. Hell, when I was walking in, ol' Buddy Miller opened the door for me! That is a day I will never forget as long as I live.
What inspires you or what keeps you going?
The fans, man! The people that let me know what a certain artist or whatever means to them. Nothing like 'er, brother, nothing like 'er.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a good husband, a good father. As a man who really was passionate about music and done as much as he could to help 'er get heard. Hell, that'd be fine with me if that's how I was remembered.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or anything else you wish to share?
In my spare time, when I'm not working for the railroad, I love spending time with my family. Watching my boys grow. When I do get the chance to do stuff for me, I guess ya'd say, I love drinking beer and listening to records in my bar. Nothing like dropping the needle on a record from 50, 60 years ago. I always think about the stories them old records could tell if they could talk. I guarantee they would be a whole lot more interesting to interview than me!