The Rapidian

New WYCE station manager looks to bring cohesive sound to a world of music

Quinn Mathews is excited to be a music community ambassador and support local musicians through WYCE.
Quinn Mathews at the WYCE studios

Quinn Mathews at the WYCE studios /Kiran Sood Patel

GR Live

GR Live is a live radio program happening every Thursday at noon in downtown Grand Rapids and broadcast live over the air on WYCE 88.1 FM. The show is hosted by Quinn Mathews and features live music from groups playing in Grand Rapids and interviews with people involved in our regional music community. Listeners learn about music events happening in and around the city while being able to relax and enjoy the performances. GR Live began on Thursday, April 28 and will continue weekly until September 1st.

The event is free and you are encouraged to attend.

The series takes place at H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment) inside The B.O.B.

Quinn Mathews, part of the folk duo, Channing and Quinn, and radio host of GR Live is excited to bring his love of music to his new job as Station Manager at WYCE 88.1 FM.

“I see this as being a music community ambassador through a radio station. Obviously, I’m running a radio station, but it’s so much more because the organization is the Community Media Center," Mathews said.

He grew up in North Carolina and pursued music with his wife, Channing Lee, in Nashville, Tennessee right out of college. Lee and Mathews decided to move to Michigan two years ago after collaborating with another local musician, Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe.

“In 2010, we quit working in Nashville and just toured the country playing, and we released a couple albums and toured around. We met Brian in a show in New York and he said, ‘Have you ever played in Grand Rapids?’ We chatted about Michigan and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to Michigan and you can play a show with me and back me up and then play a few songs.’ And we came here and played an awesome show with him, probably 2010 in Bay City,” Mathews said. “We hung around the city and went to Founders and coffee shops and thought, ‘Hey, this is kinda a cool community’ and played the concert with him and came back six months later do to it again.”

Mathews says that’s when they really got to know the community of Grand Rapids because they went to other shows and met other bands like The Crane Wives and Vox Vidorra.

“Grand Rapids is so inviting and welcoming, with the musicians and the fans of music going out to support the musicians. You don’t find that everywhere. Touring is fun and seeing a ton of different cities is fun, but all the musicians, we all know which cities you don’t have crowds at your show, where you don’t sell much merchandise. This seemed like an area where people went out, number one, because they wanted to hear the music, but number two, honestly, just to support the music. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever,” Mathews said.

Mathews looks forward to propelling Grand Rapids’ enthusiasm for its music scene into the future of WYCE.

“My biggest thing that I wanted to do, why I started this GR Live, is we’re on the radio, and we’ve basically got a band that will be playing that weekend, we have them Thursday at lunchtime to play a song or two to chat with them about their show to try and get an audience to understand what musicians go through.”

“I’d like that same concept to be what I do for WYCE now. I really want to just move into that role as station manager as really ‘What can we do for our local music community?’”

Mathews said the best thing he hears about WYCE is people discovering new music.  

“People will say something like, ‘I wasn’t a fan of jazz, but this one guy played these jazz songs that I actually like and I went last night downtown to hear someone play jazz.’ That’s awesome.”

Mathews notes that WYCE has a long, loved history in the community as showcasing ‘a world or music’ for Grand Rapids and he wants to bring more cohesion to the sound for people listening on the radio.

“The biggest complaint I’ll hear about WYCE is people being like, ‘Man, I turn that on one day and it’s the craziest sound and then the next song is what? What are you guys doing over there?’ Which I understand. But there’s a way to take the listener on a ride if you do it the right way,” he said. “These guys that have been doing it for 20 years, it’s amazing to listen to them because they can say, ‘The saxophone player on that song, he played in so-and-so’s band and so I’ll play a track from that now. And I listen to that and that’s golden. It’s got great flow.”

To bring some cohesion of the sound of WYCE while still playing all types of genres, Mathews anticipates having more special programs that feature certain genres, like the long-running “El Mundo Musical” or the newer Grand Rapids Soul Club Radio.

Mathews said, “We can have certain times of day where we have certain programming...and just like with our general programming that’s a way to do it that’s an art form to take the listener through all those genres to where you may not even realize in a 30-minute period of time what you’ve listened to genre-wise, but you know you’ve heard great music.”

Another step Mathews is taking to bring cohesion to WYCE’s sound is starting with getting everyone together.

“People don’t know each other because they might do a show on a Monday at 3 p.m. and someone else does a show at Thursday at 11 p.m. and they’ve never seen each other and they don’t even know each other’s show. So step one is just a casual thing where we chat and have fun,” he said.

Mathews also plans to hold some retraining classes to get all the programmers on the same page.

“There’s people, if they’ve been doing a show for 20 years, they were trained in 1996 and then there’s someone that just started last week and they were trained in 2016. That’s a big gap difference on what radio was in 1996 and what radio is in 2016,” Mathews said.

Mathews looks forward to diving even further into Grand Rapids’ musical scene after living here as a musician and WYCE programmer for the last two years.

Mathews noted, “I’m really excited and I’ve got some ideas, but I’m excited to listen and learn from the folks that have been around here for awhile and they can help me take this station down the path that it needs to go. It’s a privilege to be on the air in the generation where there’s podcasts and you can record and edit on your home computer and curate your own show that sounds like perfection. This is a live thing that happens on the air, it’s a microphone and it’s a board where we put music out on the airwaves. Anyone is able to stream from anywhere in the world what we’re doing in that one little studio here across the river. It’s amazing!”

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