Paul Slavens Has ‘High Hopes' for KERA's Music Station

A collective cheer arose from discerning audiophiles in the Dallas area when KERA announced last week that it bought another station -- 91.7 FM, a spot on the dial the broadcasting company plans to reserve for music only.

To recap, KERA released a statement that described  the format being planned under the umbrella of Adult Album Alternative -- "Triple A," as it's known in public radio; put in layman's terms, the kind of music you hear at Starbucks -- and named some syndicated programs that might end up on the station when it's settled in the fall, like NPR's World Café (recent artists featured include Deer Tick, Gomez, and Grizzly Bear).

A particularly exciting possibility for local music advocates reveling in the always-increasing national praise of the Denton-Dallas music scenes was unleashed on Unfair Park as Deborah Johnson, the senior vice president of marketing at KERA, said Paul Slavens' Track By Track podcast "points to the direction of the station in the future"  in an interview with the Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky. For those unfamiliar, the project is a bi-weekly feature Slavens deems an "album walk-through" during which DFWd-area artists talk about their new records as the songs play, with nothing but an introduction spoken by the host.

In a city like Austin, for instance, this kind of local-focused airplay is as common as sitting in traffic, thanks to the University of Texas-run 90.5 FM KUT, where you can hear Denton's Midlake or DFW ex-pats The Strange Boys on a random tune-in.  A local-aware radio station holds mind-blowing possibilities for DFWd musicians and fans who cling to Slavens' 90.1 At Night or The Good Show on 88.7 The Choice for a few hours of local support a week.

So we had to know immediately: has Slavens, also the host of KERA's 90.1 At Night, been briefed on his role at KERA's new station?

“I found out [about the new station] after the public did," Slavens told us before his regular Monday gig at Dan's Silverleaf. "People were calling me, going, 'Hey, man!' I was out kayaking.”

He knows nothing of specifics on the station's plans, he insisted repeatedly, while admitting that he, too, was thrilled with the news "at first blush." The radio host and longtime musician was slow to heroicize radio's presence in a scene, though. Five components, he said -- bands; open-minded, centralized clubs; tour-focused management; a music press with a strong street beat; and finally airplay -- must work together to motivate the other entities.

"It's great if you have a radio station that is tyin' that whole thing together," Slavens said. "They're pluggin the band, playin' in the club, and having the people from the media on the air talking about the bands that are playing, like, 'I got Robert Wilonsky with me this week talking about the five most exciting bands that he's seen in Dallas.' And you get those five things to where they're interrelated and they all feed off each other. And then you can get something happening.

"I just have high hopes that it can be a place where all of the creative energy of Dallas can converge to build everything up," Slavens, sporting a Baptist Generals t-shirt, said. "I think there are a lot of writers that are excited about it, a lot of bookers who are excited about it, musicians are excited about it, fans who are excited about it, because they see it as kind of a go-to place that could really do something exciting. But you know the bottom line is the bottom line. They [KERA] paid 18 million dollars for that station," Slavens said.

"So that means that Dallas has got to step up and see the value of supporting its music. And all of its music."

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