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What's Up Magazine

Music Without Limitations

Mar 05, 2015 04:00PM ● By Melissa Lauren
Alex Cortright joins 89.7FM Radio for Music People, an NPR station, playing music without limitations. Van Meter’s album release is this Saturday. Through talking with this talent I noticed a theme – Van Meter does not place any limits on her progress and that is why she will continue to go far. Both Cortright and Van Meter are passionate about playing music without limitations.

Fifteen Minutes With
ALEX CORTRIGHT: Local Celebrity and Radio Personality


WRNR’S Loss is WTMD’s gain – local treasure Alex Cortright joins 89.7 FM Radio for Music People, an NPR station. We sit down for an exclusive interview with the morning show man, musicologist, and music mixologist extraordinaire. You can listen to Alex on the dial, online at Wtmd.org  or with the free WTMD App for your smart device Monday through Friday 6 – 10 a.m.

Which features are different at WTMD that you’re able to do now on public radio that you didn’t have the opportunity to do in commercial radio?

One of the most prominent things is the business model is very different. I’m not having to sit through long commercial stopsets, which is pretty great. It is a blank canvas and I’m beginning to add features and shape the show. The people I work with are terrific and they get what I do and what I want to do. I will leave it like this, expect some cool things coming up soon.

Are you allowed to discuss why things ended at RNR or why you made the transition to public radio?

Honestly, there’s not much to be said. I think RNR wanted to make a change and they have every right to do so and that was it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to do radio here in the area at TMD with a great bunch of people. I’m really excited for this year!

Which components are necessary for a piece of music to make it compelling?

All music is controlled sound. It could be a virtuoso on a piano or any other instrument, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an instrument. It could be an interesting avant garde artist from Baltimore banging two bones together and then manipulating that sound with a computer. Duke Ellington observed, “If it sounds good, it is good.” It’s really that simple. Music can come from anywhere.

It’s great that you’re providing a platform where listeners don’t have to do all the digging and they have WTMD as a resource to discover new music on Radio for Music People. That’s how 89.7 FM branded itself and it truly is for music people.

It truly is. I think one of our jobs as radio personalities, radio programmers is to provide a filter because there is so much. It seems to be multiplying not only with music but with pop culture, in general. Pop culture is so broad and so big and it’s the same way with music. It’s really incumbent upon us to make the best choices, highlight and feature talent regardless of where they come from. It doesn’t’ matter if they’re on a label or not. If it sounds good, it is good and we want to put it on the air.

You can find the full, unabridged interview online here. Learn about Alex’s early radio and music influences, his favorite and most unusual interactions with Lou Reed, Robert Plant, and the Davids (Bowie and Byrne). The print version of the interview is available in this month’s issue of What’s Up? Annapolis magazine.

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Fun Factoid: Melissa Lauren, What’s Up? Media’s Community and Resource Editor played Van Meter’s song, The Habit on her specialty show, Good Morning Music while on-air at 89.7 FM WTMD. Van Meter wrote The Habit when she was just 18 years old! ________________________________

Fifteen Minutes With
VAN METER: Local Roots Musician


Van Meter is a skilled storyteller with hand-crafted lyrics that dance in time with her bold guitar playing and pair nicely with captivating gritty bittersweet vocals. Jennifer Van Meter has received airplay on radio stations including 89.7FM WTMD as well as opened for national artists including The Lone Bellow, Lissie, and Robyn Hitchcock to name a few. You may have even seen her perform at Eastport a Rockin’. Van Meter’s album release show for Fossil is Saturday, March 7th at 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar & Gallery in Annapolis at 8 p.m. (Show requires reservations, which can be made by calling 410-626-9796). We talked music before the show. Through talking with this talent I noticed a theme – Van Meter does not place any limits on her progress and that is why she will continue to go far.

Photo Credit: Sarah Kimble Photography

When did you first get hooked on music?

Ever since I can remember, music has been a big deal in my world, mainly Country growing up. It wasn’t until I started taking guitar lessons that I learned about Zeppellin, Floyd, and Clapton. What an awakening that was! 

What kind of training did you receive as a musician? When did you first start playing guitar?

I began with the clarinet in the 4th grade transitioning to the bass guitar in 8th grade and then back to the clarinet in high school. I started guitar lessons at fourteen and guitar class in high school. My uncle played. He handed me a guitar after seeing my interest and showed me a few chords. I got a Stratpack for Christmas and really got to rocking! I attended East Tennessee State with a focus on Bluegrass music. There, I took guitar and mandolin lessons, and a songwriting course instructed by the well-respected Ed Snodderly.

Fossil album cover artwork by Jeff Huntington (mixed media).

Jeff Huntington is a local visual artist who has shown in New York City. He did the beautiful portrait on the cover of your album. How did you swing that?

I asked him. Fortunately, he said yes and now I’ve got this incredible album cover! I was floored when I saw the end result. He is such a talent!

What is your production process?

I write the song usually on an acoustic guitar, record it myself, add electric guitar parts, dig for a beat, find some percussion, send it to the musicians so they know the form, and we record it live. Occasionally, the format of the tune changes. I’m very open-minded and trust all the musicians that bring these songs to life. The rhythm, key or tempo could change. There are a couple songs we’ve recorded in different ways and I think that’s okay. Songs evolve.

How do you choose the songs on the album? Are there any leftovers that don’t make it?

It’s tough to trim down. I had about four songs that we left off of ‘Fossil’. They can still be heard at my shows. I’m sure we will release them eventually. 

I know you’re a Lucinda Williams fan. Which other musicians have inspired you?

Kasey Chambers! I also love Kathleen Edwards, Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke, and Neko Case.

You have performed shows at ConcertWindow.com recently. How does it work? (This Saturday’s performance at 8 p.m. Eastern Time is available for viewing at ConcertWindow.com - https://www.concertwindow.com/2960-van-meter 

It’s so neat! As an artist, you set up a show through the website. Set a date, time, and what you would like to charge for the show. I generally select the “pay what you want” option. During the show, attendees can chime in and make requests. I have friends and fans that don’t live in this area and it’s a great way for them to attend a show. It’s a great way to discover new music and see live music!

You teach guitar. What advice do you give your students?

Stay in school. Don’t get discouraged and practice a little each day – it’ll come.

What is your songwriting process?

I wish I had the time to write every day, but I don’t. However, I am constantly seeing inspiration – in people, while at work, while driving, at gigs, while listening to music, walking the dog, while reading, etc. Sometimes ideas hit me at inopportune times. The voice memo app on my phone comes in handy.

Where can people hear you play and get your music?

I perform regularly at the 1747 Pub and Metropolitan. My website Vanmetermusic.com has more information and people can sign up for my mailing list and follow me on BandsInTown and Twitter. Music is available on iTunes, CDBaby, Rhapsody, and Amazon.

What’s Up? Media’s Community & Resource Editor and former WRNR and WTMD DJ, Melissa Lauren writes the weekly What’s Up? Events Blog and E-Newsletter every Thursday. To subscribe visit WhatsUpMag.com  To view more events taking place this weekend, please browse our Online Calendar at whatsupmag.com/calendar  Be sure to Follow What’s Up? on Twitter  Instagram, and Like Us on Facebook  For coverage of your community event, please send press releases to mlauren@whatsupmag.com