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Americana Tonight! Weekly Showcase Lands Americana Radio Syndication Deal
Interview With Program Creator And Host Mark Wehner
By Doak Turner
(more articles from this author)
2005-10-17
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"Americana Tonight!" creator and host Mark Wehner knows what it's like to be an independent artist trying to make an impact in the Americana genre. He's been doing just that since arriving in Nashville nearly ten years ago following a 15-year career in radio. With two highly touted releases under his belt, All Those Friends Of Mine (self released 2000) and That's The Way That It Goes (Hayden's Ferry Records 2003), he felt there was something missing in Nashville for the format and its artists. Enter “Americana Tonight!,” a weekly showcase series recorded live for radio featuring not just Americana, but also drawing from the ranks of American Roots music, Progressive Folk, and Alternative-Country.

[Doak Turner] Mark, tell me about your show that your broadcast once a week in Nashville at The Sutler.

Mark Wehner Each show consists of five artists performing a short set before a very appreciative live audience, [which is] recorded for rebroadcast in order to share the evening with fans worldwide. The setting is The Sutler, a small club with a 30-year history of hosting many memorable shows in a town where memory sometimes has a short attention span. Since it's inception, well known artists like David Olney, The Waybacks, Joy Lynn White, Rosie Flores and the like have made appearances. Two Grand Ol' Opry regulars, David Ball and Elizabeth Cook, have shown off their rootsier sides.

There's been a bevy of performers touting records on the AMA chart, and even more who, despite an enormous amount of talent, are still looking for that first break. With “Americana Tonight!,” they have a chance to get a little closer. The show is music intensive, unlike many of its counterparts. There's no long winded interviews, no pet causes or shameless self-promotion. It's all about giving listeners time with what “Americana Tonight!” refers to as "The best music on the planet."

[Doak Turner] Mark, you just had an announcement about signing up “Americana Tonight!” with a radio network to syndicate the show from Nashville. How did that happen?

Mark Wehner A little sweat and a whole lot of luck. Martha Moore (So Much Moore Media, Nashville) is my publicist, and one of those on her list is Tim Johnston, the president and GM of Americana Radio Network. They were looking for something new and fresh so, Tim contacted me and we began discussing the possibilities. I sent them down a demo show and they loved it. There weren't any real stumbling blocks ... in fact, Tim really made the decision a no-brainer by taking the entire show, rather than an edited version, and then taking on the task of lining up affiliates. With their high-quality web streaming, we gained an added bonus.

[Doak Turner] On what site can we listen to your Saturday night shows on the web?

Mark Wehner It airs Saturday nights at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on www.americanaradio.com .

[Doak Turner] What are some of the special moments that have happened at your events?

Mark Wehner That's a hard one because we've certainly had our share of them. Most recently would be Ozark Mountain Daredevil member Supe Granda joining Rick Schell (Pinmonkey, Pure Prairie League) on stage for a rocking version of "If You Wanna Get To Heaven."

Some of the others are just as special ... when half of Dan Colehour's band was the Black Crowes ... or David Ball doing an acoustic band set ... former Allman Brother Johnny Neel hitting the ivories with The Skeeters ... John Cowan singing harmony with Michael Kelsh ... the list is endless. Of course, this is Nashville, so many bands are made up of fabulous players just along for the fun of it. See why it's impossible to pick a single defining moment?

[Doak Turner] How does a performer get in touch with you, and how are they selected for your show?

Mark Wehner Above and beyond everything else, a performer needs to be heads above the crowd. They don't need to be a household name (we've had plenty of performers direct from the ranks of the writers nights,) but they're generally someone who is actively pursuing their career. That means touring, promoting, releasing records and such.

One of the hardest things I have to do is turn someone down, but I always leave the door open because I know that just because someone isn't ready yet doesn't mean they won't be a year from now. You can be sure that if someone is playing “Americana Tonight!,” they're worthy of further inspection.

Submitting is easy. There's a page on the web site devoted to submissions (www.americanatonight.com), but the basics are a CD, a one sheet with a quick bio, press quotes and such on it, a photo, and a cover letter. I don't ask for the cover letter, but I'm always looking for it. That lets me know what level pro I'm dealing with. I won't review material via EPKs because that just chains me to my desk. I prefer listening while I drive. But the final be-all-end-all that determines whether someone is on the show is the music.

[Doak Turner] What future plans do you have for the “Americana Tonight!” show?

Mark Wehner The next steps for the show are tweaks. I'll be looking at some "Evening With ... " shows, either as part of the regular show or in a special edition capacity. I'll likely get into some promo compilation discs down the road, some spin off “Americana Tonight!” shows in other towns, and a direct push at European and Asian markets. They love Americana music overseas, and I'm going to try and open those doors for our artists, as well.

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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