We’re Liam and Gaz, and we’ve known each other for the last 20 years. Back in 2009, Liam was one of the founders of the Blues Kitchen venue in London. When the venue launched, we both started DJing every weekend, and starting a radio show seemed like the next logical place to take things. Our entire lives have been spent going to shows, buying records, and obsessing about music.
The best blues, soul, and roots music from the last 100 years. That keeps things pretty wide open for us! In the same show, you might hear 1920s Delta blues next to a contemporary soul or country release. Listeners are just as likely to hear undiscovered gems as an all-time classic rock ‘n’ roll record.
Liam: A very dear friend of ours suggested we put together a blues-and-soul radio show, as no one was really doing it at the time. Hundreds of people were dancing to the records we were playing at The Blues Kitchen in Camden on Saturday nights, so we figured we had an audience for a radio show online. I’ve always booked musicians from Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas to play in the venues, so the show also became a way to shine a light on some amazing yet criminally under-represented artists.
Gareth: We just wanted the show to feel like our listeners were hanging out with us. It was as simple as sharing our musical discoveries with an audience of people that we figured would take as much pleasure from these records as we do. Our listeners are really great at getting in touch and recommending music—more often than not, listeners are actually turning us on to new discoveries that make up part of the playlist.
Gareth: Recently, we’ve been discovering loads of music in film and TV soundtracks—the last year obviously hasn’t been good for club and gigs so we’ve had to dig elsewhere!
Liam: To be completely honest, it’s just living and breathing this stuff 24/7. For both of us, it’s been a lifetime of buying records, going to shows, hanging out with musicians, and travelling around the States. I’ve spent most of my adult life booking the artists that play at the Blues Kitchen venues. I’ve got to say, though, when you start digging a little deeper, some of the old blues and soul musicians have the best stories. For me, that’s totally part of the romance. I live for that stuff. Some of the artists we play on the show were cutting these records 100 years ago, in a totally different time with different equipment and very different attitudes.
Gareth: Although we’ve only been on Spotify since November, Liam and I have actually been making radio shows together now for about a decade. There’s very little editing to do—not because we are particularly professional, we just don’t want to fuss with the edit too much. We record in a home studio, so really it’s just about capturing a natural conversation. To be honest, the very same conversation we’d be having whether the microphone was on or not! We want people to feel welcome in our little musical bubble, and we’ve never felt the need to iron out too many creases.
Liam: As many people as humanly possible! That attitude really comes from our approach to The Blues Kitchen venues… If you put Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” on at 1 a.m. in a busy club, everyone will dance. They might not know the name of the song, or even the name of the artist, but it gets people moving every single time. The music we play is timeless. In some cases, people have been listening to these records for 60 or 70 years, and that sure as hell ain’t going to change any time soon! All of that said, though, I really like the idea of signposting young people toward the artists we play. I suppose you could say that we’re just helping preserve this music for future generations to come.
When a listener puts on this show, I hope they feel that this is THEIR show. I want it to feel like a homecoming of warmth and nostalgia, but also as something new and exciting. I hope it’s a way for music fans to learn, connect, and celebrate.
Liam: Recording shows in front of a live audience has been a lovely way to engage with our audience. About twice a year—when we’re not in a pandemic—we make 100 tickets available for a live show at The Blues Kitchen in [London’s] Shoreditch. We invite all the attendees to bring their own records and essentially curate the playlist for us in real time. We obviously have no idea what’s coming, so we’re flying by the seat of our pants, but it’s brilliant for us to be introduced to new music and hear the listener’s stories. We’ll ask them to speak on mic about what a particular song means to them and more often than not, there’s a funny story somewhere down the line.
Gareth: Sharing the show on Instagram Stories has been massive for us this last six months. Contemporary artists and guests on the show always share an episode when we feature their music. We’re lucky to have the Blues Kitchen Instagram account, which helps us to reach a huge audience of music lovers—and we also have a YouTube channel that runs alongside the Spotify show.
Gareth: To be honest, just be genuine and start for the right reasons. Make sure you really know your subject and try to find something that no one else is doing. Find a little niche to fill, get a couple of mics with your best mate, and away you go.
Liam: It’s also about practice and routine. As we said before, we’ve been doing this every week for a decade, so we’ve found our groove. There’s a real structure to our week: building up a playlist, doing research, sifting through emails from music publicists and listeners, arranging and hosting interviews with guests, recording and editing the show. It’s a lifestyle thing for us, though; we’d probably be doing all of that even if we weren’t recording a show each week!
Liam: The last year has been rough, and life has been turned upside down for most of the musicians we know. We’re just looking forward to getting out to gigs again, standing in front of a band with the amps cranked, and really feeling it. When the world isn’t dealing with a deadly virus, we’d be at three or four shows a week, hosting interviews, and recording live sessions, so we’re dying to get going again.
Gareth: Using Anchor to produce the show has given us a real insight into how we can help artists early on in their careers. We now know exactly how many streams an artist has gained after being played on The Blues Kitchen Radio—it’s such a pleasure to give new talent a little boost by playing them on the show.f
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The opinions expressed above are those of the interviewees and not Anchor or Spotify.