When I started on the Roddy Hart Show in April of 2012 as a mere radio wildling, I was nervous about what the future might hold. Having a radio show is an immense honour and privilege – beaming musical offerings into the homes of the canniest of individuals (i.e. you, my dear Radio Scotland devotee) quite the thrill – and when firing on all cylinders, it’s a hell of a lot of fun too. But with great (FM, MW online and on digital) power comes great responsibility, and I was all too aware that the show shouldn’t purely reflect my own personal tastes and preferences. How would it develop as the Thursdays galloped by? Working as a team – producer, presenter and listener – my hope was simply that we would craft a show about nothing more than great songs and great songwriters. From any geographical location, from any genre of music. But however the show might change and adapt as it spread its wings, I knew one immutable truth: Californian music had to written through it like a stick of rock.
And so it was with some trepidation that I first sat in a meeting with the show’s producers and nervously offered up a number of suggestions for features and tracks. Dylan would be there, yes; Sam Cooke, sure; no shying away from the classics; a definite devotion to all that was new and good in the Scottish music scene (from LAU to Frightened Rabbit and beyond); great cover versions and live performances; English folk (The Staves, Laura Marling); exotic offerings (Agnes Obel, Jonas Alaska) and so much more. In fact, wherever our nose would take us on the hunt for sublime music we would follow. We hussled and tussled over the minutiae, but it was clear we were on the same page. And then I offered up my thoughts on my love for Californian music, explaining just why it had been so important to my own life and career. I talked passionately about attending my first Jackson Browne concert as a 16 year old; about reading the lyrics for Joni Mitchell’s quite devastating “A Case of You” – after years of being subjected to terribly lazy chart music – with something approaching awe; about hearing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for the first time and realising just how important (and difficult) the art of harmony singing was. In short, I wanted them to know my love was a deal breaker.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. My passion for The Golden State and all its musical inhabitants was reciprocated with no questions asked, my producers regaling me with tales of the legends of Laurel Canyon as if they were mythical creatures. I knew the show was in safe hands. Y’see, music at its best is all about escapism, and in the Californian hills and hangouts, valleys and venues I had found my dreamland. To this day the mystery and intrigue remains, so far removed from my own existence that to try and put a finger on its heavenly allure would be almost impossible. And I know better than to question its otherworldliness.
So this week on the show, we have something of a mini Californian special. Record of Note comes from Dawes, who – along with Jonathan Wilson and Father John Misty – are heading the Laurel Canyon revival, our Undercover Writer is the aforementioned Ms Mitchell, and we are Live on Arrival with a rare performance from LA’s Grant Lee Buffalo. We will of course have the usual new and good from all corners of the musical globe too, but we’re in a Californian state of mind, so expect some laid back goings on. The place to be is BBC Radio Scotland this Thursday night at 10.05pm, dude.
Footnote: talking of other musical worlds, I’ll be in the chair for the final time this Friday night on Ricky Ross’ Another Country. It’s been great fun, and I intend to go out with a hiccup or two. Our theme is great country drinking songs, so expect a lock in of quite dizzying proportions (I’ll be on the water, mind you). That’s all kicking off at 8.05pm this Friday night.