Soul Music Podcast Pioneer: An interview with Suzy Chase
Suzy Chase is the creator of The Groove Radio, the #1 longest-running podcast dedicated to deep cuts of 80s soul, funk and R&B. We watched her spin at her monthly DJ residency at Trophy Bar in Williamsburg and chatted with her afterwards about her creative process and how music podcasting has changed since she posted her first playlist in 2003.
How you curate a set differently for your residency than for a podcast?
I use my residency to curate my playlist. I mix in the moment for the crowd, but I’m recording as I spin. That night’s set is what I release as the podcast, usually by the next day.
As a young girl growing up in Kansas, what inspired you to dig deeper into this often overlooked era of soul, funk and R&B?
My parents had jazz, my older brothers had classic rock, so I was exposed to a lot of different genres. But urban radio was what I naturally gravitated to – that was MY thing.
What was the chain of events that led you to podcasting?
I always loved radio more than TV. I was a communications major at the University of Kansas when I got a nightly on-air job playing love songs at KUDL and Lite 99.7FM, two mainstream adult contemporary radio stations. They played the popular stuff like Mariah Carey and Neil Diamond, but during my program, Cuddle at Night and Love Lite. I mixed in other artists, like Ambrosia, Heart, and Air Supply. They ended up offering me a full-time position, so I dropped out of school and took it. Eventually, I made my way to NYC and worked for some big record labels like Interscope and Jive. I always knew I wanted to get back to doing a radio show, my first love, but one where I had total autonomy… so when podcasting started up, I jumped in.
What was it like in the early days of podcasting?
There weren’t very many of us; it was mostly dudes, and me! I was one of the only females podcasting at that time and there weren’t any podcasts devoted solely to music. The musical niche that I represent is not one that’s accounted for, so I found it all fell into place pretty immediately. Today, my format is virtually identical except for one difference – back then, my podcasts consisted of 12 full-length songs, no mixing. So obviously, that’s changed.
From your perspective, as someone who’s been podcasting almost from its start, what else has changed about the medium in general?
Most podcasting today is “on demand” corporate playback, like NPR; it’s just the recording and posting of content. The type of podcasting I do is more involved because I’m researching, evaluating & selectively curating what I release for my audience. Only recently did I repurpose a playlist for the first time ever.
Your audience for The Groove Radio spans the globe. Where are your major fan hubs?
Mostly Europe. Paris and Sweden are big ones. There’s also a big audience in China – they love it!
How do you continue to excavate rare finds?
Definitely not Spotify; they don’t stream the stuff I’m looking for. I mostly scour SoundCloud. Kids are doing all kinds of crazy re-edits of rare tunes, so it’s a great source. I keep all of my albums as MP3s on my phone for easy access at all times.
Do you have a “holy grail” artist or song that you’re constantly on the lookout for, but haven’t been able to find yet?
Yes! It’s an early 80s funk/soul group called Amusement Park; they were similar to a group called Troop.
What’s the main component of 80s soul/funk/R&B that you feel might be missing in current dance music?
Popular dance music has become very robotic; it lacks an emotional connection. The songs I play feature live musicians, a hook and a melody. By featuring this music, I’m trying to connect with a younger audience to show them that there’s more than EDM. At the same time, I’m tapping into nostalgia for older listeners who may recall when these songs were on the radio. I love it when someone comes up to me during my set and says, “I totally remember this song, you’re taking me back right now!” My goal is to expand an appreciation & awareness for this music.
Photos: Suzy Chase
For further information about The Groove Radio and future events visit here.