Art on the Airwaves: Ryan King and Handsome, Well-Dressed Radio

Driving around the wilds of Storrs, Connecticut on Thursday mornings from 9-10 can yield unexpected pleasures. Tired of the endless commercial breaks on corporate radio, you fiddle with the radio dial and suddenly your ears perk up at the sounds of Cab Calloway cascading into poems or short stories finally eddying into interviews with artists. It’s intellectually stimulating radio, but not the NPR soul-deadening variety.

What you’re hearing is Ryan King’s Handsome, Well-Dressed Radio on WHUS 91.7 (also available around this earth on web stream). It’s an exciting new venture that will explore all kinds of creative writing percolating in the Connecticut region. After taking part in one of Ryan’s shows, I was curious about how it came into being and the challenges and rewards of transmitting creative writing from the page to airwaves. If you’re interesting vist the show’s blog where you can read Ryan’s thoughts on art and listen to podcasts of previous episodes:

 Jared: How long have you been doing Handsome, Well Dressed Radio?

Ryan: Handsome, Well-Dressed Radio has existed as a radio show for a mere four weeks and as an idea in my mind for an even shorter period because I didn’t really process what was going on until around week two.

Jared: What inspired you to do the show?

Ryan: It was birthed by accident, as a roughly 40% of things in the world are: it was partially a desire to bring the surrounding arts into the radio format. The other part of inspiration is of unknown origin, possibly conceived in a daydream or overheard in passing conversation.

Jared: A related question: what are your ultimate goals for the program?

Ryan: I’d like to see the program become well produced and increasingly alluring in nature, offering topics that would be more insightful than every-day conversation but less mind-consuming that your standard lecture.

Jared: How did you come up with the name?

Ryan: I was in a folk band in high school called “Handsome, Well-Dressed Folk” or something like that, which died a terrible death as most high school folk bands do, and all I was left with was a name and an unexplained urge to do radio.

Jared: I know we talked about this, but could you explain how swing music got to be a part of the show?

Ryan: It gives a classy vibe to even the grittiest of subjects, but furthermore, it captures the audience’s atttention at the start and then leaves things off on a good note when the show closes. Also, most of the music I play on the show is within the public domain, so I won’t find a cease and desist on my doorstep after I release a podcast or two.

Jared: What are some of the rewards/challenges of bringing creative writing to the radio format? Does radio change how we perceive the writings?

Ryan: As for rewards, there’s no cash flow, so it immediately eliminates any capitalist incentives, putting us at a pretty honest place to start. Challenges include producing a show concurrent to being a full-time student, intern, and having a part-time job, arranging content so it’s captivating to an audience that is either used to a more refined product or not accustomed to radio-literature in the slightest. I think that while paying close attention to something being read to you might prove challenging to one’s attention span, if presented in an engaging manner using sound and editing to the producer’s advantage, it can be an effective way of garnering an audience.

Jared: How long does it take to plan a show?

Ryan: Planning a show is a constant process of writing ideas down, losing the paper where you wrote those ideas, salvaging what you remember in your brain, using those salvaged memories to ask questions based off an overarching theme, scrapping that overarching theme when the answers take a different departure than expected, and then crafting it into a semi-functioning radio show.

Jared: Do you have a sense of how many listeners are out there?

Ryan: As for those listening on the FM band, we’ll never know, though in theory, anyone living soul within 60 miles could be listening. The weekly online streaming average ranges between 20-30 listeners, which will probably fluctuate as people either become disenchanted or enraptured by the show.

Jared: How do you find out about your featured writers?

Ryan: I am fortunate to have many references given to my lowly intern self by my supervisors in the Creative Writing Department.

Jared: Any big plans for the future?

Ryan: Survival is among the top priorities. Other lofty goals include finding out what exactly poetry is and kicking the habitual coffee breaks.