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Browns Point Radio refines sound of independent airwaves
The bay sparkled in the light of the setting sun. In the distance, a sailboat bobbed in the water — and the Browns Point lighthouse looked like a hazy speck on the water’s edge.
This setting served as the background July 7 for Federal Way resident Doug Deems’ weekly radio show, “Underground Spring.” The segment is recorded weekly in Ken Moultrie’s home in Northeast Tacoma. Moultrie is the station director and key financier of Browns Point Radio, a community radio station.
“It’s important for radio stations to focus on what goes between the songs to be unique and special these days,” Moultrie said. “In our case, it’s local content.”
The station has been available online for more than a year, but the studio Deems broadcasts from is about six months old. The station plays a mix of modern indie music. It spices things up with local guests and news between the tunes. It operates under Federal Communications Commission regulations for low-power broadcasting and pays music licensing fees, but is not corporately owned.
“We don’t have format directives and ratings goals,” Moultrie said. “We don’t answer to investors. We base all programming decisions on what we think is of interest to the community.”
Political commentary, old time radio, classics from the 1960s and 1970s, jazz and country are all special programs heard on Browns Point Radio, AM 1700. The content includes public service announcements and emergency news updates. It also embraces small-time artists and features them on programs like Deems’ show.
On this evening the studio held the faint smell of new carpet. During the hour-long interview and jam session, Deems and his guest, Jerin Falkner of Seattle, sat down to chat about accomplishments, love, sex, the 1970s and songwriting.
Falkner, 25, began writing music at age 12 and started playing guitar the following year. Dressed in a long, oatmeal-colored sweater and mary-jane kitten heels, her long brunette hair flowing past her shoulders and her face void of excessive make-up, she fits the portrait of a Seattle artist.
In studio, she spoofed once trendy pop acts Britney Spears and TLC. She sang about former wrestler Hulk Hogan and adult film star Ron Jeremy. Her lyrics explore the hardships of blind dating and cheating boyfriends. Between songs, Deems prompted her along, pulling her into conversations about dating etiquette and traditions.
Deems finds guests for his show, which is not recorded live, through networking Web sites and personal contacts.
“It turns out that Tacoma and the South Sound area have a strong contingency of very good and original artists,” he said.
Deems has been in the music business since he wrote his first song in 1970, at age 23. He grew up in White Center in the 1950s. His experiences are illustrated through his music, which he calls White Center style blues. His young adult years were spent deliberating the rights and wrongs of sexual freedom in the 1970s and exploring a raw passion for music.
“I just grew up a ham,” Deems said. “It’s in my genetic make-up.”
He served in the Vietnam War and speaks his mind. His attire on this night — a white button-down shirt, black slacks, shining boots and hat with a ribbon around its breadth — paired with his quick tongue, at times mirrored personalities such as Larry King. He’s been a musician for more than 40 years and knows a thing or two about the business.
“You can’t make a living as a songwriter,” Deems said. “Some do; they win the lottery and make it, but most of us have day jobs.”
Deems is no exception. He operates a thrift store that sells secondhand medical supplies, such as wheelchairs, in Federal Way. His music has always been a priority.
“No matter what I was doing, that was funding my poetry and my family,” Deems said. “I didn’t sell out to the grind and leave my poetry behind somewhere.”
Deems has hosted the “Underground Spring” segment for about one year. It was originally heard on “Tune-In Seattle,” another of station director Ken Moultrie’s radio endeavors. The show will soon primarily air on Browns Point Radio at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Offering Deems’ show and others on Browns Point Radio requires many hours of planning and editing, but the work is worth it to Moultrie.
“This is my passion, my hobby, my love,” he said. “I don’t play golf.”
Contact Jacinda Howard: firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 925-5565
Check it out:
Tune into Browns Point Radio at 1700 AM or online at brownspointradio.com. Hear Deems’ music and interview with Jerin Falkner at 11 a.m. July 13.