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Morning Becomes Eclectic 30th Anniversary Interviews: Anne Litt

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They say it's who you know. They also say, you have to be at the right place at the right time. For many KCRW DJs the "who" to know is Chris Douridas and the right place is standing next to him.

A chance meeting at a party with the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic, set Anne Litt down a path that would eventually lead to her hosting "Weekend Becomes Eclectic."

Now the host of "The A-Track" (Saturdays & Sundays, 3pm-5pm), which evolved from WBE, Litt took some time out to answer a few questions during this 30th anniversary week of MBE. She gives us a little bit on quality problems, sailing and world capitals.

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LAist: You host The A Track, which evolved from Weekend Becomes Eclectic. How are the two shows different and how are they similar? Also, tell us about how WBE compared to MBE.

Litt: When we initially launched the music channel on KCRW.com, I was on five days a week, so it really didn’t make sense to call it Weekend Becomes Eclectic.

But the content hasn’t changed at all -- I still love to play a mix of the newest tracks and some of my old favorites. I continue to cross genres and find the thread that connects eras and musical styles.

The A-Track takes the same spirit of the eclectic format and tailors it for a weekend audience. It’s probably a little more pop than MBE because people are looking for a different musical experience during afternoons on the weekend than they are at 10am on a Tuesday. Also we have different musical touchstones that inform our shows.

LAist: By definition, MBE and WBE give a DJ wide latitude as to what they can play. Did you ever find it to be too wide? Too narrow?

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Litt: It’s never too narrow. If it’s too wide, that’s a problem of abundance. The only mandate at KCRW is to play what you love, so I often have too many things to choose from.

At the end of my show, I always have stacks of records I haven’t gotten to yet. I want to play everything and there is a finite amount of time. It’s the best kind of problem. Especially coming from someone who worked in commercial radio.

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LAist: KCRW and MBE in particular are well known for giving new and unsigned artists their first airplay. Of those who you've debuted, which was your favorite (whether or not they were everyone else's fave)?

Litt: Let’s Go Sailing was a great discovery. I listened to them for the first time because I’m actually a sailor and I thought the name and the package itself were cute.

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I listened to the demo and the first track was “All I Want From You Is Love.” I heard that song and I thought, ‘oh my god, this is incredible.’ It was one of those beautiful things where I listened to it and the very next day I played in on the radio. A lot of people called and asked about it. I got in touch with the artist and it ended up we had a lot of the same friends.

I get so much music in the mail and I want to give everything its proper respect and it’s one of those great situations where I connected with it the first time I put it on.

LAist: The New York Times referred to KCRW and MBE in particular as a "purveyor of semipopular music." How do you fit (or not fit) this description?

Litt: That title sounds so pretentious, but really all we are doing is trying to unearth a great piece of music that might not get heard otherwise. There are so many incredible artists who will never get heard on pop radio and the gift of KCRW, is that we have the opportunity to play them. To me they ARE popular music. They are what popular music should be.

LAist: MBE started out as a local show on a terrestrial radio station in Los Angeles. Would it have been as important or influential in any other city, small or large? Is the listening audience as important or influential as the show?

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Litt: The audience is important to me because they want to be challenged. They are as hungry as we DJs are for something new and brilliant. I feel challenged by the audience every time I go on the air to give them something that is going to make them sit in the car and wait for the song to be over before they get out. I think of the audience as a character in this play I’m putting on. It’s not just me and my records. It’s me, my records and the audience. The listeners are hugely important to me when I’m putting my show together.

LAist: How has the change from being a local radio show to being an international broadcast changed KCRW's shows?

Litt: Speaking for the A-Track, it’s related to my last answer. The audience is important and I’m deeply aware now that the listeners are more than my compadres here in Southern California. I get emails from Tokyo, Paris, London, Vancouver. I also hear from people listening in San Francisco, Memphis, New York, Cincinnati. Since I know other people are listening around the world, if I’m talking about a band, for example, like Radiohead, I might mention their tour dates worldwide, instead of just in Los Angeles.

Obviously the flavor of all of our shows is quintessentially Southern California because our experience and lifestyle here inform everything we play, but I think globally when I am producing my show as well.

LAist: There's been a lot of talk about the upgrades to the KCRW music library. What effect, if any, will the digitization of the music library change your show? Will the change of work flow change a show's content? Might you eschew the new system and stick to CDs and vinyl?

Litt: I’m really excited to have the new tools that digitization will offer, especially certain ways of searching and finding information about the artists in the library. It can only enhance the quality of our shows. I’m also looking forward to finally being able to play some of my favorite live tracks recorded in KCRW’s studios, which until this happens, hasn’t been possible.

LAist: Speaking of new technology, how has the internet changed the way you source new music? Do you use sites like MySpace, iTunes or PodShow's music network to find new music and/or do bands find you via those same sites?

Litt: I don’t have to depend on what gets sent to me in the mail anymore. Now I can hear just the name of a band that’s intriguing and go discover a whole new world about them. It also helps me on the fly during the show. I use MySpace ALL the time.

I prefer to go searching myself, to be honest, but occasionally people find me and I’ve loved their music. It’s nice to be able to get what I want faster -- I don’t have to make a list and go record shopping. It’s made it much easier and more immediate. That said, there is nothing better than combing through the stacks at Amoeba.

First photo via KCRW
Second photo via MySpace

* * *
Earlier interviews in this series:

Monday, September 3, 2007 - Nic Harcourt
Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - Chris Douridas
Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - Liza Richardson