Programmer Spotlight: Cindy McLeod

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Every week this summer, CJSW takes you behind the mic in the booth to spotlight one of our amazing programmers. This week’s spotlight programmer is Cindy McLeod, host of The Blues Witness Wednesday evenings from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Cindy chatted about showcasing Canadian content, the spirit of Funding Drive and why quesadillas count as sandwiches. Interview by Melanie Woods. 

What show do you host and what does it focus on?

I host The Blues Witness and it is a weekly program, 90 minutes, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings and it features the best in Blues from across Canada and beyond. I mean the blues has quite a wide reach, it’s basically North American music, but that doesn’t mean there’s great blues happening around the world.

How do you go about choosing what you play on the show?

I have various things that influence the programming. People send me a lot of material, and they’re really thrilled to have airplay and they love CJSW and so people do send me stuff. And I’m a [Calgary International Blues Festival] programmer, so I get a lot of stuff through that as well. I’m a musician myself, so I have a fair amount of contacts across Canada specifically. For that reason I think people are kind to send me stuff. And the blues is still CD-oriented, which a lot of other music isn’t so I do get a lot of CDs.

So it sounds like you have the insider edge then?

I do. You know, I’m fairly on top of what’s going no in the scene, just because of my various jobs and certainly having a radio show helps. I’m really proud of Canadian talent. It’s usually about a 50/50 split, my programming. And I really like to showcase veterans along with up-and-coming artists and all the various instrumentation. The “blues” is a very big word. You know there’s gospel and R&B and funk and soul, so it’s a really wide range of styles and sounds you can play. Some of it depends on the feedback from my audience or maybe what kind of mood I’m in. So there’s many reasons.

How long have you been doing the show for?

I’m pretty sure I’m in year eight. It’s been a while. I did the show for a little bit as a fill-in, as a temporary, and then somebody did it for a while permanently and they didn’t last very long. So I very quickly inherited the program back. And you know, because I’m a musician I have sat on the other side of the console for, well, since 1978 is when I became a professional jazz musician. So you know it’s funny to end up on the programming side, on the hosting side. It’s a bit of a blur, because this is such a familiar place to me.

In the good ol’ days, the station was in the basement. It’s absolutely fancy now by those standards. It was pretty grungy down there. But it had, of course, the CJSW vibe.

What’s your favourite things about CJSW?

Oh, the people — hands down. The personalities, the good hearts that come together, because it’s largely volunteer-driven. That’s a really special thing. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, there’s a lot of passion. There’s a lot of talent — I mean everybody brings something really unique and special to the programming, to the station. And you know the support for local festivals and events — it’s really vibrant, there’s always something going on. It’s a really exciting place, you know, and one has to step in here during the day to get the full force of that. And you it’s kind of more quiet in the evenings when my show runs, but I’m still fully aware of what’s going on. The Funding Drives are a really good example of people pulling together for a common cause, and it’s really fun. Fun is a big part of it.

My personal world — just my job and the things I do — it’s very hectic and I appreciate that I can come and just listen to tunes for an hour and a half. And not have to solve problems or make decisions — I can just enjoy the music and I have a really responsive and warm audience. I’m always surprised when people stop me on the street and tell me they’ve tuned in and I’m like ‘really?’ You know, being a musician you get instant response. Being on radio, you don’t know who’s tuning in. So that’s really nice.

My last question — it’s kind of a silly one — what is your favourite type of sandwich?

Sandwiches. Geeze, you know that’s a funny thing because I don’t eat that many sandwiches because I’m one of those “gluten people.” Honestly I don’t eat much sandwiches, it’s not really my favourite thing. But I do have a variation that I really like, which is quesadillas. So i use the corn tortillas with cheese. So that would have to be up there on my list of favourites.


Tune in to The Blues Witness, every Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on CJSW 90.9. FM.

The Blues Witness