Grant Morris Talks Great Radio, It’s New Orleans, and the Zaniest Guests Ever

There’s an amazing and funny crew out there who run the five radio shows currently on It’s New Orleans, web radio for all those who love New Orleans and finding out information about members of the community.

The five shows are Happy Hour, Out to Lunch, Mindset, Winn Nguyen, and Trew to the Game. Hosts include Dr. Nick Pejic, Peter Ricchiuti,  Chris Trew and sidekick Tami Nelson, Steve Winn and Kieu Nguyen, and Grant Morris, who cover topics ranging from a mental health show to sports to one covering the Vietnamese community.

Winn Nguyen, the newest show, is about the Vietnamese community in New Orleans. There are roughly 30,000 Vietnamese residents who get little attention in local media. It’s already on its fourth show and they are seen a great number of people tuning in. Steve Winn & Kieu Nguyen host the fun-filled, food centered show each week at Kim’s Restaurant in Harvey.

Producer, screenwriter, founder, broadcaster and all around great guy, Grant Morris, answered some of my questions about radio after I was featured on the Out to Lunch show last week. See what he has to say about modern radio, their thousands of listeners, and working in New Orleans.

What’s your favorite part of radio?

My favorite part of radio is being on the air. But being on the air on commercial radio these days means working for a corporate behemoth that doesn’t want you to have any personality and doesn’t like the idea of paying you enough to eat. I started It’s New Orleans to give myself a voice again after having no good radio to perform on since the days of The Zephyr and the short-lived Fastband Globalcast in 2000.

What  makes great radio?

Great radio is two things – personality of the person on the air and the ability to connect with the community you’re talking to. Radio is a voice of the community it comes from and good radio connects all of us in a community. When all radio was local we had our local hip-hop community radio station, our local alternative music community station, our local sports station and so on. Now we just have a corporate version of all that and NPR which is also not local of course. The only local radio is sports and talk which is mostly elderly people complaining. WWNO has started making locally generated radio programs again, like Out to Lunch, and New Orleanians are loving it. One of the funny reactions has been the number of people saying they can’t believe something this good is made locally. We have really gotten so beaten down by coporate giantism that people are shocked that we can produce anything good locally! I hope we are changing that at It’s New Orleans by connecting with a local audience and giving them locally-based shows of a quality they deserve.

How has the continual evolution of technology changed the way the shows happen?

We can put a bunch of microphones around a table, plug into a laptop and hit “record”. We can take that recording and put it up on the web, and actually we can also broadcast it live on the web as we record, just like live radio. All of that costs pactically nothing compared with running a radio station. To listen to it you can hear that show on your phone – you can stream it, you don’t even have to download it any more. The phone is more ubiquitous even than the radio. So now you can make cheap good radio and get a potentially worldwide audience. Most people are just discovering how easy it is to stream quality programing on your phone and bypass the crappy corporate radio that you think you’re stuck with. You’re not any more!

How did Out to Lunch start? Which show came first?

Out to Lunch started after I heard Peter Ricchiuti on the air on a WWNO fund drive. I called up and asked who the guy was who was a great broadcaster and went to his office at Tulane to try what I thought would be a months-long campaign to talk him into hosting a radio show about New Orleans business. 15 minutes later he was on board and we’ve never looked back.

The first show on It’s New Orlenas was Happy Hour, which we started two years ago. The first Out to Lunch show was a pilot we recorded in Peter’s office with Chris Reade from Carrollton Technology Partners and Benardette Jno Fin from Senica Naturals.

Who has been your craziest/funniest guest?

We have had a number of entertaining guests on Out to Lunch but probably the zaniest were fashion designers John Delgadillo and Alicia Zenobia. I’m not sure Peter has recovered from that show yet. They were unrestrained and happy to say exactly what was on their minds, about everything.  On Happy Hour we have an unending stream of eccentric NOLA personalities every week. I don’t think we’ll ever run out.

How many listeners do you typically get? Which show is the most popular?

We get more listeners each show. The audience online was growing at a good steady pace but since we have been on WWNO with Out to Lunch we have gotten even more attention and audiences are really growing for all our shows. Happy Hour is our longest-running and most popular show online. The last episode was downloaded around 20,000 times which is pretty amazing given that we don’t advertise or market except for Facebook and Twitter. Most of our listeners are here in New Orleans but we also have listeners all around the world, most of whom I can only guess are NOLA exiles who want a taste of home that is authentic. Which is what NOLA listeners want and like about us too. We’re not making these shows for the tourist commission to showcase how awesome NOLA is, though if you hear the types of people we have on all our shows and the incredible live musicians who play on Happy Hour you would have to conclude this is about the most awesome place in the world.