NASHVILLE, Tennessee – I often ask artists who influenced their careers. Well for me, not being a musician, the person who has most influenced me is the television and radio broadcaster, Storme Warren. Although I have little desire to become a television personality, I have learned so much about interviewing artists by listening to Storme nearly every day for 16 years on Sirius XM’s The Highway.
Besides having attended events in person where I saw Storme in action, I have heard how he interacts with the artists on his shows, especially on his fascinating podcast, Exit 209 (named after the actual exit you take to get to Music Row and downtown Nashville) where he delves into the very beginning of an artist’s life and career.
Warren shocked the country music world when, in May of 2023, it appeared he abruptly left his duties at Sirius XM’s The Highway after 17 years and went incognito for a few weeks.
He said, “It was hard. It was like a divorce. You know that any long-term relationship is hard to sever. And especially when it was on and (I keep saying this), at least on my side, it was great terms. I didn’t leave angry. I didn’t leave with animosity. It was a fantastic 17-year run there. As I told my boss in New York, I said, ‘You know, you just sometimes feel that it’s time.’”
The most disruptive question listeners ask is why they play songs that “aren’t country music” on country radio stations. He responded, “What is the definition of country music?”
Some say it’s storytelling, and it must have a fiddle or steel guitar. However, Warren said, “I think the bottom line is country music is defined as what you define country music to be when you first heard it. So, it depends on you as a listener. When you first heard country music and defined that as country music, that will always be country music to you.”
As some may remember, artists like Ronnie Milsap, Jimmy Rogers, and Kenny Rogers were also accused of not being country and initially faced much backlash.
Warren said, “If you look at the history of country music, we’ve had this argument about every 10 years because every 10 years, this cycle of music will go, and it’ll implode upon itself by repetition. The artists start sounding more and more alike. The music starts sounding more and more alike until there’s an implosion.”
His insight regarding the genre and the artists is like none other I have witnessed.
Besides all the hitmakers who stop by his show to promote a new single or EP, Warren’s favorite thing to do is a long-form interview with an artist.
“Not a sound bite, not a red-carpet interview where you get three questions. I like to get to know them and have a conversation,” he said.
This is where Warren shines as a journalist. He doesn’t have a set of stock questions that he uses. He has a conversation with his guests. Sometimes the artists get so comfortable with him that they profess things not yet disclosed in other interviews. It helps the listener better appreciate their music when you understand where it originated.
He said of his interviews, “It may look like I’m asking them a question about them, but it’s really me asking a question about myself and just curious about their perspective on different things.”
Another hot-button topic we discussed was females in country radio. I go out of my way to promote them in my blog and Storme, Garth, and The BIG 615 go out of their way to include them as well. But regardless of gender, what matters most is “Is their music relevant?” To the teens and twenty-somethings, of course, but also the grandmas and grandpas as well. The same goes for artists of color. No matter what, they must connect to the audience.
And while I am several years older than him, Storme Warren has been the biggest mentor to my career, and he didn’t even know it until I told him. He loves the songs and the songwriters as much as I do, and his passion for country music shines in his interviews. He is concerned that the younger generation depends on their phones for everything. Some think those of us who are older are idiots because we don’t use Instagram or TikTok.
Warren said, “They’ve already discounted an entire wealth and vault of knowledge that you need to tap into to succeed. Mentorship is key to the younger generation becoming successful.”
Warren says his biggest influence was Charlie Daniels.
He said, “I really pride myself in spreading the art of mentorship because I had so many mentors in my life, and Charlie Daniels, of all people, was my ultimate mentor. He was my hero as a kid. His was the first album I ever bought and the reason I’m in Nashville. And it’s amazing how many doors will open in your life if you actually take the time to reach out to someone who’s your hero.”
While Warren doesn’t write music and knows very little about it, he received the inaugural BMI Inaugural Ambassador Award a few years ago simply because of his love and support of the songwriter.
He said, “The songwriter is the root of music. The most important part of the process of music is the songwriter. And I will go to my grave fighting for them to get recognition, fighting that they get noticed, and just loving what they do and being enamored by the craft of songwriting.”
Now Warren hosts his own songwriter round every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Twelve Thirty Club on upper Broadway in Nashville. Also entitled “Exit 209,” you will hear the stories behind the song as they feature new weekly performances from an all-star lineup of chart-topping and award-winning songwriters and artists. You can attend in person or find it on the TuneIn app.
I think the main reason why I admire Storme Warren is because he truly values the importance of music and songs. In some form or another, music is in the backdrop of every one of our lives. And the music wouldn’t exist without the songwriter. Our lives would be black and white.
One of my favorite artists, Kenny Chesney, wrote a song about that. The lyrics Every time I hear that song, I’ll go back, I’ll go back perfectly explain why music is as essential to our lives as eating and sleeping.
If I can do a fraction of what Warren has done in promoting songwriters, highlighting country music legends, and mentoring emerging artists, I will feel that I, too, have done something worthwhile in my life.
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