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Pilot of the airwaves
WGLR music director honored for new music support
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Ryan McCalls award was presented in Nashville, where McCall (center) got to meet, among others, Garth Brooks (left) and Trisha Yearwood.

In 25 years of working for WGLR (97.7 FM), Ryan McCall has not been a news reporter.

McCall was recently honored for a different kind of reporting. MusicRow Magazine named McCall, WGLR’s Afternoon Drive Live DJ and music director, its Reporter of the Year.

The award was for McCall’s role in reporting listener interest in new country music, based on input of such record industry figures as promoters and artists. WGLR is one of 99 radio stations that contributes input to MusicRow’s CountryBreakout Chart.

“One of the reasons they selected me was my willingness to work with new artists, not only to play them but to promote them,” said McCall. “It’s really safe to add Brad Paisley or Florida Georgia Line now, but it wasn’t safe to play Florida Georgia Line a couple years ago when they were an independent artist.”

McCall accepted the award in Nashville.

“The last 12 days have definitely been the best of my career,” he said. “I can’t thank people enough for all the kind words they’ve given me. I couldn’t be more appreciative.”

The trip to Nashville gave McCall the opportunity to meet, among others, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

“They were fantastic,” he said “I’ve found out in this format people are so nice, and they don’t have to be.”

Most country stations play between 28 and 35 songs, McCall said. WGLR plays more than 50 songs on its playlist, “and it’s still not enough to play everything I really want to play,” he said. “One of the biggest complaints you hear on pop, and even with major market [country] stations, is it’s over and over again … instead of going out and taking a chance.”

McCall heard Florida Georgia Line the first time with its “Cruise” in 2012.

“This record was amazing,” he said. “And you tell somebody else, and they tell somebody else … you just can’t deny that.”

“Cruise” went on to become the best selling digital country song of all time.

McCall’s show includes the 5:40 p.m. Homework Assignment, where listeners can grade a new single. McCall passes the feedback on to record label representatives.

“I feel good that we have a pretty strong track record, and I know our listeners well enough to know what they’ll like,” he said.

Of course, some fans of country don’t like current country, calling it “Walmart country” in comparison to such artists as Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson. Of course, fans complained about Brooks and Jackson and other artists in their early days as not being true country artists, by their definition.

“If they see something that works, everybody’s going to jump on the bandwagon, but that’s with any kind of business,” said McCall. “The thing I like about country music today is there’s something for everybody.”

McCall believes the trend he called “bro-country” — described by Wikipedia as “about partying, attractive young women, consumption of alcohol, and pickup trucks” — is starting to fade.

“I think that has lived its life,” he said, adding that he sees a shift to more traditional country music with more instrumentation.

Even for the kind of subject matter as Reba McEntire’s hit “Fancy,” said McCall, “With country it all comes down to that listener relating to that singer or that song.”