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The Scarlet & Black

The heart of KDIC

Despite its location in pastoral Iowa, country music is somewhat of a rarity on campus at Grinnell. Third-year students Emilio Gomez and John Gernon seek to change that with their KDIC radio show, The Heartland, which airs every Sunday from 6 to 7 p.m., and showcases country artists ranging from the iconic to the obscure.

“I think throughout the years, country music has been underrepresented on KDIC and I think in the Grinnell student body,” Gomez said. “It’s kind of ironic, because we’re in the middle of the cornfields, really.”

The pair’s attempts to remedy this oversight have been met with early success in their first semester on air, including the recent news that The Heartland managed to record the highest number of listeners for a KDIC show this semester so far. Their large audience, the pair guesses, can be attributed to a combination of supportive friends and advantageous timing.

“We definitely have a strong, core, supportive group of friends on campus and really supportive [families] back home,” Gomez said. But the show’s listenership extends beyond the pair’s circle of acquaintances.

“We’ve been getting requests from phone numbers that we don’t recognize … People from town or other people on campus.”

The show’s Sunday evening time slot is one that appeals to Grinnellians seeking a respite from schoolwork.

“I think that’s a good time to have it, almost like a primetime thing, where you’re getting tired of homework throughout the day,” Gernon said. “[It’s] when people are in study groups, and they tell their friends and log on.”

The show’s format relies heavily on close involvement with listeners, featuring five or six song requests every week in addition to the playlists the pair prepares based on their own musical tastes. Gomez cites singer Blake Shelton as among his primary influences, but the pair also expressed a desire to expand the horizons of their listeners.

“[I] just [want] to give a wide range of country music,” Gernon said. “Something students here haven’t really experienced necessarily. Because I think we’ve all heard the new artists.”

The two aim to build on their recent successes by adding interviews with country artists to their show. Their Midwestern location makes the duo optimistic about their prospects.

“It’s more attainable, I think for us, because a lot of country stars come perform around [Grinnell]. You’re probably not going to get Kanye West here,” Gernon said, laughing.

For Grinnellians willing to open their ears and hearts to the genre, Gomez and Gernon recommend the songs “Crazy Girl” by Eli Young Band and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser, respectively.

For the hosts of The Heartland, however, devotion to country music is the product of generations. “We all come from rural areas in the United States and I think we all grew up listening to [country music],” Gomez said. “It’s relatable to people like us who grew up in rural America. My grandpa had a farm and he always had Marty Robbins and Hank Williams tapes all over the house, playing in his Cadillac … whenever my friends and I are hanging out, I can never DJ, because they know I’m putting on Kip Moore. That’s one thing we’re trying to change on The Heartland.”

Gernon and Gomez being bros in the studio. Photo by Alex Mitchell.
Gernon and Gomez being bros in the studio. Photo by Alex Mitchell.
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