Music director and afternoon announcer Scott Mullins has been with WMYS-FM (88.9) since the station went on the air in 2006, but he announced last week he accepted a new position as program director for WTMD in Baltimore, Md.
Mullins' last day at 88.9 is May 5, but before he packed to head east, OnMilwaukee.com tracked him down for a final interview to reflect on his time spent in Brew City and his thoughts on the local music scene.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell me about your new position. Was it a difficult decision to leave 88.9?
Scott Mullins: The new position is program director at WTMD in Baltimore, one of the premier Triple-A (adult album alternative) music stations in the country. I'm very excited at the opportunity, but it was an extremely difficult decision to leave 88.9. I have been here since the beginning and have endured some excruciating growing pains with the station. I'm very proud of the progress the station has made, particularly over the past year and a half.
I ultimately took the new job for many of the same reasons that most people take a new job, I guess. It's a promotion to program director, it's a step up to a Top 20 market and it's a great station that knows what it is and who its listeners are.
OMC: What were you doing prior to 88.9?
SM: Prior to moving to Milwaukee in 2006, I spent most of my career at WFPK in my hometown of Louisville. I started there part-time when I was a student at the University of Louisville in the mid ‘80s. In the mid ‘90s, I was involved in changing the format and relaunching the station as one of the first Triple-A stations in the country.
I've been fortunate enough to make my living in music in some way, shape or form for most of my adult life. I ran my own small record label for a few years, produced recording sessions, worked as a talent buyer, festival coordinator, band manager, etc. I dabbled in radio but never seriously considered it as a full time job until the Triple-A format evolved in the mid ‘90s.
OMC: How did you become such a music fan?
SM: I have been a serious music fan since I was a young kid. I loved records and my mom had some really cool ones from her teen years lying around the house: Elvis, Ray Charles, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Bobby Darin, all the great early rockers. I grew up listening to all of them as well as what was on the radio at the time. The cool ‘70s stuff alongside the founding fathers of rock ‘n' roll. It was a great musical education.
OMC: Have you ever had a major "oops" on the air?
SM: Are you kidding? Too many to remember!
OMC: Ever play music? Ever been in a band?
SM: I bang around on the drums a little bit, but never with a band. I prefer producing the real talent.
OMC: What are your thoughts on Milwaukee's local music scene?
SM: I expected a good scene when I moved here, but it's much deeper than I thought it would be. I came from Louisville which has a widely respected music scene and, frankly, Milwaukee more than holds its own in comparison.
Milwaukee is the home of Paul Cebar for God's sake! What a treasure he is. How lucky that we can go and see him any given weekend. Same for John Sieger. These guys are a big part of what makes Milwaukee unlike any other city in the world.
The scene here is actually many different scenes and together they make up a very vibrant musical city. The power pop artists like The Lackloves, Quinn Scharber, The Rip-Off Artists, The Trusty Knife, The Reckless Hearts and others are amazing. This city seems to be a breeding ground for catchy, hook-filled pop songs. It really is an under recognized part of the story. The Americana sounds of The Championship, Will Phalen, Ethan Keller are also an integral part of it. Plus, the hip-hop of Prophetic, Kid Millions, J Todd and so many others. This city is like a patchwork quilt of self-sustaining little music scenes. I don't pretend to know them all, I can only speak to the ones I'm familiar with.
OMC: How has 88.9 changed Milwaukee radio? Or has it?
SM: 88.9 has championed Milwaukee music like no other station in town. I'm not saying that we are the only station that ever plays it, but we are the only one that gives Milwaukee artists significant, meaningful airplay. When we find a Milwaukee song that works for us, we put it into the mix alongside the big boys so it had better be up to par. We could play every single local track that comes in once on the air and then forget it, but we have taken a different approach. Live with the song, build some familiarity with listeners and raise the general public awareness of the band. This can translate into actually selling come CDs or downloads for the band, better attendance at gigs and maybe even some better paying gigs. But a lot of that is up to the band to hustle and try to capitalize on the exposure.
I know that at least three other stations have increased their on-air support of Milwaukee music since the inception of 88.9 and that's a great thing.
OMC: How old are you? Married? Kids?
SM: I'm over 21 and married, but no kids.
OMC: What bands / albums are you listening to these days? What up-and-coming bands should we keep our eyes on?
SM: Lately I'm digging the new Roky Erickson album with Okkervil River.
OMC: What will you miss the most about Milwaukee?
SM: My co-workers at RadioMilwaukee, the good friends that I've made here and the stunning summer weather.
OMC: You are a really sharp interviewer. What makes a good interview?
SM: As an interviewer, it is important to have a very high comfort level with the subject. I am very comfortable discussing the art of creating and recording music with the people who create and record it. Most of my friends are musicians. I have been in that circle most of my life. I have an intimate understanding of the process. We speak the same language. I get their references and they get mine.
I had never met Paul Cebar before moving to Milwaukee. Shortly after we went on the air, Paul stopped by the station, unannounced, to drop off his new CD so I got him on the air with me. We immediately fell into a comfortable conversation about his new album and music in general and it felt like we'd known each other our entire lives.
This comes from a lifetime of being a serious music head. Plus, I have been doing this a long time, so that helps.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.