Committed to Charleston Music


“Going all in is often a spectacularly bad idea. But in life, it seems, it is all good—the only way to live boldly is to be all in on many different things at once.” -Ian Crouch, The New Yorker

It takes guts to commit to a profession in music where there no safety nets or fallback plans. Its late nights, sweat, hard work, and tenacity; where you could be riding high one day and then hitting rock bottom the next. So why sign up for an industry that may have no fallback plan? Is it because fortune favors the bold? To get some insight, I sat down with three local ladies that are giving it their all in the Charleston music scene. Let’s start with an introduction:

Kelly Rae Smith:
Music editor, Charleston City Paper

Jessica Wilson:
Marketing Director, Charleston Pour House
Marketing Director & Production Coordinator, Rooster Walk Music Festival
Festival Supervisor & Volunteer Manager, Red Wing Roots Music Festival
Volunteer Coordinator, International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass

Jessica Binder Turner:
Co-host of Box in the Morning, The Bridge at 105.5
Website and social media coordinator, 105.5 The Bridge and 98Rock

Was there a moment/milestone that made your years of working in this industry worthwhile?
“There was a moment when white privilege and racism in the local music scene was forced to the surface when a local label/musician posted a racist image to Instagram to promote a show. Important discussions resulted from that, one being the Southern Discomfort forum at Redux Contemporary Art Center back in October, and I was glad to have the platform of the City Paper to cover the forum and the events surrounding it. One of the big discussions during the forum was how hip-hop has been an oppressed genre specifically in Charleston, and I’ve wanted to help change that by highlighting the many great local hip-hop acts and shining a light also on venues who are stepping up to host them.” – KRS

“I live for those magic moments. One that comes to mind:
I was standing 15 feet from Levon Helm during his set at FloydFest when he got up and boogied down. It was one of his last shows. It is an epic memory.” -JW

“I loved the Coffee With the Candidates series that we ran during the mayoral election in 2015. That was such a cool (and important) thing to be able to bring to the community. Looking toward the future of our show, this is the type of content Box and I want to continue to bring to our listeners.” -JBT

How has this type of work commitment affected your life?

“Committing to going to shows hasn’t affected me too much more than life before being a music editor — I’ve always gone to a good bit of shows. But it’s affected me positively in that I’ve been exposed to music and so many great people I may not have been introduced to otherwise.” -KRS

“My life is work. I can’t remember a week that I didn’t work at least 60 hours, but even when I’m just hanging out, I’m still usually talking about something work/ music related. People assume that the music festivals are my vacation, but I work 16 or more hour work days while I’m there. I can only do it because I love it and the people that surround me.” – JW

“This work has motivated me to do more. I get a microphone for four hours every morning, but I want to use my voice for more than just those four hours. Working in radio has really ignited that spark, and I’m truly excited to see what lies ahead.” -JBT

What motivates you to stay working within the Charleston music community?

“I have so much love and respect and awe for so many people in this community. Ever since I started organizing shows here five years ago and then became the CP music editor, I’ve found myself in a wide network of crazy talented friends who inspire me all the time to work as hard as they do.” -KRS

“There’s no place like Charleston. Seeing the Charleston community rally for the AME Church fundraiser and silent auction proves that. We had over 80 musicians participate (donating their time) and raised over $30,000. Insane. It goes to show that there is such a strong fellowship in the Charleston music community. That alone will always keep me around.” -JW

“Our local music scene isn’t just garage bands who hope to make it rich and famous one day – although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – it’s people from all walks of life who use music to celebrate our culture and make an impact in our community. Of course, I want to be a part of that for as long as I possibly can!” – JBT

It’s evident that these ladies have multi-tasking down to an art form. Nevertheless, their passion for this community and to music is crystal clear. They made the commitment to work within this industry where the hours may be long and hard; however, they feel that the payoff is much greater.

Meggie Hulsey heads up the blog, Disco Teepee, covering local and regional music. Music changes moods and minds. This is her journey to bring the...

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