For the first time since the late ’80s, the Chicago radio landscape doesn’t include Cara Carriveau. Cara stepped down from her shift at WSHE (100.3 FM) earlier this year after stints at the Wabbit (103.9FM), Rock 103.5, the Loop (97.9FM), and the Mix (101.9FM), and jumped into a new role at Local Radio Networks. It’s an entirely different experience for her.
“Local Radio Networks (localradionetworks.com) is a company that syndicates several music formats across the country,” she explains, “and I’m the midday host on the classic rock format. I’m on about a dozen stations – and I do local cut-ins for about six of them. They aren’t big markets, in fact, that’s why they call the company Local Radio Networks because they concentrate on the smaller markets. They hire major market talent to do local small market radio.”
Despite being in the business for more than twenty years, this is Cara’s first foray into voice-tracking, and she certainly sees the advantages of it. “I actually do the job out of my house, which is a great perk. I absolutely love it. I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, maybe brush my hair…sometimes (laughs). I can record a few hours, wake up my son and make him breakfast, get him off to school, and do a few more hours. I love the flexibility.”
Local Radio Networks is a trailblazer of sorts. They offer twelve different musical formats; adult contemporary, hot adult contemporary, contemporary hit radio, mainstream country, classic country, superstar country, classic rock, classic hits, super hits, mainstream rock, mix, and adult standards. Each of those formats is a nationally syndicated product, but the network also remains cognizant of the local station that airs it. Each station can pick and choose how it wants to implement the format, and they receive fresh content from the talent every day.
“There’s a national feed that has about twenty breaks a show,” Cara explains, “and then each station may or may not have local cut-ins, which we personalize for their market. Some want just a few breaks personalized, some ask for five or ten an hour, and one of my stations does 20–all of them. It’s pretty close to real time. I do it the day of, the morning of, so even the weather breaks are correct, and I record it right into their software.”
After twelve years of doing more of a CHR (current hit radio) format (the Mix, and WSHE), Cara is enjoying this trip back to her first love, rockin’ the free world. “I do love doing classic rock,” she admits. “I haven’t done this format full-time since 2006, and I am so happy to be back in my comfort zone of Pink Floyd and Zeppelin. And this format plays a lot of hair bands from the 80s too – which I also love. There’s something about having grown up listening to this format that makes it my favorite. I grew up in Michigan listening to WRIF, and I just adore that delivery. I think it’s more difficult than doing CHR. Not having music behind me sounds deafening at times. Dead air is like our biggest fear as disc jockeys, so talking over nothing is a little different. There’s no worry about hitting the post or anything; it’s all about the music and what you know about it.”
It took some prodding and pushing to get her to admit it, but Cara would also be willing to expand her job description to include doing a shift for a local Chicago station. There’s no reason why she couldn’t do it.
“What’s great about this current voice-tracking position is that it doesn’t interfere with my ability to also do a shift here in Chicago,” she finally admitted. “It would definitely interest me. I’m free and clear from all previous commitments to Chicago stations. Sure, if someone were to call, I’d definitely be willing to listen.”
I’m sure radio programmers in Chicago will take note. Cara is one of the more versatile personalities around, and she is committed to staying here in her adopted hometown. Ironically, the jock that was hired to replace her at WSHE (Jenny Milkowski) has already moved on to another market (San Diego for a television gig) after only a few months on the job.
Maybe Chicago radio just isn’t what it was once cracked up to be? “I disagree,” Cara says matter-of-factly. “I actually think Chicago radio is fantastic now. I know a few classic stations are gone, but there are so many great radio stations that Chicagoans have the chance to listen to. When I hear people gripe about terrestrial radio, I think it’s not true for Chicago. There’s a lot of great content out there right now on the radio dial.”
At least for now, that content is not coming from Cara. But if you’re traveling around the country, and put on a local classic rock station during the midday timeslot, you may hear a familiar voice. Just picture her introducing that Supertramp tune while she fixes **Breakfast in America for her son.
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