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People Watching: Joan Holliday, radio host and DJ

  • GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING



For the Gazette/Hampshire Life
Friday, March 09, 2018

Ireally love having the honor of being in people’s lives every day, having the opportunity to make their lives just a little bit better in some way by having that microphone,” radio host Joan Holliday recently said in her office at WRSI, home to 93.9 The River, in Northampton.  

Holliday got started as a receptionist at WHCN in Hartford (she was an English and art history major at the University of Hartford). “I was like, ‘I really would rather be doing what they do upstairs in the studio,’ so I worked my way up,” she recalled. She has worked at The River for eight years now, and it’s become something of a second home. 

For the past 18 years, the mother of two has lived in northern Connecticut near Bradley International Airport, but she’s hoping to move to the Valley along with her fiancé, Brian Wozniak, aka The Wine Squirrel, a contributor to fellow River host Monte Belmonte’s Wine Snob series. (The wedding is set for June of 2019). “I’m looking for a shorter commute, a house with a porch, a place to put my bird feeders, and somewhere with the charm and ghosts of an old house,” she said. “I’m obsessed with realtor.com.”

Hampshire Life sat down with Holliday, who sometimes side hustles as a wedding DJ, to learn more about the local celebrity.

   

How do you start your day? “Coffee. Always! If I don’t do that, it’s a disaster. I actually start my day surfing the web and thinking about what artists I have coming in for interviews and preparing for those.”

Music you listen to on your own: “I still love the music that I grew up with: The Beatles, Queen, The Pretenders. New music that I love — Sondre Lerche [a Norwegian singer-songwriter]. I like Suitcase Junket, Spoon, Wilco, Courtney Barnett, JD McPherson.”

Last show that you went to: “Oh, God … I can’t remember. I’ve been really lucky to have access to talk to some really fascinating creative artists through my career. Brian May from Queen, for example. He gave my daughter the rock ’n’ roll  blessing when I was pregnant. I was nine days late and went to a Brian May Band show. He saw how pregnant I was and said, ‘Oh my, you are about ready to have this baby,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I was supposed to have this baby nine days ago!’ He says, “Can I touch it?” and he put his hands on my belly and said, ‘Oh, baby, I hope you have a wonderful, happy life and love music and are full of joy.’ And she is!”

Spare-time pursuits: “I love to read. I just finished the latest Wally Lamb book, ‘I’ll Take you There.’ Since my sweetheart and I just got engaged, we’re going to take dance lessons for fun so we can do some swing dance on the floor at our wedding.” 

Live band or DJ? “All of my DJ friends are going to take half-hour shifts. Since I’m a wedding DJ, I’m going to set it up with my own playlist, and then they can play out of that whatever they want — if they have their own stuff, they can [play that], but it needs to be approved! I’m kidding about that part … kind of!”

Songs guaranteed to get people on the dance floor: “The ones that make people go ‘ugh’ but everyone dances to them. ‘Shout,’ ‘Love Shack,’ ‘Celebrate’… all the things you wouldn’t listen to voluntarily at home. When people come together to celebrate a joyous occasion, we have these rituals in our society, and they serve a lovely purpose. People have fun, it doesn’t have to be the best song ever written, but it’s a thing we do.”

What makes an artist a great guest on your show? “Ian McLagan was one of my favorites. He was in the Faces in the ’60s. He knew everybody in the glitterati of British rock, and he had great stories.”

How do you make guests feel comfortable? “I treat them with respect. If there are sensitive topics, I ask them in advance if they prefer not to talk about those things. I think that reporting and media coverage in 2018 is a little bit biased towards the negative, and I prefer not to say anything negative on my show if I can help it. Because — balance! — there’s a lot of good things happening.”

Do people recognize your voice when you’re out and about? “Oh, yeah. Once, when I was on the T [in Boston], some guy in front of me — I was talking to my girlfriend and having a very personal conversation — and he turned around and goes, ‘Sorry, I don’t mean to bother you, but are you Joan Holliday?’ It was kind of funny to be recognized in Boston since our signal doesn’t quite get there.”