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Morning becomes Harcourt for KCSN-FM

Nic Harcourt, ex-host of KCRW's influential 'Morning Becomes Eclectic,' says his new a.m.-drive gig gives him a chance to cultivate a whole new audience.

October 17, 2012|By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times
  • Radio personality Nic Harcourt is moving back to the weekday morning drive slot at KCSN.
Radio personality Nic Harcourt is moving back to the weekday morning drive… (Bob Griggs )

Navigating the waters of traditional radio these days might appear as dangerous as taking on a Nor'easter in a paddle boat, but that isn't stopping former "Morning Becomes Eclectic" host Nic Harcourt from heading back into that unpredictable front known as morning radio.

On Friday he'll take over the morning-drive slot at Cal State Northridge-based KCSN-FM (88.5), the scrappy, college-based operation that's continuing its campaign to become L.A.'s little rock radio station that could.

Not only is Harcourt aiming to lure listeners away from the myriad other choices available to them on commercial and public radio, HD and satellite channels, he's also after a younger generation of music fans for whom radio listening is lost on.

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"There's no doubt there's a whole generation of millennials, or whatever you wish to call them, who barely listen to radio or didn't grow up listening to it at all," Harcourt, 55, said a few days before jumping into a program that will have him behind the microphone from 6 to 11 a.m. every weekday. "They have friends who are turning them onto new music — it's a completely different situation. It might be a little better here in L.A. because kids have to be driven everywhere and their parents have the radio on."

Harcourt's new show won't be a completely different experience for him, but it will be a shift from his days across town at Santa Monica-based KCRW-FM (89.9). He spent eight years there as music director and building "Morning Becomes Eclectic" into one of the most influential public radio shows in the country, spawning the syndicated offshoot "Sounds Eclectic."

Before moving to Los Angeles in the '90s, Harcourt hosted a morning show at a station in Woodstock, N.Y., and says he expects at KCSN to combine elements of those previous shows.

KCSN has a different mission than KCRW, which has long prided itself as being at the cutting edge of pop music taste-making. Program director Sky Daniels calls KCSN's spin on the adult album alternative format "Smart Rock," with programming that embraces not only emerging indie and alternative-rock acts but also "heritage" acts — especially those rooted in the Southland — such as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne and, yes, even the Eagles.

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Social media, which didn't exist the last time Harcourt had to rise at the crack of dawn and head to a radio station every morning, will play a key role.

"If you have something people like," Harcourt said, "they will connect with it and they will evangelize for it."

Harcourt's move to morning coincides roughly with improvements to KCSN's radio signal designed to broaden its reach — now centered in the San Fernando Valley, with boosters that bring it to parts of West L.A. and Hollywood. The upgrades are expected to extend the station's potential audience to downtown L.A., all of Hollywood and across Silver Lake, Echo Park and Eagle Rock.

Daniels is looking for other improvements that would increase coverage to all of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Another facet of Harcourt's expanding duties will be a monthly series of concerts, primarily aimed at fostering the careers of emerging artists, to be held at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood.

"I really hope we can connect with [touring] artists when they come through town," he said. "With all due respect to my alma mater, we're a 24/7 music station. I think we can really have an impact.

"There are some really talented people working for this station, and I think they're all in it for the passion," he said. "Nobody's going to get rich working at KCSN, I'll guarantee you that. People are in it for the right reasons. If I sound a little giddy about it, it's because I really believe in it."

randy.lewis@latimes.com

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