bill bodkin interviews the woman who’s brought original rock back to radio at the Jersey Shore …
We all seek the approval of our boss at work. However, it’s not every day that we get approval from The Boss about our work.
Yes, for Maria Mar, host of 95.9 WRAT’s original music segment Jersey Rock, she received the ultimate Jersey-style validation on the hard work and effort she’s put into bringing the original music scene of the Jersey Shore back to the forefront of people’s mind.
With her head buried in texts, Mar literally walked into the state’s favorite son, the boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, who happened to be shopping at the same strip mall Mar was walking through.
After helping the man who was born to run pick up his scattered bags, Maria introduced herself and explained what she did for a living. Before she could finish talking about her show, The Boss immediately jumped in and not only mentioned that he listened to the progra, but he spoke about how much he really enjoyed her work and how he was glad someone was doing what she was doing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re from the Jersey Shore or the southern tip of New Zealand, when someone of Springsteen’s caliber knows your work and appreciates it — you know you’ve been doing something right.
And for the past year, Maria Mar has been ‘taking care of her own’ — the original, independent bands of the Jersey Shore. And it’s not just by simply playing their music; she’s been these bands biggest supporters blowing them up on all forms of social media, interviewing them and filming them for WRAT’s website, setting up shows at the famed Stone Pony and even recommending them to large venues as opening acts for national touring bands.
In one year’s time Mar has become the go-to-girl for bands not just at the shore, but the entire state, to get noticed. With original venues and record stores closing left and right and rock radio taking the backseat to country and pop, bands needed a show like Jersey Rock to get noticed. And with Mar’s unflagging passion for local music, the show has skyrocketed from a decade-old segment, long forgotten by most in the area, to the most talked about segments on the entire station.
And all it took to revive Jersey Rock was simplying asking if she could. While working for WRAT as a promotional hand, she went to the station’s bosses and asked if she could take over the Sunday night segment and give it the much-needed shot of adrenaline it needed. Not only did her bosses believe this was a good idea, but they expanded the segment from Sunday nights to Tuesday-Thursday at 11:30pm.
One year after that fateful day, Pop-Break.com had the chance to sit down for a beer with Maria Mar to talk about her love of the shore’s music scene, the bands she’s come across and all things Jersey Rock.
Pop-Break: You work at a radio station that’s known for playing Breaking Benjamin and AC/DC in heavy rotation. Why stick your neck (and career) out for a segment of local, original music?
Maria Mar: I love the local music scene, going out and about seeing bands. I like a lot of different type of music which isn’t always in line with what’s played on WRAT. I saw a lot of potential in the show and I saw a lot of band’s CDs lying around [not being listened to]. When ShoreAlternative.com left the Jersey Shore there was really not outlet for local musicians. I just had this big vision of Jersey Rock being its own thing.
PB: Do you remember the first band you played on Jersey Rock?
MM: I played a band called Scott Liss & The Sixty-Six, who sadly aren’t together anymore. I chose them because they had such a different sound from what was being played on the station. I wanted this show to be unique and stand out, so they were a good band to start with.
PB: What were the local bands that first made you fall in love with this scene? For me it was a band like Matt Witte’s New Blood Revival — they opened my eyes to just how much talent was down the Shore and was being ignored by a lot of people.
MM: It was the Parlor Mob, who when I first heard them were called What About Frank. I was interning at a label they were signed to Roadrunner Records and that’s how I first discovered them. Listening to them lead me into finding out about bands like Only Living Boy and Last Perfect Thing and then that totally got me into the whole Asbury thing. I would go out to The Stone Pony to hear local bands — I had always had friends in bands and I secretly always wanted to be in a band. So it was the Parlor Mob who opened my eyes to the scene. This made me start coming to shows earlier so I could see the local opening bands.
PB: How has Jersey Rock helped local bands?
MM: It’s helped in a lot of ways. We’re promoting their music, their upcoming shows plus we do a lot of web features on them, film them live doing some sessions.
We’ve also had venus national reach out to us to help find solid support bands to open up for national bands. Set It Free is opening up for Trapt at The Stone Pony and for Saves the Day at Starland Ballroom — and Saves the Day is not a band that is played on WRAT. We had Empire Escorts open up for Seether and New Theory open up for Sevendust for our WRAT anniversary shows at Starland Ballroom. We’ve also helped get Our Black Friday get onto our “Low Dough” show at Starland with Adelita’s Way.
PB: The show also has promoted concerts of their own at The Stone Pony, correct?
MM: We’ve done some showcases at The Stone Pony. We really wanted to keep the Jersey Rock momentum going so the idea of taking it on the road sounded like a good plan. We usually try and tie the night into something like an album release. We did a show with Only Living Boy for their vinyl release, Scarlet Carson for their video premiere and Almost There for their CD release. We give full support to the bands playing — we play all the bands on the bill on the weeks leading up to The Stone Pony show.
PB: What band has gotten the biggest response from being on Jersey Rock.
MM: Set It Free really has. They had success early on and won our annual WRATfest band search. When a band wins they get airtime plus they open up at the concert [last year it was with Disturbed, Godsmack and Megadeth who were touring with the Mayhem Festival]. They then signed a distribution deal with a company out of California called Gas Can Music. They made a lot of connections, due to their relationship with Trapt, and now they’re music is getting heard on MTV’s The Challenge: Rivals, Sports Center and the X-Games. Now they’re going out to LA to record their album, they’re getting endorsements — they’re blowing up!
PB: The show is really the talk of the Jersey Shore music scene — did you ever expect this to happen.
MM: No I didn’t. The show didn’t get a lot of attention in the past and now the site and [its] Facebook page have become a watering hole for musicians. People have been networking, making connections through it, posting fliers, promoting shows. And I won an Asbury Music Award, which was pretty cool.
PB: What are your immediate goals for the show?
MM: I’d like to be longer than 30 minutes and to eventually get on our HD2 channel. I want it to me more of a program than a segment.
PB: Finally, what’s your thoughts on what the Asbury music scene has become over the past few years, where it went from being nearly non-existent save for a few bands to a scene that is filled to the brim with talent.
MM: It’s great, I mean it’s really starting to take over for the better. Asbury is already known for those other, famous bands, I hope that the new music coming out of there can dominate. I think it could get a lot bigger than it is right now.