Radio Spotlight: Brandon Hardin, 96.5 KECO

480883_10151595831489993_1642988940_nBrandon Hardin is host of a program called The Backroads on 96.5 KECO in Elk City, Okla. which features everything from Top 40 country to obscure Red Dirt and Texas Country. The program caught our attention in Music City, and we have to say, we liked what we heard. So we called him up and asked him a few questions about himself and his program. Here's what he had to say:

NMG: How'd you first get into radio?

BH: I first got into radio when I was 18. I was hosting an alternative Christian rock show on the weekends and I did that for about a year. I’ve been wanting to be a DJ, I’ve wanted to be a broadcaster, an announcer since I was like 16. I just found my way to a radio station that needed somebody on the weekend. Did a late-night shift there and it’s been on and off since I was a senior in high school.

NMG: How'd you know you wanted to be a DJ/Announcer when you were 16?

BH: My dad sat me down one day. You know we’d drive around all the time listening to the radio, stuff like that. When I was really young, we lived in Maryland, right outside of D.C. and my dad listened to Stern and like Greaseman and all that stuff. And one day we were sitting down after we’d got our first internet connection and we were listening to some of the old Greaseman bits, and that’s what got me wanting to be in radio.

NMG: How'd you end up in Elk City, Okla. all the way from Maryland?

BH: The first station I got picked up in was Oklahoma. Pretty much my entire radio career has been in Oklahoma. All in Elk City. I did a small stint on internet radio, which was an adventure and keeps everybody in the poor house. That was a lot of fun because it allows you to flex some creative muscle in ways you can’t on terrestrial radio.

NMG: You've done a couple formats — alternative Christian, rock radio, country — what's been your favorite?

BH: The favorite one, that’s easy to answer. The format I’m doing right now, which is more the independent country artists, a lot of the Red Dirt out of Oklahoma and the Texas country. That’s my favorite because it’s easier to access the artists. There is an entire business side to it. You’ve got to deal with all the promoters and you’ve got to deal with all that stuff, but the artists are just super cool. I mean, that’s not ragging on anybody else, but it seems easier to get in touch with everybody. And they have this big, kind of family feel to it.

NMG: Did you listen to a lot of country when you were in Maryland?

BH: Funny thing about it, the very first concert I ever went to, I was 4 or 5 years old, and I still remember bits and pieces of it, and it was a Clint Black concert. Country music’s always been a big part of my life. My dad, we used to ride around and listen to Chris Ledoux and Garth Brooks and Clint Black, and then, you know, there was a lot of southern rock in there, too.

NMG: Tell us a little about your program, The Backroads. What would you say makes it special?

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ontent/uploads/2013/04/12495170-150×150.jpg” width=”150″ height=”150″ /> Brandon Hardin with The Rankin Twins

BH: The Backroads, what really makes it special is that it’s not just the Red Dirt, it’s not just the Texas country. We mix it up. We bring in the Top 40, you know, the “new” country or pop country, whatever you want to call it. We play songs like that. We play a lot of classic country. We even dust off the vinyl records once in awhile, when the occasion calls for it. ‘Cause you know, it’s really hard to find a CD of Hank Williams out there.

That’s one of the draws, and then two, a lot of it has to do with our in-studio performances. You know, we bring in artists all the time. This week we’re celebrating our one-year anniversary, and every day this week we’ve got a different artist in. Today (4/2) we’ve got the Rankin Twins , Thursday (4/4) we’ve got The Dirty River Boys. I think that’s a part of it, and it’s something that the area that we’re in now, they’ve been crying out for it for a while. It’s what the people wanted and we found a way to give it to them.

NMG: Do you handpick the guests that come on the show?

BH: That’s the funny part of it. Everybody thinks that just because you pick the playlist that you’re a mega-fan of everybody on the air. That’s not always the case. The Dirty River Boys were a good example of a band that I hand-picked because I myself am a big fan, and it’s our one year anniversary this week. I know everybody’s going to love them. But some of their singles aren’t, quote unquote, “radio friendly.” It’s not like we just pick whoever comes in. I get phone calls and I get offers all the time from people, and I turn tons of people away because it’s my job as the producer of the show and the announcer to make sure that I put forward the best product possible for my listening audience.

NMG: Who are some names that might be off the radar for fans in Nashville that we should know about?

BH: There are three names right now that everybody needs to get familiar with, three guys that are the three guys to watch, the first one being Chad Sullins and The Last Call Coalition. Those guys are on their way to big things. I said it last year when their latest album came out. It was the best album that landed on my desk all of last year, and then this year, 2013, will be the year of The Last Call Coalition.

Another name is Ryan Reid. Ryan Reid is a newcomer. He’s up-and-coming and he’s moving pretty quick. He’s been around for about a year now and he’s already headlining some major venues. He just brings a really, really unique sound and vibe and everything. That’s another name to watch.

And then the third one would be the Jake Moffat Band. The guy has an incredible story and he is one of the most honest people I’ve ever had the chance to talk to. He’s open about his past and his battles with addiction, and the cool thing is, he takes everything in his life and puts it into his music. It just makes for an incredible experience when you sit down to listen to his music.

NMG: Thanks for talking with us, Brandon.

BH: Anytime. Take care.

You can catch Brandon Hardin on The Backroads, weeknights from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. over the air at 96.5 FM in Elk City, Okla., or online at and on Twitter @OnAirBrandon.

By Andrew Miller