NPR turns listener’s ‘NPR Blues’ into station promo material

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Mat Kuhlig didn’t win NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest this year, but his submission nonetheless caught the ears of the network.

Kuhlig, a listener of WSIU in Carbondale, Ill., wrote a song titled “NPR Blues,” in which he imagines and laments a world without NPR.

“I don’t mean to give you a scare, but what if you woke up and they weren’t there?” he sings. “All the voices you’ve come to love the most vanished into unfunded smoke.” 

Kuhlig entered the song into the Tiny Desk Contest, which encourages independent artists to upload videos of their original musical performances to YouTube. 

Though Kuhlig didn’t win, NPR Producer Alex Curley heard the song and decided to use it for station promos. Kuhlig re-recorded the song for broadcast, and stations will be able to use the entire song or portions of it to create their own spots during their fall fundraisers. 

When he was writing the song, Kuhlig was thinking about “stations locally that if people didn’t support, they’d just disappear,” he told Curley in a Q&A shared with Current. “So just what a huge hole that’d be if NPR was gone.”

Kuhlig told Curley that he grew up in a small town in Illinois where information was difficult to come by. NPR “was one of the few things we had,” he said. “You know, my parents didn’t have cable, so if you wanted something out of the ordinary, that’s what we listened to.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Kuhlig listens to WISU in Terre Haute, Ind. He listens to WSIU in Carbondale, Ill.

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