Charese Fruge’ Talks To Tobi Lynn
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 3, 2020
“I love Music – It’s like air for me,” says Tobi Lynn, Satellite Radio Programming Pioneer and On-Air talent. So it’s no surprise that music will be her personal therapy as she works through the challenges of being furloughed and then eventually let go from her job at ALT 98.7 in Los Angeles as a result of the pandemic, and in addition, being told that her breast cancer has metastasized to her lung, spine and pelvic bone and she will have to undergo chemo infusions every three weeks. I can’t begin to imagine what she is going through. I can only admire her for her influential role in the radio business and for the courage she has shown in her battle with cancer. She is a fighter and role model for all during these crazy times.
Tobi has a unique story and career path, especially since she’s accomplished so much in a genre of music she is truly passionate about, Indie Rock. She’s considered a “Tastemaker” in the format for many reasons. “Most notably,” she says, “I curated and created (from scratch) the music library for XMU at XM Satellite Radio, the nation’s first coast to coast college/indie channel. I programmed the channel for almost a decade and hosted various curated indie music shows. Not only was I a satellite radio programming pioneer and on-air talent in D.C. while at XM, but I was also an on-camera and on-air internet radio pioneer at Soundbreak in LA prior to moving to the nation’s capital,” says Lynn. “I’ve spent twenty plus years championing up-and-coming indie artists and therefore I’m honored to be a trusted music tastemaker. I also love doing voice over work as well as being an on-camera host, specializing in live performances and interviews with bands/celebrities. Until COVID-19 hit, I was the host and curator of two new music shows (Sunday School + LA-centric Close To Home) that aired nationally on the iHeart Radio network and ALT 987fm. Sadly, I was recently furloughed and then let go due to the pandemic.”
Some of Tobi’s biggest career accomplishments happened while working with XMU and XM Satellite Radio. “I’m honored to be able to say that I helped create the “indie” music genre with my work there. I’m also so proud knowing that I was instrumental in helping bring notice to bands in their infancy who are now indie music staples – Death Cab For Cutie, Walk The Moon, Alt-J, Snow Patrol, Arcade Fire, et al,” she says.
A few other exciting opportunities for her she adds, “Some highlights (in no particular order) for me would be: seeing Sigur Ros front and center at Camden Roundhouse in London, witnessing the genius that is The National performing their album “I Am Easy To Find” while they premiered the accompanying movie – it was pure magic, seeing U2 play on the “Joshua Tree” tour in their hometown of Dublin, being in the audience for Spoon on Conan, doing the stage announce for Broken Social Scene, Iron And Wine, Jamie Lidell and Yeasayer at Lollapalooza, meeting Sting before his show at The Palladium and having him compliment my outfit, interviewing Johnny Marr at Coachella, interviewing Robert Smith and having him compliment and inquire about my red lipstick before his show at Merriweather Pavilion, surprisingly seeing Lionel Richie (with special guest Kenny Rogers) at SXSW, taking the world’s greatest selfie with Dave Gahan at SXSW, and on and on and on! #grateful.”
Tobi’s career hasn’t come without its challenges. “I think the biggest one for me is and has been that while I can “do” alternative radio, I’m more of a new indie music specialist – so finding outlets to “fit in” has been difficult. *But if you’re looking for an indie music expert and curator (or raspy voice over talent) – I’m your girl and I’m ready to work,” she says. Another big challenge for the business in general is the lack of female Programmers. I asked her why she thought that was the case. “I guess because the old boy’s club mentality is daunting and kind of a nightmare to navigate, so as a female you have to be of the tenacious ilk to make it. I could go on about this – but you get the gist of my thoughts on the topic,” says Lynn.
That’s one of the reasons Mentoring is important in the radio business notes Tobi, “It’s important to have someone you can talk to about certain situations. I believe mentoring is extremely important and I cherish the mentors I’ve had in my career. I especially love being a mentor. I had so many great interns while I was at XM and they’ve all gone on to do great things – it warms my heart when they introduce me as their mentor – it’s such a great honor.”
Even bigger challenges Tobi is currently fighting to overcome: COVID-19 and her battle with breast cancer. “They’ve both been a blow, that’s for sure – and finding out that my breast cancer has metastasized DURING COVID-19 was like a punch in the gut. I now have to navigate being unemployed along with cancer and some days it’s totally overwhelming. Speaking of which, COVID-19 is the reason I’m no longer at iHeart Radio doing my two new music shows – so that was a real bummer too.”
With everything Tobi is dealing with, she’s trying to make sure she stays passionate and focused. “Given my current cancer diagnosis, I’m passionate about any and all cancer research charities – especially of the breast variety. I also think that Project Angel Food does amazing work helping people in need,” she says. She also stays busy in her spare time. “I like to have solo dance parties in my living room, and I love to listen to my vinyl collection. I’m also wanting to learn how to play piano, and I think I’m going to take up embroidery while I’m in the chemo infusion chair for four+ hours!” she says. And while the election and the pandemic are currently what keep her up at night, she’s determined not to let it make her crazy. “I’ve been dabbling in meditation. I also think Zooming with my friends and family has kept me sane during this COVID-19 lockdown – seeing people’s faces brings me joy.”
As far as what we have to look forward to in the future from Tobi, she’s currently hosting a new indie music show on Amazing Radio who bought the CMJ franchise and recently launched in the US. “You can listen to my show (rewind style) anytime here: amazingradio.us/shows/tobi-lynnand/or every Tuesday at 4p PT / 7p ET here: amazingradio.us,” she says. “I’m hopeful that my current bi-weekly show will eventually turn into a daily show – at least that is my wish. But I’m also totally open to any and all opportunities anyone knows about that’s in my new music wheelhouse. And yes, I have cancer – but I’m still ready to find my next great music adventure!”
Follow Tobi Lynn on her courageous journey and fight against Cancer by clicking here: www.gofundme.com/f/tobisfightfund. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers and if you can help, please do. Follow her on Social Media @ instagram.com/tobitalks, voice123.com/tobitalks,twitter.com/tobitalks & facebook.com/tobi.lynn