Bayley Brown and I first connected through one of those series of coincidences that maybe aren’t really coincidences.

I’d been hastily trying to do promo for a talk I was giving, and I’d very nicely entered the wrong contact phone number on the Lost Coast Outpost site. Then I also very nicely called the KHUM radio station instead of the Lost Coast Outpost to fix it. Bayley took my call. Happily, KHUM and Lost Coast are affiliated, and Bayley is super kind, so she not only made the change for me, she played Bowie’s Life on Mars? too. At some point, I realized Bayley was the DJ my friend Tami had been telling me to listen to – another recent transplant to Humboldt County, CA from the East Coast – so we chatted a bit and ended up getting together for coffee.

Problem solved, Bowie played, coffee and excellent conversation procured. All in all, accidental connections don’t get much better than that.

Here’s where the story gets a little tricky to tell. I want to say Bayley reminds me of myself at her age, but that’s not entirely true. Bayley has her shit together far more thoroughly at 29 than I did. In fact, she may have her shit together far more thoroughly at 29 than I still do at 42. Lest that seem self-deprecating, let me explain: I have identified my shit. I have it rather neatly corralled, and I manage it pretty well. My shit and I are cool. Yet there is something about Bayley’s shit-management skill set that is impressive enough to be slightly unsettling. It’s a bit like those times in high school when I babysat for a child prodigy; technically I was in charge, and I had the benefit of age and experience, but we both knew the whole exercise was silly. The wiser arrangement would have been to have that kid babysit for me.


The kinship I felt with Bayley is, I think, the sort of thing that’s born of being a little weird. An outsider. The sort of person who has to work to figure out her particular way of communicating and connecting with people. It’s that “find your voice and use it” business I discussed in last week’s post.

Growing up, Bayley never fit in. She was bullied. (Are you sensing a theme here? If you missed last week’s post about bestselling romance novelist Brittainy C. Cherry, check it out – some strong voices are born of adversity.) Luckily, though, Bayley found her voice early, through a six-week enrichment program in middle school that allowed her to try working in radio.

Something clicked. Behind the mic, she could do easily what was such a struggle in person. She could share music, share her thoughts, and connect with people.

When that middle school program ended, Bayley’s mom made sure her daughter could remain connected – she contacted WRLF and arranged for her daughter to work there. After high school, Bayley worked and traveled and ultimately went to college for mass communications with a concentration in radio. She’d found her niche.

She’d also found recreational drugs, but here’s one of those curves on which Bayley was ahead of me – she was only 17 when she found herself too sick to work because she was high on “hillbilly heroin,” the prescription drug Oxycontin. The realization that using would prevent her from following her radio dreams was all it took to straighten her out.

From there, she got back to the business of connecting with people through the medium of radio, with an ever-increasing focus on finding stations that would most allow her to be herself. Some commercial stations encouraged a persona, rather than the authenticity Bayley preferred.

Connecting with listeners on late-night radio has been one of her favorite experiences. When she is behind the mic, Bayley always feels “like I’m talking to one specific person, but I’m connecting with thousands.” The calls for requests are an opportunity to connect with listeners, to hear what’s going on in their lives and let them know they are not alone.

This, really, is what led Bayley to move from East Coast to West. Humboldt County’s KHUM radio was founded in 1996 as a part of Lost Coast Communications. At the time, the focus of radio was shifting toward big finance and away from the community, and KHUM became the exception to that rule. Today it is the last free-form commercial radio station in the country.

And it is exactly where Bayley knew she needed to be. In a world where Spotify and Pandora and iTunes have changed the landscape of music listening, free-form radio allows for the sort of community connection that is rapidly disappearing. Listeners can request songs and hear them played immediately. There is no reason Garbage and The Clash cannot be played back-to-back.

Sure, anyone can find any song they’d like to listen to on the internet these days, but making a request of a DJ like Bayley is an act of collaboration and community sharing that’s almost rebellious in the digital age.

And sometimes – as in the case of the morning Bayley played Bowie for me – there’s a moment of magic that happens. In the midst of my panic over last-minute promotions, I asked for a song from my favorite artist, and without having specified which tune would absolutely make my day, Bayley selected just the right one.


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