Planetary Group recently took some time to get to know Amber Ranson, the music director of CJRU in downtown Toronto:
Planetary Group: Tell us about how you got involved at CJRU and how that experience has impacted you?
Amber: I have always been really interested in music – in high school, I worked at a record store, and it inspired me to find a way to incorporate music into my career. So, in my first year of university, I knew that I had to figure out how to get involved with the campus radio station. At first, I started with small segments here and there, and then eventually started hosting a show bi-weekly called CJRU30. Then, one thing led to another, and I ended up applying for the position of music director the following school year – and it turned out to be an amazing opportunity. Both of the positions I’ve had at CJRU have opened so many doors, not only to new music discovery but also to the opportunity to connect with artists and other people in the music industry.
PG: Do you have a favorite artist or album you never get tired of listening to?
A: I go through phases: if an album or an artist scratches my brain in the right way, I will exclusively only listen to that artist for months (aside from when I am doing music curation). I don’t really ever get tired of listening to artists that I truly love, I just find another one to fixate on before it reaches that point. If I had to narrow it down, I think at the moment my top artists that I cannot get enough of are Alex G, Toro Y Moi, and Leonard Cohen.
PG: Is there a kind of music or particular artist you’d NEVER play on your show?
A: Definitely not! I can get down with pretty much every genre, and (as I’m sure you can tell) I am very passionate about the artists that I like. So, even if I know that a type of music isn’t necessarily digestible, I’ll still try to sneak it into programming, as I want to give the small population that may like it a chance to find something they dig.
PG: Do you have a past musical decade or time frame that your romanticize? Why?
A: I’ll always have a soft spot for music from between the mid-60s to early 80s. Some of my favourite albums or bands come from that period or are inspired by it. I love a lot of rock and art-rock bands, from the 60s, but I also love that period for the incredible jazz and bossanova that came out during that time. The seventies and late 80s were also amazing for the very weird rock and early pop – as well as some phenomenal salsa records, which I have a sweet spot for.
PG: If you had the power to instantly change one thing going on in the music industry at the moment, what would it be?
A: I wish some artists weren’t as frightened to venture outside of the mainstream. I hope this doesn’t sound too pretentious, but it feels like there is a trend in artists wanting to capitalize off of the indie rock train. And don’t get me wrong, I love indie rock just as much as the next person, but it can get quite boring when everyone is trying to do the same thing within the genre. But this isn’t a catch-all, as some amazing bands are making really interesting and unique indie rock out there.
PG: What event or person in your life would you say has shaped you the most as a person? A music curator?
A: Moving across the country, away from my small hometown in British Columbia was probably one of the most formative events in my life. In order to get my Bachelor of Journalism, I moved to Toronto when I was 18 without having ever visited the city or knowing anyone who lived there. However, it was the best decision for where I was at the time – it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, in both a professional and personal sense. If I hadn’t moved, I would have never had the opportunity to work in radio! In terms of people, my friends and family have always shaped me, even once I moved away. In particular, my dad probably influenced me the most musically. It’s something we have bonded over for as long as I can remember.
PG: Has working in college radio made you want to pursue a career in the music industry?
A: Yes and no – as much as I love radio, I’m not sure if I’ll work in it for my whole life. However, I’m certain that I will always have some sort of project going on that relates to music, as it’s something in life that I naturally gravitate towards.
PG: What in your life brings you the most joy?!
A: My friends and family, as well as exploring new things (even better when the two are combined!). I love to travel when I get the chance, but even just exploring new things to do in Toronto or around it with my loved ones brings me heaps of joy. This love of exploration also relates to music – I love discovering new genres and artists!
PG: Do you have any favorite TV shows, movies or books you’re enjoying you’d currently recommend?
- Fleabag: I just found this show recently, and I’ve already rewatched it. It’s a British comedy-drama about a woman in her thirties navigating loss. Better yet – she tells the audience her inner monologue.
Some movies I’ve recently enjoyed are:
- Ladybird: This is an A24 film that resonates with me. It’s funny, geeky, and sad at the same time, but also very beautiful.
- Frances Ha: This film is almost like a coming-of-age for transitioning into your thirties.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel: This Wes Anderson film is a comfort movie for me. I won’t say much, but it revolves around two hotel workers, a chase, and a mysterious stolen painting.
- Shadow of the Wind: a magical realism book set in the streets of Barcelona, with a mystery relating to a certain book and author.
PG: Finally, with the summer coming, do you have any post semester plans to share with us? Any concerts?
A: I’m so excited to go to the National Canadian Radio Conference in Calgary this summer! Aside from that, I’m hoping to visit my hometown, Kelowna. I haven’t planned any concerts just yet but hopefully, I’ll be able to cover more going into the summer.
Vinyl or Digital? Vinyl. Always. What if there is an apocalypse?!
Dog or Cat? My answer will always be dogs, though I have grown quite fond of cats.
Booze or Caffeine? …don’t they come hand in hand? The chicken or the egg!
Morning or Night? Night.
City or Country? City.
Beach or Mountains? Beach.
TV or Book? I want to say book but I’d be lying.
TikTok or IG? TikTok.
LA or NYC? I like the idea of NYC but I do love the west coast.
Sunny or Rainy? Sunny!