Creative Quarantine: DJ Lin Brehmer

Lin Brehmer, considering the contributions of Tom Petty

1. How are you holding up?

Thankful to have work. Managing to create radio shows from home. I love to cook so this time at home affords me the chance to attempt recipes with higher degrees of difficulty.  Offered to make dinner for a friend. I said I’ll make whatever you want. He said, “Well, I like cassoulet.” I’d never made cassoulet so I gave it a shot. The recipe from Bon Appetit was about five pages long and started with curing duck legs five days out. It turned out fine, but I’m done with the five-day recipes.

I’m still scared by Covid-19. People get weary of just about anything with repetition and I feel like a lot of people are so tired of hearing about statistics and misery that they want to move on. We’ll see in the summer months how seriously people observe precautions. I can’t help but feel that we are bracing for a second spike down the road.

I’ve been watching a good bit of television.

The Last Dance was a wonderful distraction and I love watching Top Chef and The Good Fight.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Remote broadcasting requires more planning and more hours. There is a different kind of precision required for setting up a radio show when you’re nowhere near the studio. Finally, you have to trust computers to keep you on the air. I don’t trust computers. And working from home sort of feels like you’re never off the clock. Emails about recording new commercials on deadline will find you.

But I’ve never gotten more response to songs than I have over the last few months. People are paying attention to lyrics. They’re reading into songs that might have been just background music in the past. They’re reaching out to us. They’re thanking us for being an audio shoulder to lean on.

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your work practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

Telling more stories. People like stories. Scripting parts of the show that need it. Pizza Friday. I started a tradition of pizza for lunch every Friday. I think I’ll keep eating pizza on Fridays. I look forward to it all week.

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Hard to tell how they’re doing but I have watched virtual concerts from Richard Thompson, Jon Langford, Robbie Fulks, Jason Narducy, Ohmme, Joe Pug, Michael McDermott, Heather Horton, Dan Navarro.

I loved Wilco’s presentation of a new song on Stephen Colbert and Jeff Tweedy and Sue Miller’s series of life at home has been casually entertaining.

I keep coming across Jim Gaffigan on social media and he makes me laugh.

Seth Myers had been especially sharp during the pandemic.

Lin Brehmer at the South Side Irish Parade

5. What else?

I go to 40-50 baseball games a year, mostly at Wrigley Field but some at Guaranteed Rate Field. My wife and my grown son who lives in Chicago are my companions at Cub games. We all keep score and we all feel this absence of this center of our spring and summer lives.

Been spending some time with new music from Pearl Jam, Jason Isbell, and local singer-songwriter James Elkington’s new album Ever-Roving Eye. I think he’s amazing. Have heard some of the new stuff from Michael McDermott including a song he debuted live on my last morning show at XRT before I moved to the midday airshift.

I’ve hosted several virtual Happy Hours on Zoom with 15 or so listeners each time. We’ve had surprise guests. Mikel Jollet of The Airborne Toxic Event, who has a new album and a memoir to talk about. Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, joined one of the get-togethers to talk about his new music, working with Lindsey Buckingham, and being a golfer when he was younger.

My wife and I have been together since college. She’s my favorite quarantine partner. Her tenderness and understanding knows no limits.

I’ve been one of the lucky ones. And I know it.

Lin Brehmer has worked at a total of 3 radio stations in the last 43 years. He came to WXRT as The Music Director in 1984 where his first Chicago concerts included Los Lobos at Biddy Mulligans and The Cure at The Bismark Theater.
From 1991 to 2020, Lin was the morning DJ for WXRT. In February of this year, he moved to the midday shift. On Mondays at 11:15am and 6:15pm, Lin shares the popular radio essay, Lin’s Bin.