Broadcast, Broadcasting, Feature

UnderCurrents Radio: From Terrestrial Broadcasting to Live365 Streaming (Interview)

When the Live365 team attended the 2023 NFCB conference earlier this year, we had a wonderful interaction with UnderCurrents Radio. At the event, UnderCurrents founder Gregg McVicar gave an important speech: a speech that would mark a brand new chapter for him and his station.

"We were wrapping up our seventeen and a half years of terrestrial broadcast to over 200 stations. So, it was sort of a victory lap," Gregg told us. Live365 had a conversation with the broadcasting veteran on a Tuesday afternoon over video chat.

"They asked me to say a few words and, y'know, there was a lot of love in the air because we've had these relationships with stations over the years, and it's been really great. So, it was a chance to say goodbye to our stations."

But Gregg's speech wasn't exactly a farewell...more like a semi-retirement reveal. "A few months earlier we had started the Live365 stream," he said, "so it was a way to say hello to our next phase."

Gregg's had UnderCurrents up on Live365 since June. It's an incredibly respected station, having gone through 6.4K shows and 26K hours of programming during its terrestrial run. Gregg's career in broadcasting began many years ago – before Live365 was first starting up in the late 90s.

"I got into the Native broadcasting world before the millenium. I have family connections to the Tlingit tribe, my mom is Tlingit," he explained. "It was at one of the [radio] conferences I connected with someone who hired me to teach some documentary production workshops, and they flew me out to Apache country, three times, to train folks there. And I just kind of became part of the Native radio world, where I felt very comfortable and appreciated. It was nice, because I always kind of felt like an outsider, a little bit."

Gregg told us he hosted a weekly contemporary Native music program called Earthsongs for seven and a half years. He got to know many of the Native artists through feature interviews the program conducted. "Then when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting put out a request for proposal to produce a daily program that would appeal to Native American listeners – because they have a commitment to Latino stations, Black stations, and Native stations for special funding opportunities - they put it out for competition. And everybody I know sent me that post and said, 'oh, you'd be perfect!' So, I applied for it, I got it, and did UnderCurrents for seventeen and a half years."

Tune in to UnderCurrents Radio on

Gregg attributed UnderCurrents' early success to his meetings with Native artists. "Because I'd interviewed all these Native artists, I really had a strong instinct for Native sensibility...what they were into, and they were into all kinds of stuff. Not just other Native artists. It gave me a lot of confidence to do what I wanted to do, which was an eclectic freeform mix with a strong foundation in triple A adult alternative."

UnderCurrents Radio founder Gregg McVicar taking a hike. (@undercurrentsradio via Instagram)

If you spend a couple minutes listening to the UnderCurrents stream, you'll notice the tunes have an organic way of flowing into each other. Not necessarily beat matching or fading, but a linking of style and emotion. Gregg explained the importance of the highly-curated programming on UnderCurrents, and how UnderCurrents' unique mood of music has touched listeners on a deeper level.

"My gift is bringing all these different things together in a way that kind of makes sense musically and feels right," he said. "My whole focus is listener focus. Y'know, just trying to really get in the head of the listeners and give them something that they can leave on all day, and feel uplifted about life. So much of the music is about stories, experiences. We have darker shadings and things like that. It's not all just happy talk all the time."

Gregg even shared with us some inspiring fan responses to his music programming. "I just got a letter last was a guy who spent four years in prison and he said our show really got him through. Y'know, he would write down all the songs and look 'em up. We get a lot of letters like that. People saying 'oh man, if it wasn't for you guys, I don't know if I'd be here.' Y'know, with the pandemic and everything, it was dark times. And people have their personal challenges as well."

Gregg continued, "I think we've created a real human connection with people. Along with the whole music discovery thing. Some people just want to hear new music. And we give them that. Other people want to feel connected somehow, and I think we give 'em that, too."

We then delved into why and how UnderCurrents transitioned from terrestrial radio to internet broadcasting. "I reached a point in my life where I felt like I could retire, or semi-retire, after working like a dog for so long," Gregg revealed. "I wanted to get off the treadmill of seven deadlines a week, four hours a day. Some of those are reruns, but still: you're responsible for that show. It's got to get up and playlists have to get out. If there's a problem with the satellites, they call you in the middle of the night. It's just that thing always hanging over your head," he said.

Gregg also cited other pressures, such as managing a full team, technical responsibilities, and making sure there were backups for everything. "I just thought, 'well, everything's going great, there's never going to be a right time to stop.' Because people love the show, we have great coverage. The audience base was really enthusiastic," he said. "But I just thought, 'y'know what? Why don't we wind it down.' So, we spent six months just doing reruns, because we have this huge library of thousands of shows that we hand-crafted and they'd only aired once or twice. We had this gold mine of material to go through, and people enjoyed hearing that. And it gave the stations a chance to figure out what they were going to do in six months when the show went away."

However, Gregg knew he'd always be a radio guy, even if UnderCurrents went off the airwaves. "I'd be doing it for myself just for whoever's in the house. Y'know, I'm a DJ!" he exclaimed. His passion for broadcasting made him think about internet streaming, and his wife and business partner encouraged him to go straight to the listeners.

"I've been dealing with stations and networks so much and they're great,'s A LOT of responsibility to take care of the stations and make sure you don't say the wrong F bomb or something on the air, or in a song or whatever," Gregg explained. "There's a real trend towards DTL: direct to listener. I mean, I've cut the cable on television. I just use apps, and YouTube, and Netflix, and all that stuff. And I can really see how that's where things are going."

He continued, "I have this whole studio, I have a server, I have equipment, I have all this music and I said, 'y'know what? Why don't I start a direct to listener thing and encourage all of this fanbase that we've cultivated to come on over and check it out and see how they like it'?"

When it comes to Live365, Gregg revealed there are a number of special features our network offers that he enjoys.  "I love Live365. It's really fine-tuned to just what I need," he said. "A number of fans have been asking over the years for certain features, like 'what's now playing' or what just played. 'Can you stream it to my phone?' Y'know, all the things that Live365 offers."

Tune in to UnderCurrents Radio on

Gregg mentioned that when UnderCurrents was terrestrial, he and his team had to record broadcasts a week in advance to give their network some buffer time. They had no idea what songs would be playing on-air at specific times, because they had no control over when their show would be programmed. "So [Live365] gave us a lot of control over how we wanted to present things," he said.

Gregg also appreciates Live365's royalty reporting through SoundExchange. "I'm a real stickler about making sure the artists get paid and following those rules. There's other competitors out there that have services that sort of gloss over that," he said.

Gregg also cited Live365's capabilities to broadcast on smart radios and our cloud software as features he loved. But one Live365 feature that really sealed the deal for him? Our connection to TuneIn and listeners' ability to play Live365 stations in vehicles.

"When I saw that Live365 also had a TuneIn option, I thought, 'if only so I can listen to [UnderCurrents] in the car!'" he said. "I mean, you can use your phone, Bluetooth...but it's so great to get in the car and it's already on. That's luxury! For people who have that, it allows you to have your favorite station on and not have to hunt for it every time you get in the car."

A photo Gregg shared back in August of UnderCurrents Live playing on his friend's smart radio. (UnderCurrents Radio via Facebook)

Gregg also has some advice for newer broadcasters trying out Live365 for the first time. "It's a great hobby if you love music and want to share it," he stated. "Don't get fixated on, 'I have to have a big audience, I have to have a big audience.' Just put it out there and tell your friends. If they get into it, they'll tell their friends. Let it grow organically. Takes time. Y'know, use your social media and all that kind of stuff. I'm fortunate because I brought an audience with me, but I still need to promote some."

To conclude our chat, we asked Gregg if he had more future plans for the UnderCurrents brand and his broadcasting career.

"In terms of internet radio, I found it's been so easy for me to set [UnderCurrents Live] up...I'm thinking I could set up another stream or two," he revealed. "There's a couple of ideas I have that I could try. One is an international idea and the other is a very super local one. There's really no radio here, where I live. Which is odd, because I'm in the [San Francisco] Bay area. It's all signals from somewhere else, there's nothing really serving our community, which is pretty big."

Gregg told us his up-and-coming Bay area internet station is called Walnut Creek Live. "I'd like to build that into something that has more local voices on it. Have some podcast stuff on it, but also some kind of a stream. That's still in development, but I'm pretty interested in doing that."

As for goals with UnderCurrents in particular, "I like having a big audience. It'd be great if it grows...but I'm not trying to get hung up on that," he said. "Right now, it's doing pretty good. It's kind of leveled off, but I think it would keep growing organically. I may do some more promotion..."

But then Gregg caught himself and smiled, "I don't know, I'm retired, so I've done all that! I don't want to get too fixated on that because it's not THAT important to me anymore, to have a huge audience. I've kinda done that."

Gregg chuckled. "I just want to serve the people who want to enjoy it...and do what I want to do."

You can find UnderCurrents Radio on Live365 here.

You can learn more information about UnderCurrents through their website and support the broadcast through UnderCurrents' Patreon page.

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Article Image: The UnderCurrents radio logo in front of a textured purple and blue background. (UnderCurrents Radio via

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey