Pam Temple is a legend in the music community here in Cincinnati. She has been playing in the band Wild Carrot since 2000 with her husband, Spencer Funk. They have been voted “Best Folk Act” at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, and have been chosen twice as the only U.S. Folk Act to serve as Cultural Ambassador to Chile, South America with the U.S. State Department.
Impressed yet? There is more. She is also the on-air music host of the American Roots program, The Front Porch, at 89.7FM WNKU. This is where I was introduced to Pam Temple. I have been spending my Sunday mornings with Pam on the radio for 16 years. I admire Pam’s wit, decorum, and passion for life. I have always felt like she was a long-lost sister of mine.
As I am sure you are aware, today is the last broadcast of The Front Porch on WNKU as we know it. I have not given up hope that we can still Save WNKU, but I may be fighting a losing battle.
It was my distinct pleasure to talk to Pam Temple about being a Woman Behind (and in front of) the Music in Cincinnati.
CincyMusic.com: Everyone knows you from WNKU and your band, Wild Carrot. What are some things we may not know about Pam Temple?
Pam Temple: I speak Spanish pretty well. I learned it as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica. I backpacked through Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru and climbed the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. Binge watching Netflix is my drug of choice. I sing dumb songs to my cats and dogs…they think I’m amazing, I just know it. Jelly beans…love ‘em…gotta be Brach’s original, no fancy stuff.
CM: As a woman in Cincinnati music, do you feel that your gender has ever hindered your path? Do you feel that you have to work harder to get your voice heard?
PT: I don’t know if being a woman has hindered my path, as I’ve achieved most of my goals, but I’m sure it makes it more difficult and can be frustrating. For example, I was playing a gig with Wild Carrot (with my husband, Spencer Funk) and when we stopped for a break, a guy in the audience came up to the stage and asked Spencer, “Why do you let her play that chord that way.” Really? Why does he “let me?” I’m a better than average rhythm guitar player and know why I make the choices I make. I don’t think that person would have asked that question had I not been a woman. There are lots of stories of that type I could tell you.
To answer your second question, yes, of course it is harder for women to be heard across the board in our society. Women are first judged by appearance and age. Anything we say has to, first, make its way past that superficial test. Then there’s the voice. Aside from “mansplaining”, which is real, men just have deeper, louder voices in general. It is easier for them to dominate a conversation and interrupt. Listen to women announcers, myself included. They tend to force their voices lower into that “growly” sound that singers call “vocal fry” so that they will sound “more authoritative,” as our patriarchal culture dictates in order to be listened to. Then, we are judged by likability and ability to be articulate. We have to work to get through all of these layers of judgement to where what we have to say will be taken seriously. I'm sure some of this is true for men too, but not in the same way or degree. And we, as women, judge other women too. I try and work to be sensitive to that. I have been forced to work with the typical loud, masculine, insecure, bloviators but I am also lucky to work with some wonderful feminist men and a lot of amazing women who listen deeply to each other and get a lot done, efficiently and with kindness!
CM: What women in music (or behind the music) do you admire?
PT: Well, that’s a long list. Some highlights: My parents took me to see a female-fronted band called Trapezoid when I was maybe 12 years old. Lorraine Duisit and the late Frieda Epstien were at center stage. I walked out of there and knew that I wanted to do what they were doing. Then there are the singers and performing-songwriters from Ella to Joni to Shawn Colvin and many in between and beyond who have infused my own songwriting and singing. But there are three women that come to mind at this moment in my life who are artists in their own fields, not necessarily in music: Mary Pierce Brosmer, author and founder of Women Writing for (a) Change®, Diane Debevec, visual artist and Executive Director of WWf(a)C and Beth Lodge-Rigal, singer-songwriter and Creative Director at WWf(a)C Bloomington, IN. All three of these women provide wonderful inspiration and strong examples for me of how to operate well in a masculine world, to balance the best of the masculine and feminine within us all (men & women) in a conscious way, how to stand up and follow my own path regardless of societal pressure to do otherwise. They have all helped me immensely over the last couple of years in revealing some new facets of my creative life.
CM: It’s obviously a sad time for us with the impending loss of WNKU. What has your time at WNKU meant to you?
PT: Oh, man. This has been (and is) so hard. I really am grieving the slow death of a close friend. I write this on the day before my final broadcast of The Front Porch, my baby at WNKU. I’ve been hosting the show for 16 years. I’ve received a flood of sweet calls and emails and posts from listeners telling me their (sometimes very personal) stories. People have felt encouraged, entertained, educated and empowered and have found companionship and a source of comfort in the music and in my voice. What more could I ask for from my life than to be welcomed in by so many to share, in some small way, personal moments of discovery and recovery and joy? What a rare honor.
And as a musician myself, it has been just an incredible journey of discovery and learning for me! I’ve had the opportunity to interview – I’ve lost count how many – artists I admire and respect and share their music and conversations with the listeners…so fun! And the ability to support my fellow local musicians has been really important to me.
Meeting the listeners at Studio 89 shows or at events around town and feeling the gratitude…wow…this station has held deep meaning for so many and for our community at large in so many ways. It’s hard to believe we won’t have it anymore. I’m still getting my mind around what that will be like. I’ll miss the people and the music so, so much. Words fail me.
CM: What do you want people to take away with them when they think of you?
PT: I guess sort of what I said in the last question…that I serve something larger than myself; that I have humor and integrity and honesty. And that I care; about others, the work I do in all facets of my life, and how that work impacts the bigger picture.
CM: What is next for Pam Temple?
PT: Well, I’ve always had a very full creative life outside of WNKU. My band, Wild Carrot, is alive and well, so performing will continue for sure. I, along with my husband (the other half of Wild Carrot) have also been working as “Healing Artists” for the last couple of years in an Arts-in-Healing program, so that has opened up some new avenues with music and continues to expand into new areas for us. I am a recent addition to the faculty at Women Writing for (a) Change®, and am facilitating writing circles a few times a week in various locations, serving veterans, girls, and young women, using writing as a way of healing and finding voice. I’ve been filling in at WVXU and WGUC for the last five years and will continue that as well. And I can tell you that I am actively working to find a place to reconstruct the Front Porch on Cincinnati air waves. I will get the word out if and when that happens via social media and everyone has a standing invitation to join me there. So, I’m a busy girl. And a very lucky girl.
March is Women’s History Month, in celebration, CincyMusic.com will be featuring important women behind the music scene in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is the home of so many amazing women within the music industry. These women include; an activist, a Director of Marketing, Music Editor, Producer, musicians, and many more!
Stay tuned to CincyMusic.com for our Features on these talented women this month!