RADIO.COM’s Rob Stone and Holly Hutton broadcast the heart and soul of Country music every weekday from 7PM – 12AM on your favorite RADIO.COM Country station. Each of them grew up on the rural outskirts of Michigan where music and family influenced their way of life and connection to Country music.
“I was born and raised in Almont Michigan, and kind of grew up out in the sticks on a dirt road,” Rob shares. About 50 miles north of Detroit, his childhood brimmed with music and spirit that defined his early taste in music. “The music bug was really just from my parents’ cranking up a lot of classic rock music. They’re from the generation of ‘keep doing your thing’ and ‘don’t let the kids run the show,’” he admits.
“Looking back it’s great because I have such a love for music because it was always on in our house.”
Holly grew up right outside of Detroit, but her first love wasn’t the sound of a guitar. It was the thunderous gallop of horses along the country side. “I feel like horses are just in my DNA,” she says. An early love of riding began to influence her free spirited vibe, attracting Holly to the pure emotion of Country music.
“For me, horses are home and that’s what Country music is. It’s that home feeling. Like a good cozy bowl of soup, or a nice fuzzy blanket,” she says. “For me, that’s what Country music is.” She still nurtures that feeling today, living on a 17 acre hobby farm.
As years went by, each followed their musical passions to mixed media careers that provided a wealth of perspective on the evolution of Country music. After graduating from Michigan State University, Rob jumped head first into an overnight gig in East Lansing. He was tasked with reading weather and traffic.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” he asked his boss. His bundle of nerves provided an eye opening experience to the radio business. “It was terrifying the first time I ever cracked a mic. After my first report I turned off the mic and laid on the floor,” he says. “I feel like I couldn’t breathe."
“It was terrifying to me at that point. But I just kept at it, and kept at it and here I am.” Through determination and persistence, Rob was able to score two ACM Awards for “Major Market Personality of the Year,” and become Detroit’s prominent voice when it comes to new Country.
Holly developed her chops hosting the local music show Detroit’s Underground, interviewing emerging alternative artists. Not every conversation was a great experience. She recalls interviewing Kid Rock in the early 2000’s and “it was as if a Beatle had showed up on set.”
“The energy and frenzy around him was so overwhelming. I was just thrown into the situation with no preparation,” she intimates. But the experience ended up being a bellwether for her understanding of artists and music. “Because I got to interview those bands, and it was so constant, it really did help sharpen my interview skills.”
That experience, along with many years behind the mic, created an opportunity for Holly to serve as the current Music Director at WYCD in Detroit.
When it comes to curating the perfect mix of Country music across generations, Holly strikes a fine balance between what’s old and new. “It’s a real struggle for me to understand what Country music means today. I definitely lean a little bit old school, but there’s all the modern country that I love as well,” she explains.
“There’s an element of the old school that’s threaded into modern songs. I think that’s the thread that keeps the genre all together.”
Rob remembers hearing Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country” for the first time as a moment of clarity for the genre. It was the moment he realized Country music’s modern roots are planted in rock. “I remember hearing that heavy and distorted guitar lick and thinking ‘Holy cow, this is a rock song,’” he recalled.
“I think people just want to put a name on everything, but you do see the shifts. A lot of that just has to do with the machine Nashville is, now. It’s like the assembly line in Detroit back in the day with cars. That’s what Nashville is now with music.”
Both Rob and Holly stay committed to their love of music even at home.
Rob continues his family tradition of music being the constant force at home. His 1-and-a-half year old son Emmett has already started following in dad’s footsteps, eager to start strumming a guitar. "I try to play guitar in front of him (Emmett), but he just freaks out now, because he just wants to start hitting the strings,” Rob tells us. “So now I can’t even play a song without him screaming, ‘I want to do it!’”
Holly meanwhile is exposing her 2-year-old son Johnny to some of Country music’s best. He seems to be taking to it! “When Blake Shelton performed 'God’s Country' for the first time, he (Johnny) just stopped what he was doing and stared at the TV. He absolutely loves that song,” she glows about her kid’s already extraordinary music acumen.