E-Town, Boulder Colorado

by Jim Harrington

Hey, have you heard that radio show?

While the world is collapsing e-Town is Boulder’s dream. e-Town is Boulder’s own radio crystal spreading a spectrum of hope across the land. A beacon of song and encouragement to get through dreary nights.

Long dark descending collective evenings of gloom on countless environmental news stories are notorious for doomsday scenarios ranging from climate change, drought, wildfires, mass extinctions to earthquakes. One Boulder based radio show delivers a positive social message. Before giving up the fight reach for that station, dial in e-Town! Radio listeners unite, we got this! Dare to dream, stomp your feet and be inspired to act. e-Town is in tune with your own pulsing beat.

A dream from the 1990’s found in the heart of activists, musicians, brewmeisters, baristas and buskers alike to save the world via grassroots powered homegrown radio. We need a hero and she is in you.

Really! Turn up e-Town. Do it tonight. Turn on to a musical and idealistic high dream founded in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Turn on to that radio show. It reaches out to you with 300 stations attracting over 1 million fellow listeners. Turn the dial. You won’t be alone in the dark. Feel the reverberations in your bones and know you too are in the live studio audience. Turn back to e-Town tonight.

Remember the 1990’s when people were starting to get new fancy lattes, hand crafted brews, piercings and tribal tattoos? People were singing songs about saving the planet and celebrating local environmental activism found in likeminded neighborhoods now linked via a new world wide web. Yes, it was new back then. Boulder is the place surrounded by reality that will not give up on the planet. The dream of the 1990’s is still alive in Boulder. Where the microbrews, lattes and tattoo ink never run dry. Where the young come to retire and hang out with friends. Where you snooze ’til the crack of noon and still be in heaven at the base of the Flatirons eating breakfast burritos drinking your favorite Sherpa bhakti chai at Dot’s own Diner. The dream of the 1990’s stays alive via e-Town. Having grown like weeds e-Town keeps the dream of the 1990’s alive by being a nonprofit, nationally syndicated radio broadcast/podcast show. Since its humble birth on earth day in 1991, e-Town has harvested numerous musical, social and environmental programs to uplift and inspire and nourish listeners around the world. People come to the e-Town community for the music shows and stay around to feast on the message. Morning, noon or night turn on that e-Town today!

e-Town has presented the e-Chievement Award to hundreds of folks from all over the world who are helping to make their communities a better place. They show us the possible when small groups of folks work together to make the neighborhood better. Are you willing to do your part? It all makes a world of difference. Winners are nominated by listeners and interviewed on-air about their extraordinary community work. They are your friendly neighborhood do gooders with stories ranging from feeding the hungry to cleaning up the environment to housing the homeless. Their beautiful stories inspire others to make contributions both large and small but all matter to make community dreams a reality. It starts with a collective dream and comes real via good old-fashioned community barn raising. e-Chievement Awards celebrate these stories and inspire new ones.

e-Town was dreamt up by career musician Nick Forster while on tour in Eastern Europe with Sam Bush & Friends in 1990. Nick, a veteran touring musician with the progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize, had fallen in love with live radio after being a guest on Prairie Home Companion, Austin City Limits, the Grand Ol’ Opry and the WWVA Jamboree. After seeing how the power of music could draw disparate groups together – and recently witnessing extreme environmental degradation in Eastern Europe – Nick was convinced that there could be a radio show that combined live music with conversation about how we live together on this increasingly fragile planet. Spaceship earth passengers have no operating manual, but they could get a bit of song and inspiration on how to help keep this fragile vessel afloat. Back in Boulder, Nick told his new wife Helen Forster, who he originally met backstage at the Telluride Bluegrass festival, that he had a dream for a radio program that would channel the energy and spirit of live performance audiences into a dialogue about global issues with local actions people were taking to help address the global concerns. Not just rolling her eyes but listening intently Helen quickly realized Nick needed help to get e-Town started. For all his talents Nick didn’t have all the skills needed to get this thing off the ground.

Who alone would? It takes a village to raise a radio show. Helen, a veteran performer and singer (and former owner and producer of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival), jumped right in to serve as co-host and executive producer, and the first e-Town show, with much volunteer effort, was recorded on Earth Day in 1991. “There was a lot of apathy in 1991 and it wasn’t because people are bad or lazy or greedy, people are just people and people were feeling overwhelmed by what was going on around them and disempowered to do anything,” Helen says. “We wanted to have a show where you could feel safe to come in and listen and hear about these things that weren’t being featured in mainstream media.”

The e-Town variety show formula for success is always a mixture of its husband and wife hosts with warm welcomes and endearing banter, professional musicians with songs and stories sharing a passion for the environment, neighborhood activists with inspiration and resolve to make the world better one small act at a time, a live studio audience with enthusiasm for world class musicians and hopes for a better world and hidden from sight but definitely heard, expert sound engineers with their mysterious ways to make it seem like over a million of us in radio land are in the live audience too. To create this mass appeal for broadcast acoustic music is no easy technical feat.

The ‘e’ in e-Town at its launch on earth day 1991 stood for ‘earth’.

Over time that same ‘e’ stood for ‘environment’, ‘education’, ‘echievement’ and surprising to some ‘electronics’. e-Town uses the highest quality microphones, to record good acoustic instruments because if you want to capture what is naturally there as best as you can you need to use the best equipment. Having a professional musician doing a good performance and add a good microphone with of course good cables plus good revamp equals a good radio recording that captures the live moment as cleanly as possible. It creates a technical backdrop that helps to radio/podcast listener to soak up the sound of the musicians and drop into the ambient vibe of being in the live concert hall audience. There is nothing better. That is more than material for a feel-good show it is a technical quality you can commercially market. e-Town is both a feel-good show on a mission to save the planet and a high-quality musical experience. Just a few short months after its premiere, in large part due to its high production quality, e-Town was also launched on National Public Radio and fans across the country discovered this one-of-a-kind program. In the mid 1990’s, after a few years of ever-increasing growth, e-Town was a cost cutting casualty in the cultural and political wars of the times over National Broadcast Radio. e-Town survived because of the countless hours of work done in front and behind the microphone. It felt good because of the tunes, the message and the quality of production. Together e-Town could attract sponsorships. At first the sponsorship was local Boulder natural food companies but as those brands also went national so did e-Town’s footprint. The funding cut from National Public Radio did not keep e-Town silent for long, it just raised even more in sponsorship and came back stronger than ever on both public and commercial airways. Now, more than 25 years later and over 1,000 performing artists, e-Town is still evolving, with an ever-expanding audience and impactful message. With weekly broadcasts, video content, and even a new solar powered concert hall in downtown Boulder, e-Town is not just here to stay, it’s barn raising inspiration is getting bigger and better than ever! Come to Boulder for a visit, stay at the Boulder Inn and hear that e-Town radio show in person. Until your next visit turn than dial, hear the tunes, feel the hope and be a part of making a difference. Listen to that e-Town today!

A few of the more than one thousand visiting and local artists to have performed for the live eTown audience include:

Aaron Neville Quintet, David Gray, James Taylor, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Loretta Lynn, Ray LaMontagne, The Fray, Ralph Stanley, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bruce Cockburn, Barenaked Ladies, Ingrid Michaelson, Koko Taylor, David Crosby & Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, Pops Staples, Randy Newman, Dr. John, Joe Jackson, Sarah McLachlan, Los Lobos, The Fairfield Four, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Frisell, Shawn Colvin, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Jack Johnson, Odetta, Ben Harper, Richard Thompson, Wanda Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Keb’ Mo’, Spoon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Del McCoury, Lyle Lovett, Taj Mahal, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Nickel Creek, Pinetop Perkins, Béla Fleck, Earl Scruggs, Glen Hansard, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Flatlanders, Townes Van Zandt, Patty Griffin, Charlie Musselwhite, Doc Watson, James McMurtry and hundreds more.


In addition to the musical guests, some of the eTown interviewees have

included: Dr. Jane Goodall, Vice President Al Gore, Allen Ginsberg, humorist Dave Barry, environmental advocate Bobby Kennedy Jr., President Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, poet Terry Tempest Williams, Professor Bryan Willson, cowboy poet Baxter Black, Nobel Prize–winning economist Paul Krugman, actor/environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr., Senator George McGovern, Pete Seeger, activist Julia Butterfly Hill, climber/author Erik Weihenmayer, and columnist/reporter Amy Goodman and more