When Tom Heideman records his radio show, he does not use overdubs. “Tunes With Tom” is broadcast live from his kitchen, usually with a cat roaming nearby. “I am in my pajamas most of the time,” he said.
His neighbor mentioned stations she listened to on the internet — many that played independent artists. “Like most musicians, I was looking for airplay. So, I looked into it and found countless stations.”
Belter Radio was the first to play his folk music. “I’ve made four albums and two singles of original music,” Heideman said. He’s known for his many local live performances. “I’ve been playing in coffee shops for years,” he said.
After connecting with Belter Radio, the soft-spoken Heideman became a frequent chat room visitor. “I casually mentioned that I thought it would be fun to do a show of my own. They told me, ‘Sure, any time.’”
After COVID forced shutdowns in 2020, he was let go from Marshall Music in Frandor — a job he had held for 20 years.
“I had plenty of free time, so we made it happen. I have no formal DJ experience but I’m having fun,” Heideman said. “I set up the show ahead of time. I just introduce the tunes and ramble on a bit and off we go. My wife, Mary Koenigsknecht, helps with a fun remark from time to time.”
They married in 1996 and became the Tom & Mary duo.
“We’ve played festivals, coffee shops, restaurants and produced and performed in countless fundraisers for the Riverwalk Theatre,” Heideman said.
Heideman, 66, grew up in Kalamazoo and moved to Lansing in the early-’80s. From 1985 to 1987, he performed in Otsu through Lansing Community College’s Japan Adventure program.
Beside featuring one or two of his songs on a “Tunes With Tom” broadcast, a Tom & Mary recording might also be included. “Mary and I sing tunes from the ’60s and ’70s, plus my original songs,” Heideman said.
There is no set format for the two-hour program. Its themes are just as casual as his voice.
“A usual show may include groups I grew up with: The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Mo Town and Carole King, and indie artists in the folk-rock vein. I’ve been known to play some jazz and show tunes as well,” Heideman said
Belter-Radio only asks that no more than three songs by any one artist be played during the “Tunes With Tom” show. Alastair and Sylvia Peaston started the niche station in 2010 outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. It can be heard worldwide by anyone with internet access. Graham Barnes and Karen Jary are part of the all-volunteer staff that works from home.
Jary, also known by her nickname, Kazzer, was Heideman’s main teacher to be a DJ. “I downloaded the system I have to use and Kazzer walked me through it. This took a long time because I’m a technical dope,” he said.
Lots of independent songwriters submit material to Belter Radio. “It gets a couple thousand a week,” Heideman said. The station has a humungous audio library of obscure and recognized recordings that he can select songs to play from.
Heideman is playing more original music from independent songwriters. Just as he was given a break, Heideman is spotlighting musicians not heard on mainstream radio. He regularly includes Lansing area players on “Tunes With Tom.”
Wanda Degen, Root Doctor, Bart Moore, Betty Baxter, The Dangling Participles, Donny Brown, Jackalope, Mighty Medicine, Kay Rinker-O’Neil, Jacque Baldori and other local artists have been featured. “I’m always looking for new music,” he said.
In the end, there is no pay for his hard efforts.
“We do it for the love of music,” Heideman said.
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