Chanelle Sinclair of The Fates Co./Submitted

By Connor Dziawura | April 8, 2022

KWSS 93.9 FM host Dani Cutler recently celebrated her 15th year at the independent radio station.

Cutler can be heard as host of “The Dani Cutler Show” from 6 to 10 a.m. MST weekdays and the “Dani’s Diner” retro music hour at noon weekdays, and she’s also the noncommercial low-power terrestrial broadcast station’s promotions and marketing manager and co-manages daily operations.

But even before making a name for herself at the station, which is streamed online and broadcast in Scottsdale, Phoenix and the surrounding West Valley cities, Cutler was an early adopter of the now-booming podcast industry.

Beginning with what she calls the “first wave of podcasting” in the mid-2000s, Cutler wrote, produced and hosted “Truth Seekers” from 2006 to 2012.

Though George W. Bush’s presidency and the Iraq War inspired her to create the long-running current events podcast, the idea was not to spread her own opinions, she explains, but to talk to others about theirs.

At the same time, she used the podcast as an opportunity to spotlight indie artists with “podsafe” music, or songs intended for use on podcasts.

She calls the combination her “springboard into radio and music.”

“I’ve always wanted to just learn and challenge myself to discover new things, and always (had) a love of music and audio. … I love to create in that space,” says Cutler, who calls herself “a child of the ’80s” who grew up listening to radio, while also being classically trained on the viola. Her experiences gave her a “deep love of all kinds of music.”

With the hopes of “Truth Seekers” receiving syndication, she says she reached out to the independent radio station KQCX.

“And they came back and they didn’t want another talk show on their station, but they said they liked my voice and asked if I wanted to join them and do some announcing music,” Cutler recalls.

So, with no prior radio experience, she parlayed the podcast into a stint “doing some voice tracking and basic announcing of songs” with KQCX. That station then merged with KWSS in 2007, she recalls, and she was given an opportunity to continue there as a midday announcer.

“That’s the funny thing, is that most people when they started radio, well, they went to school and they did broadcasting or they jumped in and started interning at a radio station — and I did exactly the opposite. I was a podcaster first, and then I found my foot in radio.”

The long-running “Dani’s Diner,” a lunchtime music hour that spans tunes from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, played an early role in Cutler’s start in the midday shift. The program remains an outlet for interests like Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Blondie and, her favorite, Duran Duran, as she has “a deep love for those type of bands.”

But a void opened at KWSS when the former morning show host moved in late 2016, Cutler recalls. So, after some time doing behind-the-scenes work at the station, like being programming director and other busywork, she asked to take over the morning slot.

“So, I just kind of put myself in the position,” she admits with a laugh.

Billed as “The Dani Cutler Show,” she calls the morning show a “pretty good mix” of everything from mainstream alt-rock to independent artists both local and international.

“So you’ll hear Weezer or you’ll hear alt-J and then you’ll hear, like, Paper Foxes or The Black Moods, so we do a good mix of that in our rotation,” she says, clarifying, “That’s not just the morning show, but that’s our daily music lineup.”

Within the show’s four hours, she also programs various segments.

“I have my ‘9:39 Local Spotlight,’ which I feature a specific artist, whether it’s new music or there’s a show coming up or something like that, and then I also have a little ‘Morning Good’ segment, because especially in the past few years … it’s just been a tirade of bad news and sadness and just all this negative stuff, even currently, unfortunately, what’s going on right now in the Ukraine,” she says.

It can be anything from a fluff piece to a business showcase.

“I try and put a twist on it, where it’s like, I always want to support,” she explains. “So any way that I can look to support the local community, I do.”

Cutler has branched beyond just hosting, working up the ladder to serve as the station’s promotions and marketing manager and co-manager of daily operations. An independent, locally owned nonprofit, KWSS, which was founded in 2005, is operated on an entirely volunteer basis by people like Cutler. And it only made sense to Cutler, as she runs a marketing business.

But beyond even KWSS, Cutler’s work in podcasting has helped her get work in voice acting and editing of audio dramas.

“It’s funny, because when I look back on my audio career as a whole, growing up I just was a regular kid. I just loved listening to music. I just loved being a part of things that way, and I never had any great ambitions that I was going to use my voice in this capacity,” she says.

“And it’s funny, because I never considered my voice something that would be good for those kinds of things, but when the opportunities came up, I can thank technology and the internet for that, because I’ve made so many connections — and that’s what piqued the interest in me on doing these types of things.

“I love to produce audio. I love to edit. I love to talk, obviously,” she adds with a laugh. “And I just never thought that my voice could be used in this capacity. And, it’s just a wonderful thing to have it happen.”

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