Radio show aims to keep the blues away

Sean Healen plays his custom-made guitar, called Zenith, at Borrego’s Guitars and Music Supply Co. on Friday. Healen will soon begin his newest project, Healen’s New 52, a weekly show on KBAC-FM 98.1 featuring a new original song each week for 52 weeks. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

A new local radio show, scheduled to begin in early December, was sparked by an unlikely source: President Donald Trump.

Singer-songwriter and soon-to-be KBAC-FM 98.1 radio host Sean Healen is no fan of Trump and likely would recoil at the thought of the president as an inspiration. But in a recent interview about his new project, Healen said: “Part of where this came from was feeling very down about the political environment. The last couple of years have been tragic, a national tragedy really, so I needed something to focus on, something creative.”

And thus came Healen’s New 52 — a weekly show featuring an original song each week for 52 consecutive weeks. The 10-minute show is scheduled to debut at 6:50 p.m. Dec. 6.

Healen will also talk about his creations during each show.

“I might talk a little bit about the impetus of the song, where it came from and maybe what’s happening, what’s current — especially in this political … blizzard we’ve been in. It’ll be hard not to throw a little of that in there.”

Though the challenge seems daunting, Healen said coming up with 52 original songs for the series was hardly a challenge.

“A couple of years ago, I challenged myself to write a song a day for a year, to see if I could do it,” he said. “And I did. I ended up with more than a song a day. Sometimes they just come out — two, three a day. I ended up getting so addicted to doing it, that I wrote a song a day for another year, just building up my catalog.

“There are probably 1,900 songs that I haven’t performed live,” Healen said. “That’s why I wanted to get these songs out doing something in the world, not just sitting in a hard drive.”

He’s written at least 2,300 songs in his career, he said.

“I think I could do a ‘New 52’ for the next 20 years, easily,” Healen said.

He said none of the songs will be from his commercially released work, which includes two albums — 2009’s Flood Plain, which won a New Mexico Music Award for Best Rock CD, and Crown of Coal, released in 2011 and produced by Malcolm Burn, who has worked as producer an engineer for renowned artists such as Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith.

Healen has already recorded most of the 52 tunes for the show.

The premier show, he said, likely will center on a song he called “The Rivers,” recorded live with his old band, featuring John Kurzweg on guitar, drummer Jeff Sussman and Matt Deason on bass.

“It’s one of those songs I’d kind of forgotten about,” he said.

Healen said he’s planning on scheduling three live shows next year, beginning in the spring, in which he’ll try to play all 52 songs from the radio show and raise money for a yet-to-be-determined charity.

Healen, 49, moved to Santa Fe in the early ’80s from Montana with his family when he was 13. He attended St. Michael’s High School for two years, then Santa Fe High, from which he graduated in 1987.

Healen has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Durango, Colo., but has spent most of his time in Santa Fe since he first moved here. Even before he moved to New Mexico, Healen was working on his craft as a musician.

“I started playing piano at the age of 5 — poorly,” he said. “I took one piano lesson and hated it.”

His formal musical training ended right then. But he picked up a guitar at the age of 10, taught himself some chords and has been playing ever since.

“I never took a guitar lesson in my life,” Healen said. “I just picked up a chord book and a bunch of poetry.”

By the time he was a teen, he was writing his own songs.

This will be the first time Healen has ever hosted his own radio program.

“I hope next year it’ll evolve into a slightly longer show,” he said, explaining he’d like to do one that would have guest musicians playing and talking about their own songs. “A lot of people never get put on the radio, so it’s kind of a thrill.”

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