Steady On Her Grind

{December 7, 2010}   The Sky’s The Limit

Words can’t express how excited I am to present this interview with Leslie Nichols, producer for the nationally syndicated PBS program Austin City Limits; which has been airing performances from rock icons such as R.E.M., The Foo Fighters, The Flaming Lips, & Patty Griffin since 1976 and is the longest running music show on American television.

1) What drew you to the world of television production?

Either a fluke or fate. Even though I majored in Radio/TV/Film at The University of Texas at Austin, after several tough post-college years I had resigned myself to working in another field. I first began working at KLRU-TV in Austin (the public television station that produces ACL) as a result of answering a blind ad for an administrative position. Also, I just love television. I’m not ashamed to admit I watch lots of it!

2) What has been your experience as a female working in the field?

I’m in a strange “no-man’s land” between the television & music fields, both of which have come a long way for women in the last 10 years. I’m seeing many more female producers, camera operators, tour managers, audio engineers, guitar techs even. Although still the minority (despite being the majority of the population, ahem).

3) How did you come to join the Austin City Limits team?

I’d worked for KLRU-TV for 4 years and got to know the producers quite well and even helped out on some productions as a driver and production assistant before my position became available. My duties at KLRU also came to involve licensing and station relations for ACL. I guess I made a good impression.

4) What have been some of your favorite episodes thus far?

Some favorites from the last few years are Nick Lowe, The Swell Season, Crowded House, Wilco, Sufjan Stevens and Elvis Costello. From this season, I can’t wait for everyone to see The Black Keys when their episode airs in January. Intense.

5) What is your favorite thing about your job?

I love getting a new assignment– making the first contacts with an artist’s management team and getting the ball rolling logistically speaking.

6) What is your least favorite thing about your job?

The lull between taping seasons. Deadly dull.

7) Have you had a chance through ACL to meet some of your favorite musicians?

I have! And not one of them has disappointed me yet by being a jerk. Whew! And after 10 years I’ve almost reached the point where I’m not nervous anymore to meet them. Except for Dolly Parton. She said hello to me and I was stunned speechless.

8) What is a typical day on the set of ACL like for you?

I’m there from the time the band loads in to when everything is back on their truck or bus and they’re headed out of town. In between I try to make sure that everything proceeds on schedule, everyone has everything they need and the lines of communications are kept open between our crew and theirs for set up, line check, sound check, camera rehearsal and show.

9) Was there a moment in your life when you fell in or out of love with rock n roll?

I fell in love with rock n roll when I fell in love with Elvis, through his movies. The good ones, you know, where he’s in black & white or in Hawaii.

The current season of Austin City Limits features performances from Steve Martin, John Legend & The Roots, and Jakob Dylan.   Check your local listings at for show times in your town or to view past episodes online!


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