On his Twitter account, M.Ward describes himself as an "occasional tourist" – and when he's on tour, he only listens to public radio. That's why the folk musician decided to create A Wasteland Companion, a free mobile app (tied to his recent album of same name) that sorts and streams quality, non-commercial radio programming.
"The idea came out of my own necessity," M. Ward tells Rolling Stone. "When I'm on tour, I want to listen to local radio with music being played by real people and actual voices in that community. Radio has the power to be a cultural hub."
A Wasteland Companion catalogues almost a thousand public radio stations across the country, through numerous genres and political ideologies. In curating the database, M. Ward sought to include a wide range of alternatives to commercial radio, programming that made listeners "think more."
"Most new products are designed to turn off your brain," he says. "Video games and TV are great at that." As for the Internet, he concedes, "It depends. Pandora is a great option but it can't be the only option. And how many hours can we spend on Facebook watching cats falling off refrigerators? I worry about that."
The Wasteland app also includes news, tour dates and other M. Ward-related content. Its early success has the artist considering new ways of using mobile apps to "expand America's worldview." Developed by Mobile Roadie, it is available now in the iTunes store.