Chapman alum starts Laguna FM radio station

Tyler Russell isn't your average 23-year-old.

Most recent college graduates are scouring for a job, working part time serving up lattes or applying to grad school — but he's starting his own radio station.

Laguna's only FM station, KX 93.5, officially goes on air Oct. 1. The low-power station will reach five square miles from Crown Valley to Monarch Beach, covering Laguna and some of Laguna Niguel.

Don't let the fresh face fool you. Russell, who grew up in Tucson, Ariz., isn't a newcomer to radio.

He recently left Palm Springs, where he worked as program director at Crush 103.9. He also was a deejay for KCLB 93.7 and a guest reporter for Palm Spring's CBS affiliate, giving the latest on entertainment. He interned for KIIS-FM and K-Earth while at Chapman University.

On a recent day, as he sat outside his new studio, a stone's throw from Coast Highway, he talked about being turned off from commercial radio, which he said doesn't cater to listeners anymore.

"Radio used to be local and community-oriented," he said. "Now, you could be in Mississippi and listen to Ryan Seacrest and it wouldn't be relevant to where you live."

He recalled an instance when a teenager called in with a request for a song — he thinks it was for Jack Johnson — and he had to tell the caller that they'd put in the request even though it would never get played. Moments like that, he said, made him jaded about the direction of commercial radio.

Orange County started to feel like home during his time at Chapman, he said, and after a couple years in the desert, he was drawn back to Laguna.

KX 93.5 will play generational alternative rock, which Russell thinks will appeal to a large group of people because it spans from the 1960s through today.

He wants to ditch pre-programmed playlists and make sure KX 93.5 is something for the community, by the community.

"We know people here really love Laguna and are loyal to Laguna, and I hope it can be an outlet for expressing their affection on-air," he said.

Anyone who drives through Laguna Beach knows that most radio frequencies go dead once you pass Emerald Bay or enter Laguna Canyon. For that reason, Russell thought the city was in need of the station.

"We're in an iPod world now, and people still listen to the radio a lot," said Planning Commissioner Robert Zur Schmiede, who worked at his high school radio station in Indiana. "I don't know why he wouldn't pick up an audience."

Anyone interested in being a disc jockey for KX 93.5 can contact Russell at

Twitter: @joannaclay

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