Music vet and Indianapolis native Tobi Lynn talks cancer, loss and coming home

Esteemed radio DJ Tobi Lynn is back in her hometown spinning tunes for Amazing Radio. The music tastemaker talked with WRTV about cancer, loss and new beginnings.
Posted at 7:00 AM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 12:43:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — When Tobi Lynn graduated from DePauw University, she was out the Hoosier door.

First stop, Illinois. Next up, California. Destination: Music.

"There's never a moment in my life where I don't remember music being a big part of my life," Lynn said.

The music industry veteran pioneered the first coast-to-coast college indie radio station on Sirius XM, "Sirius XMU" from Washington D.C., and worked at several Los Angeles radio stations like Y107 and Soundbreak, and curated new music for ALT 98.7 at iHeart Radio.

The trusted music tastemaker has championed many up-and-coming bands in the underground world of independent music for more than 20 years. Lynn has helped bring notice to bands like Snow Patrol, Death Cab For Cutie, Walk The Moon, and Alt-J.

"I love it. Getting to be one of those gatekeepers, one of those tastemakers — it's an honor," Lynn said. "One of the great passions in my life is helping people discover new music, honestly."

Now, Lynn is back in Indianapolis, which was more or less a bittersweet homecoming.

"It wasn't like I was like, 'Yay, let's like, move back to Indianapolis. And I'm gonna be swinging from the chandelier," Lynn explained.

It was a disheartening year, 2020, as the global coronavirus pandemic commenced. But it was especially tumultuous for Lynn, who found out that her breast cancer had returned, and it had metastasized to her lungs and hip bones.

Not only had Lynn's cancer returned aggressively, but she was also grieving the passing of her father at the same time she found out she was let go by iHeart Radio.

At that point last year, she went through a "mind twister," as Lynn recalled it.

After some time, she says she's in a much better mental state.

"I think the pandemic has made everybody realize what's the most important, and it's family and friends, and it's being, you know, it's kind of like, enjoying every day, to some extent. It may not be the best day of your entire life, but just enjoying your existence," Lynn said.

Tobi Lynn

College is always the vibe

The music industry is ever-evolving, and Lynn has evolved with it.

But every stop along the way, she's brought her time spent at WGRE, the DePauw radio station, with her.

"I was the girl that was like rollerskating in the basement, listening to music on my 45 record player," Lynn said of her time in college.

A graduate of Ben Davis High School, she thought she was going to be in print journalism.

She knew she had to be in the music industry when she started spinning tunes on WGRE her freshman year.

"I just fell so deeply in love that I was just like 'there's just nothing else. I just can't imagine doing anything else,'" Lynn said.

There's no set description of indie music that feels justified enough for Lynn. It's just the sound you hear.

The indie genre is a big umbrella with almost every other genre — hip hop, rock, pop, country — under it.

For example, when she first discovered Snow Patrol, it was because of an indie rock band the lead singer, Gary Lightbody, was first in called The Reindeer Section.

"[It] just brought me to my knees. I mean, it's just the lyrics. And the music was just so gorgeous," Lynn described. "They have something a ... a little extra, something a little different. It's that indie DNA."

That indie DNA is exactly what listeners can find on Lynn's new daily show on Amazing Radio. The United Kingdom-based radio is a music discovery platform that was the first to play Alt-J, Haim, The 1975, and Dua Lipa.

Lynn's profile on Amazing Radio's website says her show is "like the cool mixtape you played over and over again in college."

"If you talk to any musician, the first band they've ever been in? In college," Lynn said of why she always resorts back to the college vibe. "And I think that's just the time where you experiment, and you learn so much about yourself, and you've learned so much about others."

"It's the same thing with Amazing Radio," she continued. "Amazing Radio is all about new, independent music. And some would say college independent music ... is the kind of the impetus of where everything starts."

Amazing Radio was first launched in 2007 in the United Kingdom. It has since gone global, playing new music from up-and-coming artists across several genres.

Dj'ing while fighting cancer

Lynn was first diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in 2016.

She came back to Indianapolis and sought treatment at Franciscan Health Cancer Center for a year. When the radio DJ found out she was cancer-free, she moved back to LA, where she remained for the last five years.

"Talk about, 'when it rains it pours,'" Lynn said lightheartedly.

In October of last year, Lynn flew back to Indy to bury her father after finding out she was laid off by iHeart Radio. While here, she had a cough initially thought to be due to pneumonia. Later, doctors discovered the breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs and three areas of her bones.

"What that means is that the cancer that's in my lungs and on my bones is still breast cancer; it's still that same breast cancer," Lynn explained. "Even though I had a lumpectomy, and I had chemo, and I had radiation, and I had all that stuff that first time around, you know, there could have been a microscopic piece of something in my lymph node. I had several lymph nodes taken out, but there could have been a microscopic piece of something that was left, and then it starts to spread in your system."

Lynn has been doing chemo every three weeks for almost a year now. It's something that she says she'll be doing for the unforeseeable future because there is really no way to get rid of the cancer cells now.

"My last scan showed that everything was stable, which is what you want. You want stable. So yay!" Lynn said on her latest update. "And I'm not losing my hair this time around, which is good!"

Lynn describes herself as a positive person. She loves having a positive mindset and has always had one. It's that same positive mindset that's getting her through every day.

"When something negative like this happens, I always still stay and go to the positive vibes and go to the hashtag gratitude," Lynn said, smiling.

A friend of Lynn's started a GoFundMe page to help Lynn get through the last year. Friends, old colleagues, and bands all chipped in to raise more than $33,000.

"I don't think- I don't think that there will ever be enough words to say thank you to all those people that have helped. I mean, I've tried. I've found as many words as I can, but there's still — it's just, it's just amazing," Lynn said, tearing up.

She's received notes and direct messages from people all over, sending their positive vibes, thoughts, and prayers. It's an overwhelming emotion, she says. "To see that sort of love ... to feel that sort of love."

It's exhausting to work while going through chemo, Lynn says, but she's thankful that the "chemo cocktail" she's on is not as harsh as the first round.

"It doesn't make me not able to do stuff, it just, it's that sort of deep in your bones fatigue, where you don't even want to just be standing up, you just want to be laying down. And you have to, like, find the motivation," Lynn explains of running her Amazing Radio show five days a week.

Having a daily show on Amazing Radio is something Lynn has been pushing a long time for, Lynn says.

"It's almost like a vision board sort of thing," Lynn said. "You know, you say it so much, and you hope for it, and you pray for it ... you plan for it. And then it finally happens!"

A selfie of Tobi Lynn

Back in Indy

"I've kind of like settled in; I'm in a cute little house on the west side," Lynn said. She grew up on Indy's west side.

Lynn has spent more of her life away from Indy than in Indy but says she's excited to be back and get to know her hometown again.

"I'm like a huge Colts fan. I love the Indy 500. I go every year like, I'm like a huge, huge, huge nerd when it comes to IndyCar," Lynn said,

She loves local venues Hi-Fi and The Vogue, and is excited to see some performances there. For the time being, though, she's extra cautious about where she goes since she's immunocompromised.

Her favorite Indianapolis-based band? Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. Although the group has since separated, Lynn says she still listens to their work. Which recently was highlighted on Billie's Eilish's personalized playlist on Amazon Music.

Upcoming Local Show Suggestion: Wild Nothing at The Vogue and The Crystal Method at Hi-Fi
Must-listen-to Album: A Beginner's Mind by Sufjan Stevens
Current Song On Repeat: Silk Chiffon by MUNA
Top Song She's Spinning on Amazing Radio: Tryst by Grace Mitchell
Follow Tobi Lynn on Twitter
Follow Amazing Radio on Twitter

"I hear people say like, 'Oh, there's no good music out there,' or whatever. It's like, there's so much good music out there that it's like it's mind-boggling!" Lynn said. "It's so fulfilling to turn people on to their next favorite band."

Lynn has been turning music-lovers on to the best tunes for decades now, and you can continue to listen to her spins on Amazing Radio, Monday through Friday, Noon to 2 p.m.

WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.