Career Capsule: I’ve been in radio for 20 years, now (trying to decipher my age from his information is discouraged, as I stopped admitting to a number at 28). I went to college with the intention of graduation as a Music Education Major, but there was a boy in the Radio/TV department who – NO LIE – looked just like Joey McIntyre from NKOTB. Yup. I switched majors for a boy. (He married the girl he was dating then, and I fell in love with radio, so it all worked out.) I’ve spent the majority of my career in Top 40, but cannot see myself ever returning to that after a few years in CCM. I’ve chased the radio dream across a good portion of the country: Florida, Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and now, New Jersey!
1. Mysti, Tell us what’s new with WAWZ… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
Coming off the heels of our Secret Sound promotion, right now, Star 99-1 is collecting shoes for our 9/11 Empty Shoe Memorial. The concept is incredible. We have a pair of shoes to represent each life that was lost on 9/11 almost 15 years ago, and those shoes will be displayed on the campus of Zaraphath Christian Church, each pair with an American flag in it. We think it’s important to not only remember the people whose lives were extinguished that day, but to honor them as well. And then, once the display is down, the shoes will go on to be utilized at Soles 4 Souls. On the personal front, I’ve just launched MinistryMic, which is a site dedicated to helping CCM programmers connect with CCM air talent across the country. It’s an easy-to-peruse list of air checks. My hope is that this will give our fine PDs a wider range of talents to listen to and choose from when working on completing their station lineup. I’m looking forward to fostering some awesome connections!
2. What is your typical day like regarding getting ready to go on the air?
I spend a lot of my pre-show time on the hunt for inspiring stories to share with our listeners – stuff that will make them feel good, encourage them to DO good, and remind them that God is moving all around them, no matter the circumstances of present-day life. I’m a tea junkie, so in the summer, I like to run by Sonic to get an iced tea as big as my head to sip on throughout my shift; in the winter, I stick to hot teas that taste like dessert, because YUM. Then, of course, just before I open the mic, I play “The Eye of the Tiger” and shadow box. That’s totally normal, right?
3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
This is a tough one. I’ve been given a LOT of advice over the years. Lots of good advice. Lots of bad advice. Lots of really terrible advice that shouldn’t even be quoted. As for the best, I think it’s pretty simple: be yourself. Share who you really are – your life, your struggles, your view of the world around you. You take that and you plug it into the listener’s POV, and you have no choice but to connect. I’m still working on mastering it, and there are times it’s difficult to share myself fully. For the most part, though, I’m open about my struggles with my depression, my wrestling with God, my highs and lows. At the end of the day, if one person latches on to one thing and it makes them think or FEEL, then it’s a job well done in my book.
As for the worst advice…that’s honestly hard to pinpoint in all the years of noise that you can encounter, bouncing from station to station. I think the most recent bad feedback that I was given (I don’t know that advice is the right word), I was told that I wasn’t connecting with people. This was based on a lack of phone calls into my show. I began to believe that I was fundamentally incapable of stirring anything in anyone because my phones weren’t ringing off the hook. Shortly after being told that, I started a new gig where, while yeah, phone calls are GREAT and totally encouraged, I was told that if the lines didn’t blow up, I wasn’t a failure. That, statistically, most of your audience won’t pick the phone up and call, because of a combination of incentive, preoccupation, daily duties, or even the no-phone driving law. Not to say that I don’t enjoy when the phones are going, because I obviously do. But I don’t judge myself so harshly on slower days, now, and it’s colored my overall confidence in my abilities in a positive way.
4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
From a marketing standpoint, it’s obviously a bit of a nightmare when you start to find yourself up against several stations doing similar things. From a ministry standpoint, though, it’s great. People should always have access to Christian music. You can’t have too many reminders of Christ’s love around you, particularly in the turbulent times we live in. So, while you may grimace inwardly a bit when you pass those other stations at an event, it’s further proof that God is using multiple venues to invite people into His Kingdom.
5. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?
A cool studio. And when I say cool, I mean on the verge of freezing. Even in the winter, I keep the studio a bit chilly. It helps to keep me alert.
6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I’m not a programmer and certainly don’t think like one, so I don’t have any definitive theories on something like this. What I’d LOVE to see, though, is people making the migration from mainstream radio to CCM. I distinctly remember the moment God laid this format on my heart and told me, in no uncertain way, that it was time to do something different – that my days of mocking celebrities and playing raunchy music for impressionable ears and clawing my way to the top in an unforgiving industry were over. It wasn’t going to be about that anymore. And not ONCE do I regret the switch. To see a flood of people walking away from jobs like that and investing themselves in not just a format, but a MINISTRY…well, that would be neat and further proof that God is doing some big, big things in our country.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I’m fairly new to this side of the industry – and again, don’t have a PD point of view on this – but from what I’ve seen and experienced so far, small thinking can really get in the way. There can be a mentality that you must quote scripture a certain number of times a day, that you must speak of God in every break, that you must do this or must do that. The truth is that the format, in reality, is much broader than mainstream radio in a lot of ways. And I’m not saying these things are BAD. Definitely share encouraging scriptures and speak of God. Those two things, in and of themselves, aren’t problematic. It’s okay to step beyond that, though, and welcome in people who may have NEVER listened to Christian radio, stumbled across your station, and would be completely interested to know what happened on American Idol last night. We don’t have to be these paradigm Christians to speak to people’s hearts. We watch the same shows they watch, we walk through some of the same struggles, and we all understand what it is to be broken. I’m hearing so much more of that than I used to, and I think it’s a really great way to reach across that formatics line.
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I will always be in debt to Houston radio personality, Michele Fisher, who took a significant amount of time with me when I was in college and thirsty for knowledge. I haven’t spoken to her in years, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness and encouragement in what was really the most crucial part of my radio journey. Outside of that (and this is probably kind of strange and uncommon to read), I don’t have a lot of specific influence. There are people I admire, sure, but I’ve never tried to emulate or fashion myself after another talent. And I don’t say this to be high and mighty like I’m a unique unicorn or anything. It’s quite the opposite. I’ve never felt like I’d be good at taking someone else’s approach on-air. I struggle enough with being myself. There’s no way I could incorporate the best traits of another jock somewhere and try to make it part of my thing. I wouldn’t know where to begin because there is so much fantastic and awe-inspiring talent. I just count myself lucky to have had people invest in me along the way and hope that I’m someday able to return the favor.