10 Questions with ... Tobi
July 5, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started my radio career as an on-air personality at my college radio station, DePauw University's WGRE. After graduation, I took a three year radio detour and became a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. When I left the skyway, I returned to radio and hosted a talk show called "Tobi Talk" at WLBK in DeKalb, Illinois for the next three years. After life in the cornfields ran its course, I packed up my green Geo Metro, and moved to Los Angeles. I had no contacts, a talk show demo on cassette and a tenacious drive to succeed. Once in LA, I was hired as a traffic/news reporter for Metro Networks, and then as an on-air personality at KBBY in Ventura, X103.9 in San Bernardino, and Y107 in Los Angeles -- in that order. I spent the final two years of my first LA residency as the on-air/on-camera morning show host for the groundbreaking Internet startup called Soundbreak.com. Shortly before the untimely demise of Soundbreak, XM Satellite Radio discovered my show and hired me to build the indie music library for the nation's first coast to coast college/indie music channel, called XMU. In 2001, they moved me across the country to Washington, DC and I spent eight years there programming new music on XMU and hosting a daily new music show called "The Afterschool Special w/Tobi." While at XM, I hosted interviews and stage announces at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, SXSW, ACL, Coachella and CMJ. I was also XM's on-camera host for various marketing videos and video coverage at festivals and IndyCar events around the US.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I've always loved music. I don't remember a time in my life when music wasn't the most important thing to me, so it seemed only natural to get involved with my college radio station. During my four years at DePauw University, I was an on-air personality, News Director, and Production Director for WGRE, The Sound Alternative. My years at WGRE were totally rad and my station had creative, nurturing leadership that provided a great foundation for my career.
2. What led you from a 10 year career at satellite radio to New Normal Music?
XMU was truly a labor of love for me and as cheesy as it may sound, my baby. With that said, I probably would have never left, but as they say, all good things must come to an end and when Sirius and XM merged, it was a business venture and about 90% of the XM programming staff was laid off. But something like a merger couldn't extinguish my passion for discovering music, so I moved back to LA and found a new outlet to champion the indie music that I love and live for!
3. What part of your job do you like best? Least?
That Monday through Friday I get to create a brand new four hour show celebrating groundbreaking indie music that I truly enjoy listening to myself. Every day I find more new music and ways to create an entirely unique soundtrack from the day before.
Least? That my passion for indie music doesn't quite equate to paying the bills yet, but I'm hopeful it will soon.
4. How would you describe the music and imaging on the station?
The sonic identity of the station is very upbeat. There's a great flow of the newest indie music ranging from indie pop, electronic, and indie rock that's fun to listen to, even if it's unfamiliar. The bottom line is that good music is good music no matter what genre or level of familiarity -- so the goal is that you can turn on NNM at any given time and discover brand new artists that are sonically pleasing and adventurous, but not totally overwhelming to the less experienced indie music enthusiast.
5. What would shock people most about New Normal Music?
I think the best thing and possibly most shocking, is that I can host my show from anywhere around the globe. It's an online radio station and I have a Blue Snowball Microphone, MacBook Pro and Garage Band - so, voila -- I have a traveling studio that allows me the freedom to host my show from wherever the mood strikes. Sidebar: I'm on the air daily from 10a-2p (PT), so I have to admit that there are certainly many mornings when I host the first few hours of my show in my pajamas from the comfort of my bed.
6. How would you describe your show?
I strive to make my show a daily "mix tape" of audio awesomeness -- I play music that I think will bring joy to my listener's earholes! I'm like a sonic savant when crafting my show each day. I'm very meticulous when it comes to song sets and my goal is to create the perfect segue between every song. And while the regular rotation of the station focuses on music that's a year old or less, I also play classic indie songs throughout my show for depth. Simply put, my show is about the music - the spotlight is on the music and my talk breaks are about the music. I'm a show prep fanatic and I like to find fun facts and interesting nuggets about the indie artists/bands that I play on my show so that I can entertain AND educate. During my years at XMU, I was given the title of Dean Of Music, and I always try to live up to that honor.
7. How has New Normal Music changed since signing on last summer?
Well by design, NNM changes a little bit every week because new music is always being added. This is such a refreshing change for our listeners and something that I think truly sets us apart from other indie music stations. Also, the playlist is not generated by a computer, there are music lovers (the NNM DJs) listening to new music and experimenting, adding and mixing things up every day. If we're super serving our indie community like we should, then NNM will forever be an exciting, evolving work in progress.
8. How would you describe the typical New Normal Music listener?
Adventurous, open-minded and passionate about indie music!
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Indie music, caffeine (coffee, Lipton sweet tea or Mountain Dew) and bright red lipstick.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
I think the thing that people seem to find most interesting about me is that I'm quite multifaceted. For example, in college I was captain of the cheerleading squad, an art major, a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and a radio DJ -- four very different activities that kept me very well-rounded. Because of this eclectic background, not only can you regularly find me wearing all black and Chuck Taylors at a dive bar or indie rock show, but you can also find me every Sunday during football season at Red Rock on Sunset drinking bottomless mimosas and wearing my Peyton Manning football jersey whilst cheering on the Indianapolis Colts. To further illustrate my point, there are two events a year that I will NEVER miss -- SXSW and The Indy 500!
What are your hobbies?
These are a few of my favorite things: indie music, Impressionist art, day drinking, euchre, the Indianapolis Colts, traveling the world, The IndyCar series, and The Indy 500.
Last non-industry job?
The only substantial non-industry job I've had, other than brief stints as a cocktail waitress and bartender, was right after I graduated from college --- I was a flight attendant for three years and I flew for Continental Airlines out of Newark International Airport. (I know, insert "coffee, tea or me" joke here - HA!) Seriously though, I wanted to see the world before I was entrenched in pursuing a career. I have to say, it was the best decision my 21 year old brain could have ever made at the time, and one that I would recommend to anyone --- life's too short not to seek out as many adventures as possible!
First record ever purchased?
I'm not sure the first record that I actually purchased with my own money, but I can tell you that while all of my friends loved The Osmonds, I was obsessed with the Jackson 5, so at the age of four I began collecting all of their albums on vinyl.
Given my answer to the previous question, of course my first concert was seeing the Jackson 5 in Indianapolis when I was only five years old. It was magical and the sassy, bright-colored, polyester outfit that I picked out to wear will forever be etched in my brain as one of my greatest fashion accomplishments!
Favorite band of all-time?
Well if there's one thing to know about me, it's that I can never pick just ONE favorite band, song or album of all-time, so I'll give you my top 20 favorites (HA - sorry, I'm overzealous when it comes to music) in alphabetical order: Belle & Sebastian, Broken Social Scene, Depeche Mode, Everything But The Girl, Faithless, Grateful Dead, Jackson 5/Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Kings Of Convenience, Lemon Jelly, Lloyd Cole, Pinback, Ra Ra Riot, Radiohead, Rogue Wave, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Sufjan Stevens, Tahiti 80, The Smiths, and Travis.