10 Questions with ... Josh Brandon
May 15, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Southern Radio Group - WOFE (Rockwood, TN) - News Director, then Mornings/PD
- Dick Broadcasting/Citadel - WIVK (Knoxville, TN) - On-Air
- South Central Communications - WNFX (Knoxville, TN) - On-Air
- Dick Broadcasting - WOKI (Knoxville, TN) -Mornings
- Citadel - WIVK (Knoxville, TN) - On-Air
- Peg Broadcasting - WOWF (Crossville, TN) Production Director, Program Director/Afternoons & also WOWC (McMinnville, TN) Program Director/VT Middays
- Qantum Communications - WYNR (Brunswick, GA) Program Director/Mornings
1) What drew you to working in broadcasting and how did you land your first gig?
I wasn't one of those geeky kids listening to some DJ late at night under his covers wishing on a star that I would grow up to be him someday. I was a different kind of geeky kid. I came across it accidentally. I'd never considered radio, never really even thought about it. It wasn't a part of my life. Dad just always said "What are ya gonna do, boy? Get a job running that smart mouth?" As it turns out, they gave me a degree in it! Seriously, I became the PA announcer for my community college's basketball team which led to Sports Editor for the school newspaper which led to hosting the sports segment on the school's communications class' video project which led to a TV news anchor gig which led to radio.
2) You got your start in broadcasting as a TV news anchor. How did you find your way to radio?
It was accidental. I'd never considered radio. I knew the PD/Morning guy at our local station and when I left TV he offered me the chance to come in and do some weekend stuff. Within a week he saw I was doing twice the work in half the time of the rest of the staff. From there I rose to news director and then PD/Mornings. None of it with intent on a career, until Les Acree called me during my morning show one day. Les was Programming WIVK in Knoxville at the time and asked if I'd like to join "The Frog." It was trading full time in nowhere for part time at the number one station in America. No brainer and best decision I ever made. While there I soaked up all I could from him. While there, one of the smartest guys I know, MD Chris Huff really took me under his wing and taught me SO much. It was an invaluable experience. I found that the things I'd done cluelessly without proper training, out of instinct, I was doing more or less correct or at least on the right track. I figured I'd found my niche. It was then that I had decided to officially change my major and pursue this as a serious career.
3) You have worked in several markets. What would you say has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Well, aside from the last two years, my career's been pretty isolated to Knoxville and East Tennessee. So, getting to stretch out of my comfort zone and completely relocate to a new state, build a new life, start over, that's been a great life experience. As far as actual work-related? It's going to be hard to top our recent Lee Brice/Tyler Farr/Jerrod Niemann concert here in Brunswick, GA. Fact is, I've been busting my tail trying to get a big name, quality concert to the city of Brunswick. It's been tough. To see the thousands that showed up when we were pretty much the only radio they used. When I stood on that stage and I saw everybody having a great time, an experience they'll take with them for the rest of their lives, it was breathtaking. I remember the first time I saw Lee at CRS a few years back, everybody does, so it was just special to be able to share their music with everybody. They are such amazing performers and guys I really respect and admire as musicians. I've been trying to get Lee and Jerrod here separately for a while and for someone to bring in both? To be a part of it, a small part, but a part nonetheless. It was amazing. And to bring in Jamey Johnson in May? To get to experience CRS every year? How can I pick just one highlight? This career is the highlight, man!
4) Did you listen to Country music growing up in TN or what were the musical influences in your household?
Not. Even. A. Little. I was convinced that Country music was for a stereotype and I wasn't that and I wanted nothing to do with it. When I got my first radio gig it was on a Country station. They eventually made me PD, so I locked myself in the studio to familiarize myself with the music. Before I knew it, I realized that Country music was always there ever present in the background of my life. Conway, Don Williams, Merle, Willie, Waylon, Johnny, Randys Owen and Travis, The Judds, Hee Haw, TNN, Ralph Emery and Shotgun Red, Crook & Chase, it all came in a flood and I realized that as much as I'd fought it. I was Country and it was cool. I spent the next several years catching up. I have vast musical tastes, everything from Manilow to Pearl Jam to Queen to Barenaked Ladies and Matchbox 20 but country's where my soul has always been.
5) Tell us about relaunching the radio station at East Tennessee State University. Have you checked in on them since you helped with the relaunch 14 years ago?
You asked about career highlights and this is probably less a highlight, more what I consider an achievement. That radio station means a great deal to me. I was looking for a place to go to college where I could make a difference as well as get an education. I found that at ETSU. Their radio program had faltered a bit. It was struggling. I felt like I had a lot to offer and I wanted a challenge. I'd already worked with some incredible people and up-to-date equipment. This place had Marconi's control board and not much else, except an amazing instructor waiting for the right students to come along. Most of the focus has been put in the TV program, which was fantastic don't get me wrong, but I wanted the same for the radio side. We worked our butts off. Reformatted it, named it, designed the logo. Everything about that station was in some way a part of me. It was my Millennium Falcon as every station should be to their Program Director. I know it sounds self-indulgent and maybe it is but to know you've left something behind that has affected people, made a difference somehow, it really means something. That it's still there, same format but basic elements have changed and been improved upon. The studio's been updated. My best friend and the station's manager when I was PD is now a professor and I couldn't be more proud. It was college radio and everyone will always look down on it and roll their eyes, I get that but it was the defining experience of my career. What I do now and how I do it, why I do it, all goes back to rebuilding that program.
6) You have worked at a variety of positions in radio from News Director to PD to on air. What has been your favorite and why?
It's a toss up between music and mornings. Whether it's MusicMaster Windows or Selector, I love digging into the software and finding ways to make it sing and accomplish the station's sonic goals. I'm a computer guy, so I love that. The theory and philosophy behind it all is fascinating. Having a hand in selecting the music and formulating the actual SOUND of your station, it's a rush. As far as on-air, after I got out of college, I was fortunate enough to be on a morning show consulted by Randy Lane for a while. I learned SO much from that and my last gig with Peg Broadcasting coaching my morning show there, Joe Bennett and Ronni Chase, that really prepared me for getting back into mornings here. It's SO much fun!
7) Who are 2-3 people inside or outside of the business that have been mentors in your life? Why have they have been so important to you?
First and foremost, My Father. I could go on and on but he was an example in so many ways, of what to do, what not to do. He was my rock and go-to guy and best friend. He was an amazing Dad and friend. He is smart in ways I still can't comprehend. I will throw a three-way tie here for my mentors at my stints with WIVK, Les Acree/Chris Huff/Mike Hammond. I know I'm cheating here, but these men are really to blame for me being in Country radio. Les & Chris I mentioned before. Later, after I'd been out of country radio for a couple of years, I was blessed to return to WIVK under Mike and, well, the man is simply genius, period. He's brilliant at what he does and learning from him was an honor. I try to learn from everyone in some capacity or another. Candy Bryant back at ETSU and the consultants I've worked with taught me a lot as well. My voice guy and friend Paul Orr is currently schooling me on imaging/voiceovers. These people know their stuff. I'm a man always in search of a good mentor.
8) If you weren't in the radio industry, what career path do you think you would be following?
I was in college studying to be a high school history teacher when I stumbled upon this, so I'd say that or acting.
9) What record surprised you the most in the last year?
Chris Young's "Voices" was such a great achievement. He's just a killer vocalist and I was so disappointed when the song tanked on its first go around because it is a great song. To see it get a 2nd life was fantastic! To see it go to #1? Wow.
10) What is your favorite part of your job and if you could eliminate one of your many duties what would it be?
It's a toss up between being on-air and dealing with music as my favorites. I love discovering new artists and new music. I love introducing people to new music. I also love storytelling. What would I eliminate? I don't know that I would. I'd clone myself so I could get it all done in a reasonable amount of time. There are things I like more than others, but if I had an assistant to handle the minutiae that eats away my creative time, paperwork, etc., that would be nice.
1) What was the first album you ever bought?
No. I'm not lying and I'm not admitting in front of the entire industry what it was. It's just not happening. So let's pretend you asked:
"What was your first concert experience?"
Oh? Great Question, All Access! 1985's 'Dare To Be Stupid' Tour. "Weird" Al Yankovic with opening act Dr. Demento. It was then that I knew I was destined to entertain. 'Bambi Meets Godzilla' was the moment, as a child, when I knew my sense of humor was warped.
2) What's your guilty pleasure?
I don't have guilty pleasures. I wear mine on my sleeve. Barry Manilow, I would say. I was hooked on first listen. Superheroes and Star Wars. I lounge around the house in Justice League PJ's. So yes, I get made fun of a lot. Seriously.
3) What do you do for fun when you're not working?
If I'm not working, which is rare, then I'm usually relaxing. I'm on the coast, so if it's nice and overcast, I'll hit the beach. If I have a weekend off and can rob enough banks for the gas money, I go to Knoxville, TN and visit my kids and our family. I'm a foodie, so restaurant experiences are always fun. I'm a theme park junkie. I love roller coasters and games so anything like Dave & Busters or a theme park is golden! I'm a music junkie so if there's a concert around I'm probably at it.