10 Questions with ... Joby Phillips
February 24, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WWHT-FM & WTLT-FM/Columbus, OH 1992-1994- Weekend/Swing Air Talent
- WRVF-FM & WLLD-FM/Columbus, OH 1994-1997- Asst. PD & Night Air Talent
- WNCI-FM/Columbus, OH 1997-1998- Weekend/Swing Air Talent
- WKSW-FM/Springfield-Dayton, OH 1998-2001- Program Director & Afternoons
- WCOL-FM/Columbus, OH 2001-2004- Weekend/Swing Air Talent
- WCEN-FM/Saginaw, MI 2004-Present - Program Director & Afternoon Drive
1) How did you get into broadcasting initially? Did you always want to work in Country music?
I had always dreamed of being in broadcasting, either as a radio air talent or a television news anchor. As I aged, I developed a face for radio. I'm a Buckeye and proud graduate of The Ohio State University; unfortunately, OSU is not a great school for broadcasting. On a whim, I attended a communications club meeting one evening where the guest speaker was Blake Powers. I had been a fan of his from his days on Rock40 WXGT (92X) and, at the time, he was on Rhythmic Top40 WWHT (Hot 105) in town. Meeting him led to my internship and eventual part-time gig playing Sir Mix-A-Lot on Hot 105 and crossing the hallway to play Steven Curtis Chapman at 107.1 The Light (WTLT). It was a great hands-on learning environment!
2) Tell us a little bit about Saginaw and its WCEN audience. Are there any listeners in particular who have made a big impression on you?
It's COLD here! But, we do have a lot of wonderful listeners who are really invested in my station, 94-5 The Moose, and they take to heart many of the causes the station champions. We're a St. Jude radio station and, for 2-and-a-half years, a local family shared with us their journey as their little boy battled spinal and brain tumors. This brave youngster, Jayden Lamb, lost his battle this past November, 2 weeks before his 9th birthday. His parents and 2 sisters chose to honor his optimism and love for others by creating a pay-it-forward campaign that has taken our community by storm. In fact, on Jayden's 9th birthday, around 1,000 people turned out to release Chinese lanterns in his memory, an event that was covered by the CBS Evening News, the Fox News Channel and various newspaper outlets throughout the world. I encourage you to check out the FaceBook page for stories on the wonderful things complete strangers are doing to keep his memory alive, "Keep On Truckin' Team Jayden". This is truly an amazing family!
And I want to give HUGE props to Brad Paisley. He met Jayden at St. Jude a couple years ago and has kept in touch with the family. Jayden gave Brad a necklace at one of his concerts and Jayden was thrilled to see Brad wearing it while performing at one of the awards shows months later. Brad also posted a wonderfully touching note the day of Jayden's passing on his FaceBook page. Brad and others like him are what make me so proud to be involved in country music industry.
3) Your station is very community-oriented. What are some of the most successful events that WCEN has been a part of over the past year?
One of the things I'm most proud of is the way our staff has naturally worked to do whatever we can for Jayden and his family during their struggles and time of need. As it became more obvious that our little friend's time was nearing an end, the family wanted to make sure that he could experience as much of the Christmas season as he could (his favorite time of year). This was prior to Thanksgiving Day, and the family was requesting that their home community put up their Christmas lights early. We took time to promote this request to our listeners and so many people put their lights up early and registered their addresses so the family could drive their little boy around to see the lights. The stories on the news the weekend of the "early" Christmas could not possibly have been watched through dry eyes.
4) What do you look for when hiring a new air talent? Are there any specific qualities or skills that can make them a front-runner in your mind?
I'm blessed in that I've only had to hire 3 people in my 9 years here. But, when an opening does occur, we look to add someone who is passionate about the country lifestyle and is able to translate that to our listeners. We look for people who are real and have real personalities but still understand that the music is the star on The Moose. You might think that Saginaw would be used as a stepping stone to the next big thing, but that hasn't proven to be true here: my morning show is hosted by station veterans of 12 and 8 years, my midday diva has been here just over 3 years and I've been here 9 years this March.
5) In your opinion, what were some of the biggest surprise hits and misses in the Country format over the past several months? Is there any artist that you feel has been somewhat underrated, and you would like to see grow in 2013?
I really thought "Beer with Jesus" was going to be big! I mean who can't relate to that?!? I can't get enough of Train w/Ashley Monroe right now and I think Kelly Clarkson's "Don't Rush" sounds fresh (in a retro sort of way). It's been great to see Little Big Town really break through this past year! I've loved their sound for a long time and it's good to see them FINALLY getting their due! I'm also loving everything that I've been hearing from Parmalee so far!
6) Your station is heavily involved with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Tell us about that.
The week before I moved here, I was helping WCOL in Columbus do their Radiothon. They brought in somewhere around $200K that year and my new station was holding their first-ever Radiothon that same week. I was blown away that a station in market #137 doing this for the first time managed to bring in over $145,000. This year, we expect to officially pass the $1-million mark; not bad for a station many thought of as an also-ran 10 years ago.
7) Quick! Off the top of your head, what is ONE day that has happened within your career, that stands out among all the others, and why?
The day that many said would never happen: When we knocked off our heritage format competitor for the first time. Some told us that we were just lucky to be competitive. Heck, the owner of our competitor once tried to intimidate my old afternoon guy, Keith Allen, at an appearance saying the day would never come when the Moose would beat them. Afterall, our signal had been around for decades and never won the battle. Keith asked if he could call him up when we pulled it off. "That call's never gonna happen," he replied.
That's why I get a kick reading the online message boards when a new competitor shows up in a market. I remember reading that the new Wolf in Greensboro didn't stand a chance. And that Clear Channel going country in Atlanta was a huge mistake, as was Beasley in Las Vegas. All some people need to hear is "You can't do it" to make it happen. It's great bulletin board material!
8) If you could work at any other radio station in the country for just one day, which would it be, and why?
I like well-branded, personality-oriented stations like the Entercom Wolf stations- stations that aren't afraid to show how much fun Country is. But, I also like the underdog stations, because they have to be more creative to carve out their piece of the pie. I think one of the best sounding stations right now is 92-5 The Wolf in Denver and they do it with limited resources, which make it even more impressive. These are the stations I try to model my "Moose" after.
9) Radio has changed a lot in the past decade. Do you feel that the industry is in a better place today, than 10 years ago? How about the technology?
I'll say this for NextMedia: They let their PD's do the programming and they're not announcing a reduction in force every few months. It's not radio's competitors that will bring radio down, we're doing it ourselves. I'll give kudos to the NextMedias, Entercoms, and Journal Broadcast Groups who have relevant, entertaining and live & local programming serving their communities. I'm sure there are others, but these 3 stick out to me as groups still doing radio the way that made me want to get into this industry to begin with.
10) What do you do with all the old CD's that have accumulated on your desk over the years?
CD's? I'm all about online downloads now.
1. If you could hang out with one Country artist for the day, who would it be, and what would you take them to do in Saginaw?
I have a lot of respect for Brad Paisley. He honors Country music's heritage, champions its future, he's hilarious and he has a hot wife (sorry, Brad). Plus, I really respect him for his charitable efforts and for how he's honored our local St. Jude family. If he were to come here, I'd take him to see the sights in Saginaw :)
2. On a typical Sunday off, what kinds of activities might we find you doing?
Probably scheduling Tuesday's music! Of course, that would be after church and time with my wonderful wife and awesome little 4-year-old son, Isaiah. It's all about family anymore, and I'm great with that.
3. What actor would be the best choice to portray "Joby Phillips" in a movie about your life?
- Young Joby: 1960's Don Knotts
- Middle Aged Joby: 1990's William Shatner