10 Questions with ... Summer Mcqueen
March 13, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Summer McQueen began her radio career in high school, when she worked part-time at Beach Music WLWL-A (Big Wave 77)/Rockingham, NC. After high school, she went on to the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte, NC, where she studied Radio Broadcasting. McQueen held a morning co-host role at Alpha Media Country WUBB/Savannah, GA, CBS Radio Country WSOC/Charlotte, and Manning Top 40 WAFY/Frederick, MD before joining Apex Broadcasting Country WCKN/Charleston, SC where she co-hosted "Kickin' Morning Zoo." She is currently seeking her next opportunity
1. Hi, Summer. Thank you for taking the time to do "10 Questions" with us. We know you previously spent time on WCKN's "Kickin' Morning Zoo" morning show. What have you been doing since then to keep your radio chops in shape?
Well, mainly just networking. This was my first CRS that I went to, and I think that really helped getting to meet a lot of other people in the industry. Before going to CRS, I kept in contact with a lot of my former Program Directors and co-hosts, and then other Program Directors in the area. I live about two hours from major markets like Charlotte and Raleigh and Greensboro, so knowing people in those markets has helped me as far as keeping their ears open for any opportunities that come up.
2. You said this was your first CRS. What was the biggest takeaway for you?
Oh my gosh, I loved CRS! I had never been given the chance to go before. Working in other markets most of the time my Program Directors were the ones that went and I had to stay on the home front and run the morning show, which is totally understandable, but it's just incredible. I mean, especially like the "Women in the Industry" panel that I went to, which was great. I also went to the mentoring breakfast. Those were both really incredible. My old co-host Dale Desmond from Charleston suggested to me, "You know, you've been back and forth about going back to radio. If you're really serious you should think about going to CRS," and since I've been on the beach for a while, he had it worked out where I could go for the unemployment rate. So that was incredible to get to go on those special circumstances.
3. Let's take a few steps back to the beginning. Where did your interest in radio begin? Tell us what radio personalities you listened to growing up that influenced you to get into the biz.
I actually got interested in radio when I was in high school. I originally wanted to write for newspapers, but you couldn't take journalism at my high school until you were a junior, but you could take Radio & TV as a sophomore, so I was like, okay, I'll try it and see if I like it or not. And after that, it was like; this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I was 15 and I started working at the broadcasting school, and I got a part-time job at WLWL 770 in my hometown, so I worked there my senior year, up until I left for college. As far as local people, I grew up listening to Don Chase on [Morning personality on Beasley Media Country] WKML in Fayetteville, NC. He was probably the one that stood out the most. He had a rich voice, and it's just such a heritage station. There weren't -unfortunately -a ton of women around that stood out to me. And then of course my boss that I worked for at WLWL. His name was Kebo Davis. And he just had this awesome radio voice. I don't know how to explain it, but he just had the voice that was meant to be on the air.
4. What radio personalities do you respect and admire now?
I would probably say [Curtis Media Country WQDR/Raleigh PD] Lisa McKay, just because there aren't a lot of females that stand out. She is the Program Director, and for the fact that she is a woman programmer and she has won countless CMAs and ACMs for her station, that just says a lot -not only as a broadcaster but as woman broadcaster. She knows what she's doing. She has had the same air staff for many years, so she knows that what she has is a good thing and it really works. The other person would be [Entercom Country WDAF/Kansas City MD] Codie Allen, because once again she is a female, she does mornings, she's a Music Director and that's what I really want to be in the long run. And for the fact that she does mornings and she's got that sassy personality. I always joke and say that's who I want to be when I grow up because you've got the perks of the morning radio gig and getting to hang out with all of the reps and the artists being a music director, and having a say as far as what gets played on air, so Lisa McKay and Codie Allen.
5. You just mentioned wanting to be a Music Director. Is that what you see as your end goal? Where do you see yourself next and then long term?
Definitely Music Director. I want to be in - even if it's not a major market-I'd love to be in a large market where there's plenty of stuff going on so you don't feel like you're starved for concerts and events and having to travel to other markets for events where you have a lot of great artists to come to your area. That's probably it. I want to be a Music Director in a large to major market.
6. What would you say has been your biggest career accomplishment?
When I was in Charleston, our Program Director resigned to go to another job, and my co-host (Dale) and I were interim PDs for six months before they hired a new Program Director, so for the fact that I got to help program a station, for six months, was really incredible getting to learn how to schedule music, and around that same time we were preparing to go to the CMAs so it was like a whirlwind of events. That was a huge accomplishment to get all of that done and the station still be standing after all of that.
Was that a moment that made you realize you wanted to be a music director?
I kind of knew a little bit, like when I was in Savannah, I had the opportunity to just sit in - my Program Director at the time was trying to show me how to do different things - but it was really in Charleston where I really got to sink my teeth into that and getting to sit in on music meetings and stuff like that. And people ask you, "Hey what do you think of this?" and they weren't just asking to ask, and that was great. They valued my opinion.
7. Sometimes people are more enlightened about the business when they take a step back for a bit. What observations have you made about radio from the outside in your time on the beach?
I find that it's hard to listen to the radio as just a listener. I try not to be, but I find myself being critical. When I listen to the radio, I can't just sit and enjoy it. I find myself saying, "Okay, well how would I spin that topic a different way?" and I think with smaller market radio station, they just put it out there any old way, but then when you're sitting around and don't have a job you say, "Well how could I make that better and make it a little more abstract?" I think that's the biggest thing I've noticed.
Do you find yourself doing this just with Country radio?
Honestly, Country the most. I worked in Hot AC for about six months, so if I listen to stuff in Hot AC or Top 40 and they do "War Of The Roses" or any of those types of shows, where they -it's hard for me to not tell other people, "You know, that's not real!" I try not to burst people's bubbles like that and not give out trade secrets like that.
8. What do you miss the most about radio?
It sounds crazy, but I miss getting up early in the morning, and having the rest of my day to do whatever. I'm done by like lunch every day. The perks of going to free concerts, just getting to interact with so many different walks of life when you go to a remote or you set up before a concert. I miss stuff like that. Where I live right now is a very, very small town and there is no social aspect at all here, so stepping back to not being in radio and being social and going -even just the fundraisers and stuff like that - that's been really hard. I kind of feel like I'm sitting dormant right now. It's a little bit of everything.
9. Who were some of your mentors early in your career, and who are your go-to guys or gals for advice?
In the beginning, it would probably be [CBS Radio Country WSOC/Charlotte Morning show host] Rob Tanner because I started as an intern there, and then worked my way up as a sidekick on his show. Since then, my two biggest mentors have probably been Charlie Nance, [consultant and Country Radio Hall of Famer] Joel Raab, and Dale Desmond. Those guys, and [Alpha Media Country WUBB/Savannah, GA Morning show host] Tim Leary in Savannah, they have definitely been rallying around me, especially since I've been on the beach. It's nice to have people have your back, that you know believe in you and believe you have a talent and they don't believe you should be doing anything else but radio. And you kind of need that - sometimes you need that push, and those four have definitely been pushing me.
10. That's a great group of people to have supporting you. We always ask retiring radio personalities and programmers where they think the next batch of young talent will come from for radio - but let's get your take on this. There has been much made of the fact that not as many young people are interested in radio, not doubt due in part to the advent of social media and many other platforms with which to express those creative and performance sides. As someone who is young herself, where do you think the next batch of radio talent will come from, and how can we encourage those in your age bracket and even younger to either enter the field or continue in the field?
I think it definitely comes from having radio presence in your area. I was lucky enough to have a school that offered radio and TV, and I think if more schools offered something like that, or even if local radio stations -it seems like internships are dying out as far as radio stations go. But if you give these kids an opportunity just to be around it, they can see the sparkle and the magic in that! Because behind that microphone you can be whoever you want to be, whether you want to be yourself or whether you want to play a different character, you have the opportunity to do that!
Having been through everything you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give to people trying to break in?
You definitely have to have thick skin. You can't go into this for the money. Don't ever give up if this is something that is in your blood and you can't shake it. You can't give up. I tried to explain what radio means to me to several people, and some people get it and some people don't. It's not a matter of money, and you don't care if you have to move all the time. You love it because you love it. That's what this is. "If you find something you love, you'll never work a day in your life." That is so true! Especially when it comes to this as a career. Otherwise there would be no way I would wake up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work.
Is there anything we didn't ask you that you want to touch upon or want people to know?
Yes, I actually went back to school to try to step away from this and try to settle down back in my hometown and get roots. And while it's great to have a backup plan when you step away from something, sometimes it shows one hundred percent what you're meant to do. So I went back to school to be a massage therapist, and that's great, and I'm getting to help people, but at the end of the day, it's not fulfilling what my dream is, which is radio.