10 Questions with ... Carsen
August 7, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Currently, Carsen is APD/Silverfish Media, Host of nationally syndicated "Country With Carsen" show, on-air contributor for syndicated "Big D & Bubba" morning show.
Jessica Humphreville - on air name "Carsen" joined Silverfish Media in her current, various roles in January, following a stint away from Country radio, when she served as PD/on air personality for Galaxy Communications Active Rock combo WRKL and WKLL/Syracuse, where she handled PD/on-air duties. Previously, Carsen co-hosted mornings at iHeartMedia Country WDRM/Huntsville, where she doubled as Dir./Promotions and Social Media, and Cumulus WKDF/Nashville. Carsen has previous syndicated experience, hosting Envision Networks' "The Live Ride" weekend show.
1. Carsen! Thanks for taking the time to talk with All Access today! Let's start with the syndicated show you launched in January, "Country With Carsen." How would you describe your presentation - i.e. the personality - of the show?
It's just very me, which is talking about the artists, what's going on in pop culture, and what's going on in my life. Because I'm right there in my demo - I'm a woman in that target age range -it's just kind of a mix of all of that. I like to think of it as if we met up for lunch or coffee, this is basically what's going on, except there's music. It's is something I think we've all heard for years, but listeners really connect with the personal. That's where the feedback comes in. Chances are, if it's happening to us, if it's happening to me, somebody else has already been there or they've been through something similar, and they are more than willing to share it.
2. In addition to the midday show, you are also part of the "Big D & Bubba" morning show - can you discuss pivoting from being a supporting player to the lead voice and show driver - all in the same day? Any special adjustments?
Well, as you're well aware, middays are always going to be a little more music intensive, so you want to make sure those breaks are a little bit tighter. It's a matter of maybe focusing on word economy and plowing through breaks, because I could gab forever. It's kind of cool to be with Big D & Bubba because we can talk and can explore things at that maybe B or C level; whereas middays I have to keep it going. People are listening with me in the background and they want music, and I'm very aware of that.
Do you recycle anything from any of the conversations you might have with Big D & Bubba and bring it into the midday show on a smaller, more word-economical scale?
Oh, absolutely! I'll come to them with things - the same things that are happening in my life, or pop culture. It's also a good way to get maybe a different angle on it, because between Big D, Bubba, and [Silverfish Media PD] Patrick Thomas, there are three other viewpoints that are now looking in and seeing a part of the conversation. Also the listeners, because they're so good with the phones and getting people involved. It can take it to places that I didn't even think of, and it will possibly totally redirect how I'm going with it.
3. How did you connect with Big D & Bubba and Silverfish in the first place?
I always say it's that great radio myth we've all heard but would never actually ever happen to anybody we know, which is: somebody recruited you, somebody heard of you, and somebody liked you. I was doing [Envision Networks] "The Live Ride," which was the syndicated weekend show with Marty McFly for a long time, but I was fill in and Active Rock predominantly. When I took over "The Live Ride," there was obviously a little bit of press about it, and I was also hosting a program in Cookeville, TN in addition to my day-to-day PD gig in Active Rock. Somebody in Cookeville heard me and mentioned to Patrick with Big D & Bubba - who covertly was putting together this idea for a midday host - and said, 'Oh you should really listen to this new girl.' He found me on Facebook - God bless social media - and saw that I was involved with 'The Live Ride, and said, 'Okay, well she does have some Country.' He reached out and we talked for the better part of an hour. He was very vague about the project because he couldn't really reveal too much. After I spoke with him, he set up for me to talk with Big D & Bubba, and two days after speaking with them, they offered me a job. Here I was, moving back to Nashville.
4. This is a return to Country for you - previously, you worked with Marty McFly and Stew James on WKDF. Then you went and programmed a Rock station. Can you discuss how doing a different format has perhaps helped you in your return to Country?
Absolutely. Country - and I think we're all aware of this but it's something that can't be reiterated or emphasized enough - the people that are working these records and the artists themselves are just so great at what they do and just so accommodating - not just to those of us in radio and those of us in the media outlets, but they're also so accommodating and wonderful to their fans - that it's such a great format to rally around. I didn't have that same experience in Rock. While I worked with wonderful people, I just didn't see the connection coming back all the time from the artists and the listeners. Even talking to people in Country, it's a little more. You know, you can have an attitude in Rock. It can be a lot of fun, but with Country there is the passion for the artists. Listeners have a passion for people like us who are just behind the microphone talking about the artists. They're very loyal and they're very positive in their reactions and their interactions with you. That was something that maybe I took for granted until I went into Rock and said, 'Well, somebody will call me out if they think I said something stupid. And they won't be nice about it.' I've witnessed such a good volume of amazing interactions between Country artists and their fans. I've seen wonderful things with Rock guys too, but I've seen so much more on every level with Country. Whether it's the guy out there hoping somebody is going to add his first single or the guy who is working his sixteenth #1. All across the board there is a sense of community with this format, which is something that we're so fortunate to have. But I'm also aware of the relationships that have fostered that which we nurture and keep going.
5. Also - you were a PD - managing people and in charge. That had to have been a great experience which helps you in your current role?
Oh, it definitely was. It teaches you how to work with all types of personalities, because when you're a jock - if you get the opportunity to just do your shift and nothing else - it's almost like you live in a bubble. Sometimes you have to deal with your boss and sometimes you have to deal with sales people or clients. When you turn around and you're not just managing the people on your staff, but you're managing people you work with - on a promotions standpoint or a sales standpoint - you suddenly realize how much diplomacy has come into play. You're looking four steps ahead - because, I may not want to do this now, but I need this from a person. It really just teaches you the art of compromise. It also gives you the opportunity - when you're working with air talent specifically - to see that we all have our own way of doing things. When you listen to one of your employees and think, 'Okay, they did something different.' Then, when you're trying to coach them and work with them, it forces you to reflect more on what you're doing, because you have to lead by example.
6. As an APD you have to provide leadership, but do you miss having to coach talent and some of those things that fall to a PD's job responsibilities?
It's a whole different ball game with Big D & Bubba and Patrick because it's just us. I went from coaching and working with all these different facets of people who make a radio station to hey, it's just the four of us! I'll be honest; I don't necessarily miss the hectic schedule all the time - when you're putting in 13 or 14-hour days consistently, it's a weird thing to get used to In terms of working with up-and-coming radio talent, I would love to do more of that. What's very cool is some of our affiliates have reached out and said, "Hey, I'm just starting out," or "I've been at this a couple of years and maybe I'm looking to make a move... would you mind listening to my stuff?" And that's been very cool to see that generation that's coming up that are being proactive and that are hungry for different sets of ears to listen to them and give them feedback. I kind of still get to do a little bit of that.
7. There's so much conversation about Rock's struggles and how Country has benefitted from that. Having done both formats now, what can you share what Country offers that Rock hasn't been able to in recent years?
Country has always been and continues to be so relatable to its fan base, to listeners. What's interesting to me is the amount of people that maybe ten years ago I never would have thought were a part of that fan base - are now discovering it. Rock is going through a lot of struggle because I think people are having a hard time putting a face on that format. When I was sitting in that PD chair, I was talking to labels and managers and saying, 'Wow this band is huge. Why don't they have the recognition?' I realized, well, Blake Shelton is sitting in the chair on 'The Voice.' Everybody knows who Blake Shelton is. Keith Urban is on 'American Idol.' You turn on 'Good Morning America' and there's Brad Paisley teamed up with Demi Lovato." Not that you don't have Rock artists crossing over - like maybe Imagine Dragons - but it's not as prevalent. I remember 20 years ago when I was a kid in Connecticut listening to Country music. Nobody else in my class knew - they kind of heard of Garth Brooks - but they didn't know who Tim McGraw was. And now, Tim McGraw is a household name. The guy has been in movies! So I think that's where the struggle is - that Rock doesn't have the face that it used to and Country has just embraced being part of Pop culture.
8. Did you notice any difference in the Country listeners now, compared to when you left the format a few years ago?
You know it's interesting; I actually started to notice it while I was in Active Rock, because I was part of a morning show there and we were very talk intensive. We would talk about things all over the sector, which included Country music, because we might talk about a big show that's coming to town - and that might be Eric Church. What I noticed is the amount of young males that were calling us that have a lot of passion for this music and these artists. They are so behind these artists that they want to go to the shows and be in the experience.
9. As a female air personality - and a fan of Country music - what do you think it will take for a stronger presence from female artists to become the norm in this format?
I wish I had the answer because I am such a proponent of women helping other women succeed and women have this strong voice. I want to hear the music and hear the stories and what's reflecting me. It could be me today or me when I was just starting off in the world. I hear Maren Morris and I say, 'That's why she's connecting!' Whether you're going through it now or 10 or 20 years ago - going back to Country music - the storytelling is so relatable. I think as women we just need to show up for other women. There are so many of us that want to be a part of that. We just have to keep plugging along and saying, 'Okay, let's listen to this,' and, 'Yes, this woman has something to say, and it's worth hearing and worth listening to.' It may be that we just have to be the champions. Especially in my realm of being air talent, if you're passionate about it, talk about it, because when they hear your passion, it's contagious. It's infectious. It might give someone that extra 15-20 seconds of a listen before they go about their day or before they shoot off the next text
10. I was just thinking about your career, and you've packed in a lot of experience: PD, morning co-host, personality. You've done a couple of different levels of syndication now. What else in radio are you interested in doing? Where else can you take your career?
Thank you for that! There are days where we go, what am I doing? Where is this going? That crisis every once in a while. I have to say, working with Big D & Bubba and having my own show after them, I really love being on the air. I love talking. I love talking to listeners. I love talking to artists. I love talking to stop signs. Anywhere I can keep my mouth rolling is probably going to be ideal for me. The thing is with all the hats to try on, there are some that don't fit. I think really I'm most comfortable behind the microphone. That's not to say I wouldn't love to be a programmer again or just do straight Music Director again, but as long as somebody wants to listen, I am more than happy to keep yapping.
1. How is it that a woman from Connecticut could be a Peyton Manning fan? Aren't you supposed to be a Tom Brady fan?
Well, here's the deal. When you live in Connecticut, you are either Boston or New York. My father was not going to let any child of his be a Boston fan. Additionally, I went to Ole Miss, where the Manning's are royalty. Peyton did not go to Ole Miss, but when I was there we were going through a bit of a probation period, and there was this guy at the University of Tennessee who also had a connection to my school. Peyton Manning was the embodiment of what I felt a student athlete should be. I was just enamored with him. I might have stalked him on the field at the Ole Miss UT game. I literally followed his career from the Heisman - of which he was robbed - and then the Colts, and then to the Broncos and now retirement. And I teared up at the ESPY Awards and I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. For the first time in almost two decades, I'm a man without a country - or, a girl without a Peyton.
With him out of the picture, you're quite vulnerable now, aren't you?
I mean, look. I'll give my love to the little brother and my fellow Rebel, Eli. I do have an Eli jersey, but there's something about Peyton. I just worship the man - like you're aware with Monta. I will probably allow her to be the bigger Peyton Manning fan. I will give her that. She has actually met him so she wins.
2. Tell me about how you got in the Guns N' Roses video.
First: Fun fact. I'm actually on two Def Leppard DVDs and now Guns N' Roses has been added to my arsenal.
You can take the girl out of Rock but you can't take the Rock out of the girl?
We've got Keith Urban name checking "Sweet Child O' Mine," and we've got Thomas Rhett who says you look like the girl in the Guns N' Roses video, so I am right on track with everything in Country music. But yeah, Guns N' Roses played at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, and I am a little hard core Rock girl and I got myself pit tickets. I made sure I was there when gates opened and I was at the front of the pit, and there I am in the video.