10 Questions with ... Ben & Matt
May 1, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
EMAIL: Ben: email@example.com
My first job was doing overnights at WIVK in Knoxville, TN (1993-1995). I made the leap to morning radio in 1995, moving to Lexington, KY, to co-host the "Ben and Brian" show at (WWYC). In 1997, Brian and I landed the morning slot at KMLE (Camel Country), in Phoenix. In 2002, we moved to Washington DC, to do mornings at WMZQ, and syndicate our show in 16 markets, ranging from Ocean City MD, to San Diego CA.
We also hosted the nationally syndicated countdown show, "Ben and Brian's Big Top 20 Countdown" for Premiere Radio Networks. In 2007, when our contract was up, Brian and I, amicably decided to part ways. He stayed in D.C. and I moved back to Phoenix, and eventually teamed up with Matt McAllister to do mornings at KNIX in 2008 and I've never been happier!
I started working at Star 100.7 in San Diego after college screening phone calls for the afternoon guy Dave Smiley. I graduated to role of Producer after we were given the morning show a year later. Eventually would up as the sidekick on the Dave Smiley Morning Show. I created "The Early Show with Matt McAllister" in Santa Barbara, CA on 99.9 KTYD in 1997 where I spend the next 10 years. I moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2007 to co-host the "Ben and Matt Show" on 102.5 KNIX. In 3 years working together we've won the ACM Award for Best Morning Show in a Major Market and been nominated for a CMA Award in the same category. It was just announced that KNIX won the ACM for Best Radio Station in a Major Market.
1) You both had successful radio careers before you joined KNIX. Tell us how you became a team.
Ben: It was pretty unconventional. I had come back to Phoenix after my contract at WMZQ in Washington ended. I had no job and was plotting my next career move. Seven months went by and my agent calls to say there was a possible morning show opening at KNIX, and would I be interested. My obvious response was, "of course." I've always worked with a partner, so my first question was, "Can we find someone to play quarterback?" Smokey Rivers really deserves the credit for taking a leap of faith and not hiring a pre- existing show. He searched the country for someone to fill that role and found Matt McAllister. I feel like I won the Showcase Showdown.
Matt: I was minding my own business doing award winning radio in Santa Barbara when I got a call saying they needed someone in Phoenix to "handle" the special needs of some guy they had already hired to do mornings. That guy was Ben.
2) How do you keep the show fresh each day and what do you think it is about the show that keeps listeners interested?
Ben: We put a lot of work into the way we present the topical events everyone is talking about. There's a lot of production behind the scenes. I also think the appeal of our show is that we embrace being a couple of guys that never take themselves seriously. When we make a mistake, it usually turns into something funny.
Matt: The studio is stocked with Wet Wipes. Seriously, if you are still using dry toilet paper you need to try them out. Two words: Game Changer. Scented candles in the studio keep things smelling nice and fresh too.
3) What is the best part about being an on-air personality?
Ben: It's new every day. Some days are slow, but you're just one Charlie Sheen meltdown away from your next homerun bit. The fact that you're getting paid to have fun doesn't suck either!
Matt: Getting to go to bed at 8:30pm every night and wake up at 3:30am every morning. I also enjoy getting recognized at the grocery store.
4) Ben, you were syndicated in sixteen markets while with the "Ben and Brian" show. Do you miss that or do you prefer doing a local show?
Ben: They're both cool. Phoenix is a great place to do a local show. It's a huge market that loves Country music. Syndicating Country to out of state markets in the morning is a tougher putt than other formats. Country listeners like to feel connected with you on a local level. However, as an entertainer, the opportunity to be in multiple markets is alluring.
5) Matt, you got started in radio while screening phone calls for the afternoon guy at Star 100.7 in San Diego. How did you go from screening guy to on air personality?
Matt: I convinced the PD that the afternoon guy needed a "producer" instead of a "phone screener." This got me full time status at the station which was nice but they still didn't want me to talk because I wasn't a member of AFTRA. The PD would literally sit on the other side of the glass staring at me so I wouldn't talk and they wouldn't have to pay me more money. Finally we broke down that barrier and ended up doing mornings on the same station a few months later.
6) Tell us about your favorite promotions you have come up with since starting at KNIX in 2008.
Ben: In November of 2008 (our first year together) we began our first annual charity event we call Ben & Matt's Million Can Crusade. Our (rather lofty and unrealistic) goal was to collect over 1,000,000 cans of food in one month for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Shockingly we succeeded and it's become one of the biggest things we do every year.
Matt: I think our breakthrough moment was sticking a 300 lb block of ice in the back of our Ben and Matt Milk Truck (yes we have one) in the middle of Summer and seeing how long it took to melt. We even hooked up a webcam. I know, brilliant.
7) Who would you name as mentors in radio? What was the best advice they have given you?
Ben: I've learned so much from everyone I've ever worked with in radio. The early bosses probably teach you the most, just because your starting from zero. My first PD, Les Acree, struck a chord when he said, "Never forget in radio, perception is reality."
Matt: I hate to give him any credit because he fired me in San Diego, but Tracy Johnson once told me to make sure every listener I met felt really good about themselves walking away from an event. I'm pretty sure he stole that from somebody a lot smarter.
8) The show has already won an ACM Award for Best Morning Show in a Major Market and been nominated for a CMA Award in the same category. What do you think makes the show get so much positive attention?
Ben: It's hard to answer that. If I had to make a guess, I'd say it's the relationships we have with the listeners and the artists who make the music.
Matt: Well, we're pretty good on the radio, but the secret to our success is that I'm really really really really really really really really good looking.
9) Who are your favorite artists to have as guests on the show? Any funny moments you can tell us about?
Ben: Keith Urban is always a good guest. It seems like every time he's on, uncontrollable laughter happens. John Rich is great because he never hides his true opinion. The best moments happen when you get the artist out of their normal routine. We got a karaoke machine the last time Blake Shelton came in the studio and we literally had to kick him out cause he wouldn't leave. Metallica with a southern accent is always entertaining.
Matt: Blake Shelton is always hilarious. He sang Billy Joel for us one time on a karaoke machine we have in studio. Now that I think about it, that's really the only funny moment I can recall in 3 years.
10) What do you like best about living and working in the Phoenix area?
Ben: Before I came here the first time, I pictured Phoenix as a big sand box. This is one of the most beautiful states I've ever seen. If you've never done it, do yourself a favor and drive from Phoenix to Sedona. It will blow your mind. Yeah it gets hot for four months, but it's great the other eight. The people here are seem happier than other places I've lived. Maybe it's because there's so much going on here. I've never been bored here.
Matt: Phoenix is insane. Spring Training baseball, great weather, tons of golf, great nightlife. What's not to like?
1) If you were not in radio, what would you dream job be?
Ben: Vegas variety show
Matt: Host of The Bachelor. What does Chris Harrison really do anyway? Remind everyone there is one rose left? I can't imagine the workload he carries for his paycheck.
2) What do you listen to when you are not working?
Ben: My I-Pod
Matt: I shouldn't admit this but I'm a satellite junkie.
3) What junk foods do you snack on while you're on the air?
Ben: Whatever free food walks in our door!