10 Questions with ... Rich Stevens
August 30, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WTHZ/Tallahassee, Z100 and WPLJ-WWPR/New York, WFLZ/Tampa, WAVA/Washington, WKRZ/Wilkes-Barre, 102 Jamz and Cool 105.9/Orlando, Channel 9-3-3/San Diego, 99.9 Kiss FM/Daytona Beach, Coast 107.3 and 92.7 The Beat/Jacksonville, KS-104 and Alice 105.9/Denver, WAMR and WCTQ/Sarasota, Z107/St. Louis, WTCF/Saginaw, Y100/Miami, 97.3 Kiss FM/Savannah, Kool 105.5 and WRMF/West Palm Beach, Hot 96.5/Little Rock, and WFTL, plus syndicated hosting, voiceover work, acting
1. a) After years as a personality on music stations, you're now a talk host; how did that come about? b) Was that in the plan from the beginning or something that came later?
a) Actually, I have always wanted to be a talk host. When I was working in Denver, I got to do some talk, and really fell in love with the format. I came to visit my friend Duff Lindsay, who was working for the company at the time, and he introduced me to George Johns, who I had actually known from my days programming in Daytona Beach. After a couple of sushi lunches, the rest is history.
b) Plan? What is this "plan" you speak of? All kidding aside, my ultimate plan has always been to not put limits on myself. I 'm always up for a new adventure, as long as it's exciting to me.
I was never quite sure how to transition into talk where I really wanted to be. It took a while, but it was definitely worth it. While I loved being a personality on music stations, at which I was taught a long time ago brevity is king (which I did well), I always had more to say, and now I can say what I want!
2. In approaching doing talk radio, what do you do to stand apart from other shows? What's different about your approach to the format?
To stand apart, you have to either be different as a personality, or just bring something different to the table, I bring both; That is, I am different because I am not doing what most other talk shows are, and have been, doing for such a long time.
My show stands out from the rest because it is different than what most people are used to hearing on a talk station. It's my goal to touch people's everyday lives and to live their lifestyle on the radio every day. It is definitely not cookie cutter talk radio.
3. How do you use social media in conjunction with your show? What do Facebook and Twitter bring to how you do your job, if anything?
I have been pushing social media for quite some time. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was speaking at a new media conference and I was telling people that there is this new thing called Twitter and soon it will not only go mainstream but it will be one of, if not THE, most important tool we in radio will have available to connect with listeners and celebrities and government officials in a way that has never been possible... I saw the same with Facebook as well, and I think it's a must-use tool to be successful in any radio format today. We now get to connect one-to-one with everyone.
4. You've been able to score some major political guests on the show since you launched it. How important are guests to your show, and how do you determine in advance what kind of guest will work well and which won't? How do you pick 'em?
I look for people I think would be interesting to talk to. There is no crystal ball to gauge how the interview will go , but if I am interested in what they have to say then I'll do everything I can do get the best out of them.
I have been fortunate that, over the years, I made a lot of amazing contacts with whom I have always stayed in touch; That pays off big time. Guests are important to the show if they are relevant, but at the same time, if a huge name isn't involved in something currently relevant but is still a big name, you can always bring it all around so it actually ends up being relevant to the show. So, the way I pick them would be under the same premise: If it makes sense, I go for it, and the listeners seem to love it, I always get lots of emails and calls after I have on one of these big guests.
5. Before now, you worked on the air in places like New York, Denver, Tampa, Orlando, and St. Louis, and acted and worked in new media as well. So, from all of that, before joining WFTL, what one thing -- you're limited to one thing -- would you pick as your career highlight?
I would have to pick the time I told people in St Louis that $20 bills were going to expire at midnight. It was at the same time the US Government spent over 20 million dollars to advertise this new counterfeit-proof twenty dollar bill, and then (from what the feds told me afterwards), I caused the government to waste a huge chunk of that 20 million dollars in advertising by using my radio show to tell people they had to turn in the old twenties before midnight or they would be worthless. The phones lit up, people were truly panicking, and it got a little out of hand as I shared the bit with others around the country and it really blew up. The next day, my PD wakes me up and says, "you are on the front page of USA Today and they are blaming you for this frenzy that started in St. Louis." Me creating a frenzy? What?!?...
6. Who have been your mentors and inspirations in the business?
When I was a kid, I used to always listen to Bob Grant in NYC on WMCA, and I was fascinated by what he did on his show, having all these people call in just to talk to him and give their opinions, most of which he didn't agree with. The big thing on his show at the time was that no one ever got past a minute on the phone with him. He would just go to the next call. So I made it a quest of mine to get to call in and stay on the phone with Bob Grant for more than a minute, I tried numerous times, but I would never make it past 15 seconds; He would hear a kid's voice and bam, I was gone, until one day when I called in using a voice changer gadget that made me sound really weird. He was fascinated and actually had me on for almost 5 minutes! I called in saying that I was calling from another planet and I had important info for him; The screener put me right through!
Several years later when I worked at WPLJ, Bob was one floor below me on WABC. I wanted so bad to sit down and talk to him, but was told he doesn't socialize. One day, I was in the elevator going down and the doors opened on the WABC floor and there he was. This may have been my only chance, so I went for it, introduced myself to him, and we talked the entire way down, The next day we had lunch together and talked often after that. He even called me when I got my first PD gig to congratulate me and asked if I could give some advice to his daughter, who was in college then.
I am not easily inspired, but George Johns and Jim Hilliard have inspired me to be the best I can be. They have believed in me enough to give me this amazing opportunity, and I am ever so grateful to them. Randy Michaels has also been a huge inspiration to me since I worked at the Power Pig in Tampa, I learned from him that you don't always have to follow the same path that others do, it's ok to think and act outside the box and to always make sure you are having fun doing it!
7. What makes you laugh?
Things that are funny! I guess since I grew up in NYC, I may have what some call a weird sense of humor, so I laugh at a lot of things, sometimes things that only I find funny... Why is it that when you are not supposed to laugh, everything is so damn funny? I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh, I have always believed that it's true, laughter is the best medicine. I look for the comical things in life.
8. Of what are you most proud?
When I was a little kid staying up late at night listening to 77 WABC in NYC, I would dream of being on the radio one day. I am proud of the fact that my dream became a reality for me, and I am now proud of what I do every day between 9 and Noon. The ultimate is that for the first time in my career my mom is able to (and she does) listen to my show every day!
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _____________.
OK... Hi, my name is Rich Stevens and I am addicted to the internet! "Hi. Rich..." I can't get enough. There is so much to be learned and it's always changing. Of course, I never want to miss any of it, so I would have to say I can't make it through the day without the internet!
10. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
To be patient. That's one thing I have never had much of, because I always want it now, but I have learned over the years that if you are patient and stay calm, good things always come to those who wait. I also learned that while it was once was a big deal for me to work in market number one, market size really doesn't matter. It's all the same, and it's what you make it. After all, it's always just you and that person on the other side of the radio.