10 Questions with ... "Carsen" Jessica Humphreville
June 30, 2015
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first gig was weekends on WWZD in Tupelo. I was a senior at Ole Miss (Hotty Toddy!) and had a buddy get me in the door. Being from Connecticut, I was an easy sell because I didn't have an accent to overcome. Howard Stern was my earliest and biggest influence - my dad worked at NBC in New York and told my mom to listen to the afternoon guy on WNBC, and God love her, she would have him on when she picked me up from school every day. When I really got started, Allan Camp, my PD at WRCH was my biggest cheerleader. He was the first person I called when I got a job in Nashville.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I love music, and I was mediocre at playing it. The next best thing was getting to talk about it with people. The actual "This is it" moment came when I was working at MTV; I had dreams of being a VJ, but they weren't really playing music (I was working on a makeover show). I was flipping through a catalog for teen girls' clothing that had very "lady or the tiger" questions, and one was: "Would you rather go the rest of your life without movies or music?" I couldn't live without music, and yet here I was working in television. That's when I realized I needed to get back to radio.
3) You've done a variety of radio formats, but you cut your teeth in Active Rock doing nights at WBUZ in Nashville. How was that experience for you?
Fantastic. Between my PD Russ Schenck and our consultants (John King and Bill Jacobs), I was given a lot of freedom and a long leash. They encouraged my storytelling and creativity with produced bits, and I was really fortunate to have that kind of support and belief in who I was and what I could be. Being able to establish my persona and style in that size market was a blessing.
4) You also spent time in Nashville doing mornings at Country station WKDF. After doing middays and nights in many of your previous gigs, how'd you like doing the morning thing?
Other than waking up every hour to make sure I didn't sleep through my alarm, I loved it. I was partnered with Marty McFly and Stew James, who are the best guys I've ever worked with. I still get on the phone with Marty every week, and message Stew all the time. We just had fun, and the chemistry clicked.
5) Now let's talk about your present situation with WRKL/WKLL (K-Rock). How long have you been at these stations and when did you take over as PD?
I've been here just over two years, and took the PD reigns this past January.
6) How has having a solid background working in other formats prepared you to program a Rock station?
It gave me a great, broad scope of people, and what they want in music. Regardless of format, they want to connect melodically, and they want to connect emotionally. It also reaffirmed that the categories we've assigned to listeners and ourselves aren't as steadfast and immovable as they used to be: Country embraced Darius Rucker, Rock banged Zac Brown Band and a band like Kongos, with accordion and slide guitar, crossed over. Listeners also want to connect with the talent, and that's something that we can never take for granted. We need to be out, we need to be on, and we need to be appreciative.
7) You are also in the unique position of having a direct Active Rock competitor in WAQX in the market. How much does that battle influence what K-Rock does musically and promotionally?
I have been in other markets with direct competitors, so I kind of adopt the approaches my stations used there: Keep an ear on it. I certainly check in on their contesting and listen to what they're doing musically and talent-wise, but I haven't had a moment where I've felt the need to scramble and change anything we're doing here. While the idea of being the lone wolf in a market can be appealing, having the two of us here is a benefit to the rock community of Central New York: They have brought shows in; we have our heritage Krockathon every summer. That's the point, right? Getting the music to the people.
8) Now let's talk about the Active Rock music and the format as a whole? How would you gauge the current health of the music on this format?
The music is totally solid; there have been so many great songs released that there's not always room for them all. The listeners are there, and they're passionate. They want to see these bands, they want to go to the shows and raise their beer and high-five the guy next to them when their favorite songs are played. Where we're struggling: putting a face on the format. We don't have the visual tools that provided mass exposure 10 or 15 years ago, and we're competing with formats that do. Country music has something like four awards shows on network television a year. Top 40 artists are on morning television, whether it's in studio at GMA or on the Plaza at the Today Show, so they're fed into our houses. Rock doesn't have as many of those opportunities afforded to our artists.
9) What are some of your favorite Rock releases of the year and why?
I like bombast and attitude, which is why I love Halestorm and We Are Harlot; they bring that swagger that I find irresistible. Muse is just a slam dunk. I can't get enough of that album right now.
10) Okay ... finally ... what is the origin and meaning behind the name Carsen?
When I got my first shot on WBUZ, I was on the Hot AC in our cluster, so I needed a different name. A little sushi paired with a LOT of wine birthed out Carsen.
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
- Def Leppard "s.l.a.n.g."
- Beautiful Creatures "Beautiful Creatures"
- Garth Brooks "In Pieces"
- Guns n Roses "Appetite for Destruction"
- Rush "Chronicles" (I know, its two discs and a compilation, but you're killing me Smalls!)