10 Questions with ... Roderick Villa Jr.
February 12, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started out my radio career fresh out of high school interning for Rhythmic Top 40 WILD 103.9 in Spokane, WA. I did every street hit and live board op shift I could possibly do, and eventually landed part time on-air weekends for the first time in my career here. By the age of 21, I was working under new PD Maynard, part-time for Rhythmic Top 40 WIRED 96.9, still in Spokane. I led their street team and was also the on-air host of the Friday and Saturday night mixshows every weekend.
At age 22, I had the opportunity to move back to the town I grew up in, Seattle. Maynard became PD at what was then Rhythmic AC MOViN 92.5, and was able to offer me a similar role and position that I had in Spokane. From age 22-25, I was working full-time in promotions/programming as "Street Team Lead/Promo Lead/On-Air Weekends." I consistently hosted the Friday and Saturday Night mix shows and eventually was doing day-time on-air weekends, and first fill in for nights and afternoons.
At age 25, I had an opportunity to get full-time experience in programming in a very small market in Grand Forks, ND at Top 40 KZGF Z947. I was on-air afternoons, APD, MD, Imaging Director, you name it. After exponentially growing in that position for two years, I had an opportunity to come back to Seattle again, and apply myself to an opening that became available for MD/Program Coordinator at now-Top 40 MOViN 92.5. I'm still working under Maynard, who is the PD. I have worked under him as my PD more than anyone else in my career. Now, here I am in a position I've passionately wanted to work towards my entire career, and in my home town to boot. I cherish every minute.
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
I will never forget my first on-air shift. It was for Rhythmic Top 40 Wired 96.9 in Spokane. We were doing a coat drive during the month of November, collecting coats in a giant wagon that was in downtown Spokane and broadcasting live on-site outdoors for 48 straight hours. I had just gotten done bannering and helping work a club night for the station until 2a, and I was set to go live for the first time on-air from 6-10a. It just so happened to be snowing outside as well. So not only had I not been able to be live in the studio yet, I was attempting to do live breaks for the first time with freezing fingers watching snowflakes fall all over my paper logs I'm holding in my hand, not looking at any automation system. It was probably the most nerve-racking moment of my radio career ... one of the top ones for sure. But it also is what drove me to love this business. The challenges it constantly brings to you with spontaneity.
2) What led you to a career in radio?
When I was a senior in high school, I was visiting my best friend who lived in Spokane every couple months. He was interning for a radio station at the time. I visited once when he was working promotions at a booth at the Spokane Fair. I was able to hang out and meet his co-workers and even help them out as his guest. I looked around and realized how much fun the job really was. I didn't even feel like I was working. As I visited more, I got to know his internship boss, and she offered me an internship if I wanted to move over after I graduated high school. When I thought about it, I had a large passion for sports and music in my life. I figured I could apply those passions to radio in a heartbeat. That's what got me started and I've been hooked ever since.
3) "Local local local" has always been radio's mantra. How do you keep your station visible and involved in the community?
My PD Maynard branded "local" into my brain from when I first worked under him. We continue to do a unique job with this, working with him at MOViN 92.5. We've always had a consistent street team presence in the afternoons with a specific strategy in terms of rotating through specific hot zips, and keeping consistent exposure through social networks, call-ins, etc. We also are constantly brainstorming for local promotional ideas and imaging to make us really stand out in our market. Whether it's having a promo ready to hit the air the minute the Seattle Seahawks have won a big playoff game, or tying ourselves into the most popular sold-out local EDM concerts in the market. This is all a testament to not taking no for an answer and being very aggressive in terms of being open about building good working relationships.
4) What artist would we be surprised to find on your iPod?
Honestly? Probably A Tribe Called Quest, or just a lot of '90s underground Hip-Hop. I really love some of every kind of music in every genre. I'm very particular with the sound that I like. I always tell people that Jazz instruments are my favorite to hear. I love the sound of turntables in music, with piano, horns, saxophones, violins, etc. This tends to lean my favorite things to the sound of East Coast Hip-Hop, or just underground in general. Seattle underground Hip-Hop has been some of my favorite music for the last four years of my life. It's been fantastic to see an artist like Macklemore hit Top 40 radio, because I've been a fan for a long time, along with local Seattle groups like Blue Scholars, Common Market or Sol. One of my favorite quotes that I tell everybody is that "There is too much great music in the world, and too little time to listen, love, and know it all."
5) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
I don't get to listen to him as much as I should, but I really like The Kane Show on Hot 99.5 in Washington D.C. When I was in the Midwest for two years, I would hear his syndicated "Club Kane" on Sunday Nights on many stations, and he just really gets the concept that my PD Maynard has branded into my brain since I first worked hard at improving myself on-air. That is "Hook 'em ... and give them the information." He comes into every break relating to his audience immediately, just with his personality, and then quickly spins it into an appointment or tease that he's trying to sell. He also uses phones better than most jocks I've ever heard. He's so good with women on the air. He always comes off so comfortable with them, making it sound like they're his best friend, and he is their best friend.
6) Looking back, which years hold the best musical memories for you and who were your favorite acts at that time?
I'd say 2003 to 2007. This is because this was when I first became independent in life, as well as stared my radio career. It was at this time that I learned I loved to dance at clubs, turntables interested me, and as I was learning about DJ'ing, the music meant so much more to me. When songs like "In Da Club" by 50 Cent were huge, or when "Gold Digger" by Kanye West blew up, these songs will forever give me the feeling and memories of independence and passion for the people who are passionate about music.
7) Do you have a favorite hobby outside of radio?
I love sports. I played baseball, soccer, basketball and football growing up, but baseball is my favorite. I played for the Grand Forks amateur baseball team two summers ago. I play men's competitive softball all summer and get myself into tournaments whenever I get the chance. I'm even an avid major league baseball follower and am a diehard Seattle Mariners fan, and fantasy baseball geek. I'm a statistics guy. Since the age of four, I was laying on the floor scanning through sports stats in the sports section of the newspaper, back when we used to actually read those things.
8) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
The spontaneity. The people. I love the fact that it's an ever-evolving industry. It's always challenging you to create or find new ways to relate to your current audience and keeping up with constantly changing trends in the world. I also love the diversity of the radio listener itself. People from every background imaginable will tell you something about their experiences in listening to the radio and how it impacts their daily life.
9) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Networking and communication is very important. It doesn't matter what part of the industry I worked in, that always held true. The less I communicate, and the more I assume, the less effective things are done. It's important to always be ahead of the curve on these things to give yourself the best edge in the industry.
10) What advice you would give people new to the business?
I always tell people to ask questions. Be a sponge. Learn from every perspective you can and do not ever burn a bridge with any relationships you've developed. I am still applying these things today. There's so much to learn in this business because of the constant evolution of the industry. Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, and do not be afraid of being nervous. That just means that you're growing.
For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they "must see"?
Living in the Midwest for two years, I really developed a great appreciation for the city of Seattle and all of its beauty and green. If you are going to spend a vacation in Seattle, try to make it in the months of July or August. You'll find more sunny days in those months than any other time of the year. There is not a place on earth that I've seen that's more beautiful and fresh smelling than Seattle on a clear blue skies sunny day. Stay downtown and just walk around the oceanfront, ride the new ferris wheel, and visit Alki Beach in West Seattle. Take a ferry ride over to Bremerton in the middle of the day and ride it back into Seattle at night and take pictures of the beautiful Seattle skyline.