10 Questions with ... Jeff Sweatman
July 4, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started working P/T in News/Talk and Top 40 in my hometown at the age of 15, and still worked there my first couple of summers in college. Loved my time at Missouri -- four years at KCOU/Columbia (a great time for music in the early '90s, and we were the station that got Big Star back together!). Found a part-time gig at News/Talk KFRU, also in Columbia, MO, which led to my first full-time job at the brand-new Triple A KBXR, led at the time by Keefer, whom I had idolized while listening to him growing up in Springfield, IL! Spent the better part of 15 years at that group of stations (mostly in Triple A, with a year or two in Oldies and on the production side), then moved out to Charlottesville, VA in late 2006 to join my former co-worker Brad Savage at the brand-new Triple A WCNR!
1. How did you become interested in radio?
High school Speech Club included a radio newscast competition that I enjoyed more than memorizing speeches
2. Who are your mentors?
Keefer (PD who hired me for my first full-time gig at KBXR), Tim Schweizer (central Illinois news radio legend who gave me my first P/T job at WTAX), Jack Lawson (long-time OM in Columbia), Liz Mozzocco (my PD at KBXR and I've admired what she's done since moving on to WAPS in Akron)
3. You've been at The Corner since its inception ... how has the station evolved?
We have definitely taken on more of a Hot AC lean in the last year-and-a-half after the first couple of years as an Alt/Triple A hybrid. Through the changes, we have found people not only still appreciate the mix of music (though, when prompted via social media, we do get a significant amount of negative feedback on a song like "Jar of Hearts," for example), but, in general, I think people really appreciate the personality factor that we bring, both in terms of the distinct style and delivery of each DJ and the fact that we really are part of the community -- listeners actually see us around town at events, concerts, etc. Even though there's only five of us, and three of those are part-time!
4. How would you describe the music on the station?
Solid smash hits - with a dash of spice every now and then to keep everyone (including us) on our toes
5. Give us some insight in the Charlottesville market.
Great, award-winning radio abounds! Like everywhere else, Country and Top 40 do well (unfortunately, neither are in our company), but NPR is huge here, too, and WNRN does a fine job representing the non-comm music world. AC and Classic Rock are very well-executed, long-time market staples (both in our company!), although now that I think about it, we really do have only one option per format (except NPR and News/Talk). Maybe that's why The Corner has found its niche; we take a little bit of a lot of different worlds (Alternative/Classic Rock/AC/Top 40/Triple A) and pair it with an almost-NPR like respectful delivery with our imaging and DJs.
We also get WAY more great live music than the typical small market, thanks to great venues (small, medium and large) and Live Nation/MusicToday and Red Light Management having connections to the area. And we've certainly been able to tie in to that live scene better than any other station, in the sense that we make the connection for people (especially with our in-studio performances in the Corner Lounge) that what they hear on the air can also be experienced in person, and that music is not just wallpaper to get through your workday. Also, that while the music industry may be struggling in some respects, music itself is still a vital part of life!
6. Tell us about your New Music specialty show.
Brighten the Corners airs Tuesday nights from 10p to midnight. I try to exist in that realm of: 1) new stuff from familiar names that the average listener will know and like and hopefully hear more of soon in regular rotation; 2) the limited amount of blogosphere stuff that I'm able to tolerate; 3) a certain percentage of records that get promoted exclusively to specialty shows (I need a separate HD channel to play all the good stuff that comes in this way!); and 4) an informative old track or two to show how there's really nothing "new" under the sun.
7. What new bands are you most excited about?
Motopony, Dawes, Jessica Lea Mayfield. Although I'll stop there since it seems to be the kiss of death when I like something, no one plays it, ha!
8. Besides your own, what is your favorite radio format?
I'm a sucker for Sports Talk, and I also love Thom Hartmann's progressive talk show.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
... my new wife's smile!
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Historical society research and/or tours, maybe teach college-level history. Don't think I can ever get away from music, though -- would love to put together Ken Burns-style vignettes on important musical figures for PBS. Patterson Hood would be my narrator! Sort of a Biography-meets-Behind the Music show, with a PBS sensibility.
What do you and your new bride enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Hiking and sports -- how cool is it that part of our honeymoon included a tour of Fenway Park!?
Last non-industry job:
Streetside Records clerk 10+ years ago (does that count?)
First record ever purchased:
"KISS Alive II" was very important in my early childhood, but that was a gift .. .I do remember being very frugal with my purchases even as a kid (I taped a LOT off the radio!), and at one point, I only had the money to buy either Bryan Adams "Into the Fire" or Peter Gabriel "So" on cassette ... I went with Mr. Adams, ha! U2's "War," Jimi Hendrix "Smash Hits," and "Led Zeppelin II" were all purchased around the same time and were pretty well-worn on my imitation Walkman.
Andy Gibb, Six Flags St. Louis 1978
Favorite band of all-time:
Beatles (with Pixies, PJ Harvey & Pearl Jam all tied for a close second)