10 Questions with ... UB Rodriguez
June 2, 2015
1) How did you get your start in radio?
With a $20 mixer from an electronic store, some headphones with a mic attached and a tape recorder. I was always a radio/TV nerd. I had career goals like becoming a lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc. Radio would be my hobby. Then it hit me -- it's a career, too! There are very few times I say I'm "going to work." I say, "I'm going to the station." It's not work. It was the hobby I'd thought of in my young career-searching days. And it made me some great money. And a career. Started in college. Studied a radio program offered by the Dade County public school system. Got an internship, then the part-time job elsewhere, then the full-time job with benefits -- in another city.
2) What do you love about being on the air?
Well, I know how it felt when I was a kid listening to radio and being entertained -- or not. The human connection to people through music, talk, laughter, seriousness, etc. I witnessed how some of the greats of my time before I got into radio (I'm 35), and was inspired! I'll name names later.
3) Where did you learn the most radio?
I learned a little something in every experience. Miami was the foundation. In the Bay, I learned about regions. And how important it is to experience and respect each city's culture and way of life. And your delivery on-air should reflect that. Dallas is where I learned how to do Top 40 radio on a true Urban. Chicago was where I learned the most life experiences. It's where I became an adult. A man. It's also where I realized that the past 10 years may have gone a little too fast for me. And it's time to push the brakes slightly and live in the now. I lost myself a bit and. I got stuck at age 22 in some parts of my life. But Chicago is where I learned to incorporate all of that in my shows. I'm now a public figure. It was fun. It's where I came out. Very open-book type. It made great radio! Chicago is where I learned to fully accept my personality on the radio.
4) I have heard you say delivery is everything ... care to explain?
In life, people will buy into you and connect with you based NOT what you say, but how you say it. Delivery is everything. I show prep everyday. I don't copy/paste. I write things out. I watch social media feeds, watch TV, listen to radio, etc. And create a two to four-page prep package for each show. People would ask for my show prep sheets and I'd say no. Until I accepted that my prep sheet was the best! I got a little inside cockiness and realized that giving someone my prep sheet doesn't mean they'll deliver it like I do. Just different.
My prep style comes from journalism in college and self-teaching (reading up and refreshing on basic journalistic approaches and applying them to what everybody considers 'everyday radio,' But it's not -- not when you've prepped as much as I do. I pride myself on my on-air teases. Besides being a tease myself ... LOL ... I actually learned how to tease professionally at a very early part of my career.
5) What is the most important thing you try to impress on those wanting to get into radio?
Use all that you've got. Don't put any of your talents to the side just because you get a job with only one role. People may think I can do any format. But I'm Cuban-American, born in Miami -- so you know my first language was Spanish ... and I have yet to do a Latin format. Don't get comfortable. This is a talent-based creative type of job. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. I think those type of personalities will be in demand again very soon. Oh, and get an agent. Regrets? Not having an agent. Ever. Not trusting. Most of us in radio don't have agents. We feel we can handle it on our own. Everyone in TV has an agent. Someone who's always got you out there, up front, even when you have a good job. In my experience, the Urban side never talked about agents. On the Rhythmic side it was normal. Like it was part of the application process -- "Hi, my name is UB, here's my business card, tape and resume and my agent's business card, too. Nice to meet you."
6) Do you take what you see in everyday life back to the studio and the mic?
Yes. As you see in the answers to my questions, I tie everything into it because it's the lifestyle. And I enjoy lifestyle radio. The hobby. It's not work. If you check out my latest aircheck on my Soundclound, you'll hear me talk about something that happened at my final staff meeting. LOL. I tie it all in. And that's what makes personality radio. Shows that you're human. Yes, I've been hung over and you're going to hear about it on my show! Yes, I've met people on these social dating (or hook-up) apps -- and I've talked about it on the air. Leaving names out, of course -- sometimes I didn't even get the name. I learned to make no apologies for my personality. As long as I'm being responsible and respectful. The airwaves are an extension of my life. Sometimes like a journal. But hey, listeners don't wanna just hear about you, they want to be entertained, too. So I gather stories, audio clips, interviews, local happenings and more and mash it all up together to make a radio show. It's fun. It's not work. The late BB King said, "It's a job I'd do for nothing, but don't tell the promoters."
7) Would you like to program?
Absolutely. But I'm concerned those with PD titles aren't being utilized. Instead, following a very strict Plan of Action Book with no flexibility. Just my opinion. I've worked for both huge companies and small companies. There's a lot to appreciate in both. But I notice that in the smaller ones, like Dallas, they could adjust or abort their plan of action at anytime. I guess that's like big country vs. small country. Both have their awesome benefits depending on your interest. I want to program a radio station like it's my favorite dish to cook ... with passion, creativity, stability and love. Put my ingredients and body into it!
8) What do you see for the future of radio?
Guys like DJ Moondawg explode. He started his career with mixtape and blogs ... then college radio to commercial radio and all of social media and podcasting. He is the past, present and future. And he started as my intern. So I'm very proud and encouraged and motivated.
9) Would you share your goals and what would be your dream job?
Well, one of two things will happen here ... either I do really well and explode into something amazing, or I'll totally mess it all up. Risks. We don't take enough of them. People used to say I took risks by moving from city to city in the U.S., building a resume and career. And I did. But a real risk would be to branch out even more. My dream jobs ... I have a few. I'd like to build, manage or direct a radio station. Do Top 40. Or go to an island and experience radio there. Or to work at 12 stations, in 12 countries, in 12 months -- one each. That would be amazing. But for now, on the list of dream jobs and goal, I'd say to be on-air, or off-air in radio back home.
10) Do you have a favorite radio memory that still makes you laugh or smile?
I hope programmers don't get mad ... I was producing Karen Vaughn's show in Miami. She had to backsell the last five songs. The paper log and the computer log didn't match (surprise? LOL). KV: "before that you heard Luther Van ... wait, UB, did we play Luther?" Somehow the song dropped but it was on the paper log. Karen was also APD so she was working on music logs, contesting and more. I had a confused look on my face. Scrambling. Then she says, "Anyway, you know what you heard! Coming up next..." And we wrapped up the break and looked at the studio hotline phone ... waiting for Derrick Brown (PD) to call us! LOL! It was my first commercial radio station. I was on edge because we were a UAC and sorta conservative at the time. She broke the ice. She blew the top off and made it comfortable for me in the studio. It was soooooo taboo and sooooo funny at the same time. But she was right! That approach was fresh futuristic and that's what Karen always represented.
Do you have any hobbies that would surprise people?
Radio is my hobby. It brings me joy but a lot of irritation, too. Because I have to force myself to separate the pleasure from the business. So yea, I've had to think of other hobbies. I don't know if traveling is a hobby, but I would like to think of it as one. I enjoy trying new foods, cultures, hang at the beach. I used to dance a lot but that slowed down when I left Miami.
Most people don't know you are Cuban and are fluent in the language; how do you use that?
I don't use Spanish enough. It's one of my regrets. But I'm comfortable in using it or not using it. My parents had to speak Spanish to theirs. But I can do either. My mom had to go to my first-grade class one day because I told her that my teacher made fun of my accent. Even though she almost strangled the lady, I still wanted to speak perfect English. Statue of limitations is way passed, right?
So, my parents were born in Cuba. I was born in Miami. My first trip out of the country was to the Dominican Republic. Culturally, I'm so Miami-Latin. But I always had this fascination of being on TV or radio. I used to admire and mock Rick Sanchez at SVN in Miami. LOL. "Shocking shocking news everybody, I'm Rick Sanchez ... in the newsplex," LOL! I LOVED IT! Everyone did. Then we started to hear great morning shows like Bo Griffin's on Power in Miami mock Rick on air! Latin radio morning shows did it too! Features were created around his delivery. (There it is again, the delivery). But Rick was polished to me. Cuban-American. I guess we have some similarities, huh? He spoke with no accent. So I lost my Miami accent, too. I wanted to be colorless and polished and able to work anywhere. So I guess I dropped the culture a little. But now I wanna be less polished. When I got to Chicago, I stated saying "dale" on air. Which is Cuban slang for "ok cool, go". People caught on and started saying it whether they knew what it meant or not. I started getting back to myself in Chicago. I know realize, wait...Rick was so Cuban when he was at SVN! Now I recall an accent. The accent is of one still very connected to his culture but diversified enough to compete with the tradition TV news heads. I'm coming back to my roots!
I want you to tell me about all the mentors and folks who have influenced you and your career?
This part makes me nervous because it'll be impossible to name everybody. My parents, brother, grandparents -- the whole family, and friends growing up. Teachers, leaders, role models -- on whatever level, as long as I was able to believe their struggle and trust them, they were able to influence me. All have played a role in helping me become the man I am today.