MEDIA: PRINT, RADIO, AND TELEVISION
Producer (often The Sidekick To The On-air Personality)
In many cases, the radio producers are backup for the on-air personality whose show they produce. They research, write, and assist in advance planning of the show and are available throughout the on-air time to assist the on-air personality.
“Listening and typing,” are two skills that have proved extremely important to producer Devon O'Day's success. “You have to type in real time on a computer keyboard so that your host can see it while he's on the air. I type 120 words a minute.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE
“God puts you in certain places because there is a lesson or a message you're suppose to get. Sometimes you ask, ‘Why was I here?’ And you realize you weren't there for you, you were there for someone else.”
“People would be so much more successful if they would learn to listen.”
Intern at a local radio station or get a job at your school radio station and develop an on-air persona, then make a demo recording of your work.
“My alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m. and I turn on a news channel or CNN and let my subconscious absorb whatever is on,” says O'Day. “I get a wake up call at 4:10 a.m. from the person who works overnight, and that's when I know I've got to get up. If I don't get a wake up call and talk to somebody, they [the station staff] have learned I won't wake up. I get to the station at 5:30 a.m. and start going through USA Today and The Tennessean. Sometimes I'll go through local newspapers too, and make a tip sheet for Gerry [House] with funny stuff he can talk about and questions he can ask. I cut out articles I like, highlight information, and write funny lines at the side. Sometimes he uses what I write and sometimes he uses his own jokes. Every time you open that mike, you've got to have something to say; something new, something funny. It's impossible to do four hours of standup five mornings a week, so he uses the tip sheet. Gerry runs his own board and does all the music, so he has to have someone who can write, listen, and answer the 300 to 400 calls we get each morning. Throughout the morning, he will go to me live; he just hits my microphone button and I'm on. I might be on the phone talking with a listener about their gallbladder and suddenly I'm on the air. I leave the station at 10:00. I answer my phone calls.” Because she is also a songwriter, O'Day's morning and early afternoon are often booked with writing appointments or demo recording sessions.
THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“What I like least is getting up at 3:30 in the morning and having to go to bed early.”
THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“I am passionate about the country music format. I love talking to incredibly intelligent listeners. Gerry [House] can ask anything on the radio—’What is the Hebrew word for cracker?‘—and a dozen people will call in with the answer. Our listeners are smart and they are also very caring. A lady called in and said, ‘I'm adopting a girl from Romania, but I can't afford to fly us there to get her, and back.’ She asked if anyone could donate frequent flyer miles. Before we went off the air at 10:00, she had the miles she needed.”
POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH
“In radio, you're going to have to work cheap, and have bad hours in the beginning. Go in as an assistant. Listen to every great radio personality you possibly can and find that person you can best emulate, then develop your own style. I read advertising copy every night of my life before I went to bed. I read books out loud so that my cold reading skills were top notch. I've been doing that for 20 years. Get books you don't even understand and try to make them sound interesting. Get a medical magazine; read the back of a Lysol can. Pretend it's an advertisement. You need to be able to read anything when you're on live radio. You've got to always pay attention to what you're reading, too. In radio, something always breaks down and you've got to be prepared to cover. All of a sudden the CD player doesn't work, and you've got to keep talking. My advice is: listen, read, practice, and hone your craft. Realize that every single person you meet might be the one who is able to unlock the door that gets you an interview or a job.”
DEVON O'DAY, PRODUCER, GERRY HOUSE AND THE HOUSE FOUNDATION SYNDICATED MORNING RADIO SHOW, WSIX RADIO
From the age of 17, Louisiana native Devon O'Day worked as a late-night and weekend country music disc jockey on a local radio station. After graduation from University of Louisiana at Monroe, then Northeast Louisiana University, O'Day moved to New York where she did postgraduate work in the writer's program of continuing education at New York University. She became a plus size model for the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency, while trying to break into radio. Despite studying voice with the lead announcer at MTV, she was unable to find radio work in New York. Feeling it was time for a change, and having a longstanding dream of being a singer/songwriter, she flew to Nashville to search for a job. “I had never been to Nashville before. I interviewed for jobs, and although I didn't land one, I just felt like I was supposed to be there.” Six days later she was living on Music Row, but couldn't find work in radio.
O'Day got a job as a receptionist at a hair salon. “I heard that the best way to get a job in the music business was to hang out where music business people do. I started frequenting Third Coast.” Although she didn't meet anyone to assist her in breaking into radio, she did become acquainted with legendary songwriters Paul Davis and Dean Dillon. Dillon later became a co-writer and helped to further her songwriting career. She left the salon after three months and began working temporary jobs. “I got sent to temp at different law firms. At the salon I had streaked pink through my hair. I would walk in wearing four or five earrings and lots of makeup, and I would be sent home.” She continued to drop off demo tapes at radio stations, but was never called back.
Undaunted, O'Day stayed focused on her goal of working in radio, and two important events set the course of her future: she changed her name and got a little help from a stranger. “One day I thought, ‘I don't have a catchy enough name.’ So I dreamed up the name Devon O'Day.” The next round of demo tapes carried the new name and garnered a phone call from WSIX. “They said, ‘We've heard of you. We'd like you to come in for an interview.’ It was the same tape I'd been leaving the last six times, but when they saw the name Devon O'Day, they called. The person who helped me get in to see [the program director] was a woman I met at the grocery store. She said, ‘You have a really good voice. Do you work in radio?’ As it turns out, she worked part time at WSIX and offered to make a phone call on my behalf.”
Initially hired to work the late night and weekend shifts, she later became the foil for a comic deejay who, she recalls, was “as funny as dirt” on his morning show. When WSIX was bought by a larger corporation that planned to bring in another deejay to pump up morning ratings, O'Day was slated to be let go. Told that she was not cut out for an on-air job, she was offered the chance to produce a new Los Angeles disc jockey no one else wanted to work with. “There is a professional jealousy in the industry. Rumor was that no one could get along with Gerry. Immediately the Capricorn in me said, ‘I've got to work with this man.’” When O'Day first met Gerry House in 1987, the two instantly clicked. Over the next 18 years, O'Day became an integral part of the No. 1 morning show in the United States, Gerry House and the House Foundation.
When not working on the drive-time radio show and the syndicated weekend show, O'Day and House began co-writing songs together. Their song “The Big One” was recorded by George Strait in 1995 and went to No. 1 in eight weeks. O'Day-penned songs have also been recorded by Pam Tillis, Hank Williams, Jr., Trace Adkins, and Neal McCoy.
O'Day also applied her writing skills to books. Her first, My Angels Wear Fur, was published in 2001. Goodbye My Friend: Celebrating the Memory of a Pet, a gift book/CD she co-created with Kim McLean for those grieving the loss of a pet, was released in late 2006.
Earlier in the year, O'Day took on hosting duties for Country Hitmakers, heard on 100 radio stations across the country, and launched the weekly gospel/inspirational radio show Country Spirit nationally. She also hosts weekend shows on SIRIUS Radio's Spirit Channel. O'Day has narrated specials for Garth Brooks, The Dixie Chicks, John Michael Montgomery, and Trisha Yearwood. www.devonoday.com
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