Saturday, January 30, 2010

Steve Fisher

Steve Fisher is the morning man at Fresh-FM, 105.9

Rick: It's like the Godfather isn't it? Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in. You were out of the business for two years. How is it to be back on the air again?

Steve: I feel rejuvenated, rehabilitated, renovated and refreshed. ;) I was actually nervous again which is a good sign. Radio has been and always will be my first love. She still looks great and I know her well. Radio is where I get to use the left side of my brain!

Rick: Obviously, there must be some sort of a comfort level here. The program director, Bill Gamble, is somebody you've worked with now at three different radio stations. You two must have a pretty good working relationship by now. What is he like to work for, and how has he changed over the years?

Steve: Bill has hired me three times and fired me twice! I'd like to insert this disclaimer that every time he fired me there was a format change less than six months later. Fire me and bad things will happen. ;)

When 94.7 The Zone had morphed into Extreme Rock, I was showing up wearing Khaki's and a polo shirt. "Freak" (photo) has the tattoos, the leather jacket, etc. Which one of these things do not go with the other? Uh, that would be me. While I love Metallica and Alice in Chains, etc. I didn't fit the format and Bill made the right decision. So he replaced me with Freak who was a perfect fit for the Zone.

Bill and I have a mutual respect that it's business first, friendship second. He's a great progam director to work for because he doesn't micro-manage his staff but usually sends out memos once a quarter to keep us focused. His philosophy at Q101 was to hire people with good personalities and teach them how to do great radio. Listen to Brian "Whipping Boy" Paruch who is a natural, James VanOsdol who is one of the best interviewers in the business and Brooke Hunter who is real and raw. He trusts his air staff's instincts and let's us do our thing.

Rick: Fresh-FM is targeted to the female audience. How does that factor into your show prep, your topics, and your content. Is it something that you always try to keep in mind, or are you just doing your thing and hoping it appeals to the female demo?

Steve: I watch Lifetime movies, I read Nicholas Sparks and I eat lots of chocolate. I live by the motto, WWOD? What would Oprah do? Actually, my wife is OUR audience. I talk to her and ask her, what do you think about Tiger Woods? Leno or Conan? She cried when she saw all the orphans in Haiti and wanted to adopt 10 kids. Plus, I have two daughters. I'll ask my 13 year old daughter, who do you like on American Idol? What movies have you seen lately, etc?

Rick: You've gotten a bit of press about your unusual double duty. In the morning, you're a disc jockey/morning host. In the afternoon, you're a real estate broker. That's difficult enough. But by night you're also a dad--father to four kids. Do you ever sleep? How do you do it?

Steve: Actually, I'm a real estate broker, morning, noon and night! That is my real job and you have to work twice as hard to get deals done these days. (VIDEO: Steve's real estate philosophy)

Radio is my play time. Six hours of sleep, plenty of coffee and I have to pray constantly. I'm blessed to have an incredible wife who takes care of twin boys at home by herself! She is the strongest woman I know.

Rick: I know your twin boys are very young, but what about your girls? Now that you had been out of it awhile and you're back on the air again, how do they react to hearing dad on the radio?

Steve: My three month old twin boys love Lady Gaga and Goo Goo Dolls, go figure. My 13 year old Kailie listens and thinks the radio station is cool and I'm not (I think she's bitter because I told her she couldn't start dating until she's thirty)! My eight year old, Grace still thinks of me as her hero and asks, " Do people know you? When I tell her I've talked about the kids on the air, she'll ask, "Are WE famous?"

Rick: You've been a part of the Chicago radio landscape now for nearly twenty years, and I've been following your career since the beginning. I remember I was writing a column for a magazine called "Chicago Advertising & Media" when you started at Q-101 in 1992. I just went back into my archives and read that again this morning. I called you "young, hip, and refreshingly normal." OK, so you're not quite as young anymore, but I still think that the basis of your appeal remains the same--you're a normal, regular guy. I'm guessing you must have faced some resistance to that in the beginning of your career. Did anyone ever try to change your style?

Steve: Is that your way of politely asking, "Have I hit puberty yet?" Ha! I think Jay Marvin once said, "Steve Fisher sounds like a twelve year old." (Photo: Q-101 airstaff in the early 90s. Steve is in the middle)

The other day a buddy from college sent me a message on Facebook and said, "Dude, you still sound like you're 24!" Now that's young, hip and refreshing! I think when I faced resistance, it was when I wasn't being myself early in my career. I was trying too hard to be hip. If you look at today's landscape of media personalities from Conan to Leno to Roe Conn, your voice shouldn't matter. Content is king.

Rick: I think one of the more interesting time periods of your radio career was your time as the sports anchor on Kevin Matthews show at WXCD. I've worked with Kevin before, and that definitely is a challenge. I think to work with anyone effectively on the air you have to be able to get inside their head, to figure out the way they think. I don't think anyone can think the way Kevin thinks (and that's not a shot--I love the guy. He's just waaaaaaay out there). Was that a challenge for you too?

Steve: Kevin (photo) was great. It was Jim Shorts that was the problem! Kevin is an original and let's be honest, Kev doesn't need four sidekicks on the air. He has multiple sidekicks in his head! I learned a lot from that experience and came to the conclusion, I'm not a good sidekick. I need to be in the driver's seat. That's not Kevin's fault. To his credit he tried to make it work at first but we didn't have that magic word..."chemistry." Off the air, he's a gentle soul and truly a good guy at heart.

Rick: You also worked as an account executive during those CD 94.7 days. That's often quite an eye opener for air talent. Has that experience made you more cooperative and appreciative to clients and sales people than you were before?

Steve: I have the utmost respect for anyone trying to sell radio advertising in today's economy. Without a doubt being on that side of the business opened my eyes to how much hard work is directly related to your successs. Radio sales executives deserve every commission they get for following up with leads, writing copy, creating marketing campaigns, hosting on-premise events, dealing with egomaniacal talent :) and taking care of high maintenance clients. I couldn't be a radio account executive because I'm too close to the action. I want to be on the air. However, I've taken a lot of what I learned as an A/E at CD94.7 and Kiss in San Antonio and incorporated it in my approach to real estate sales and marketing.

Rick: You're a Chicago guy, which I know endears you to the listeners. We're a very provincial town here, and being a Lane Tech grad certainly doesn't hurt. Part of the reason we tend to embrace our own is that we like our radio personalities to know about Chicago and it's history. We also like them to know Chicago radio history. When you were growing up in Chicago, which radio personalities were your favorites, and how have they influenced your approach?

Steve: Steve and Garry were my radio heroes. I met them at the Coho Lips Breakfast Club live broadcast at the old Carnegie Theatre. I also wanted to be the next Johnny B! So much so, I used the on air moniker Stevie J in college! Tom Joyner and Doug Banks were huge influences. Believe it or not, at one time I wanted to work at WGCI! I think what I learned from each personality is this: Be yourself. No one can ever take that away from you.