Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's July interview with Dave Smiley
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Smiley. Has that always been your on-air name? Were you ever almost anyone else?
Yeah. Great radio name, huh? No one believes me, I always whip out my drivers license for listeners. Earlier In my career, I went by a couple of fake names when I did weekend shifts in other cities like "Bubba the love sponge" and "Budweiser."
I've listened to your show and can't decide if you're CHR, Hot AC, Alternative, very female friendly, lot of different takes. How would you describe it?
WZPL, as a station, walks a pretty fine line between Hot AC and CHR, really a true "Adult Top 40" station musically. In the morning, we try to have the energy of a CHR morning show with the sensibility of a Hot AC. We cover three of the biggest news headlines, give traffic and weather, lots of Hollywood news, and then just try to chat about our lives and things we find interesting … involving as many listeners as possible. We just want to have fun. And, if we're having fun, that means our listeners are having fun.
Who else is on the show with you?
When I first started here at WZPL, I had no one with me. I was able to add people as I went along. Now, KJ is my main co-host. She used to be the Assistant PD. Paul Poteet is one of our local TV weather guys that was already working with the morning show before I arrived. He is definitely the funniest person on the show and does more than just the weather. Mindy Winkler does traffic for us and, when she's not doing reports for our two other stations, she hangs with us in the studio. My producer used to be my intern. His on air name is "Weedman," and he is the best. He does production for us, too; so, we always have fresh production elements and promos. Our other producer is BMOORE and he used to work in promotions. We have 3 interns right now that do little features on the air, help with podcasting, research
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a jock?
When I was very young, my dad owned a couple of Christian radio stations around Iowa and he had a little production studio in our garage. I used to record fake radio shows on cassette, play music from Stryper, and interview the neighbors. I used to imitate people like Rick Dees and some guy named Rick Steele (who did nights in Des Moines as Rick "stainless rock'n roll" Steele).
Who gets credit for making it happen?
I'd have to say Dan Kiely hired me at my first major commercial radio station -- KDWZ in Des Moines, Iowa -- when I was going to high school. But, I still give a lot of credit to Tracy Johnson in San Diego for his encouragement and a place to really turn into a personality.
How about along the way? Which morning shows kept you glued to the radio?
I loved listening to Stern when I was in New York City (even though I was working for Ross Britain and Gary Brian as their stunt boy on Z100). When I lived in San Diego, it was always Jeff & Jer.
What's your take on the whole PPM thing? Have you and Scott Sands (PD) already begun to prepare?
We've been talking about it. We are actually having a meeting about it again tomorrow, and PPM doesn't come to Indy until Fall 2010. I'm all for it, if it's more accurate than the ratings we have now. Arbitron seems to be a crap shoot. I just hope PDs don't over analyze the info and try to completely change their personalities, which ruin good shows.
Best/worst advice you ever got for doing a morning show?
One time, Jeff from the Jeff & Jer show told me that I would never get used to the hours of doing a morning show. He was right, don't expect to get "used" to waking up at 3:45 and trying to have a personal life.
Worst advice was to tell me that I'd never be a morning show host. I'm not going to mention his name; but, it just fueled me to work harder and get here. Thank you, I am having a blast and plus I'm making more money than the DJ salary you wanted to pay me!
With so much streaming available, are their any shows out there that you like to catch?
I like Jeff & Jer, Kidd Kraddick, The Bert Show, Ace & TJ, and some others. I downloaded this software, RADIOTIME, on my home computer. It's great, it tapes internet streams to your drive like a DVR for radio. (I'm not getting paid for this, I bought it!)
Are there things you used to do on your show that you don't any longer?
I used to think a morning show host had to do a show a certain way. I listened to shows growing up and was told by PDs how to do it. Then, you realize there are a lot of ways to have a successful show. I think it was Tracy Johnson that told me "find out the things you do well, and do them often" … Like I said earlier, I'm not the best interviewer and I don't read very well (I failed 1st grade, and I'm not kidding) so, I let others on my show do the things that they are better at doing than me.
How long does a bad show bother you?
It used to bother me more when I was a younger DJ. If my show open wasn't just right, it would ruin my attitude the rest of the show. Now, I try to stay positive and work to make the next day better.
How do you deal with a down trend?
I always tell my crew to not tell me the ratings, unless they are good. Problem is, if I don't hear about the ratings, after a while I know they must suck. Its funny how when you need the support the most from your PD, programming, and sales is when the ratings are down. Unfortunately, they then think you instantly suck. When the trend is up -- they all think you are the best -- where were they a month ago?! (Not you, Scott).
What do you consider the best bits, stunts or phoners you've ever done?
That a big question. We've done so many things over the years. And, we can't do a lot of the fun things we used to because of all the lawsuits out there now. But, the bit we did with tennis pro Andy Roddick yelping out as he hits the tennis ball was one of my favorites. We isolated those clips and then took clips from gay porn and listeners had to figure out if it was "Tennis Pro or Gay Porn". I also enjoy the days I go out hitchhiking with listeners. I just take a phone and hop into cars with listeners and drive around with them all morning long for 10 minute rides. They drop me off and I wait for the next friendly listener.
Is there a bit you'd like to take back?
Yes, the one I did this morning. I thought it would be a good topic to ask what words do you say now that you are a parent. My buddy was with me the other day and said "he had to go poopy" – I was like what? You are 33 years old! He told me that he is so used to saying it with your kids he forgot. So, I asked on the air "what words do you say now that you are a parent?" Not one caller. Still.
I'd like to appoint you as president of radio for a moment. What would be your first action?
Resign and go work for Facebook.
A lot of people reading this are heading to Boot Camp. Some for the first time. What advice would you give to the newbies?
Boot Camp is my favorite. I have been going for years. Go make friends and chat about the biz, steal ideas and network. I love talking to others in this business because it's my passion, and obviously yours too if you're here.