Matt speaks with Corey Dylan from Kicks 101.5 in Atlanta on her time in radio, and her quest to get back into radio after a three year involuntary hiatus.
Corey Dylan understands resilience. The longtime Tampa Bay radio personality was let go from Cox owned WFLA in the summer of 2016. In that time since, she continued working her voiceover clients, hosted a few television shows, and tried her hand at podcasting. She also never gave up in her quest to get back into radio. That meant networking at conferences at a moment when funds were at a premium, and putting herself out there when it could be most uncomfortable. I was turned on to Corey's story from a blog post by Fred Jacob's from Jacob's media which spoke to Radio's resilience.
Her career started at Washington State University and shifted to Bakersfield, California and later back to the Pacific Northwest where she produced the Robin & Maynard show. In time, she got a show of her own doing middays at Kiss 106 in Seattle, one of America's most competitive markets. In 2002, she moved to Tampa, and what followed was 17 years of morning radio, and engraining herself into a market she was originally unsure about. That all ended in the summer of 2016.
She's back on air at Cumulus' Kicks 101.5 in Atlanta, thanks in part to her networking upkeep with the likes of Mike McVay and Brian Thomas from Cumulus. She also shared with me, an article called "The Secrets of Resilience" by Meg Jay, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 2017.
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This week I speak with Corey Dylan from Kicks 101.5 in Atlanta. Corey is the cohost of the morning show with Cadillac Jack, and together they are Caddy and Corey. This is a story about resilience. Corey had been out of work from radio since the summer of 2016, and didn't get back in until January of this year. And this is 2019, by the way. This is a great story about what it takes to stay afloat and a true exercise in patience. Now, I've caught up with Corey during one of those early days at the new job, which means you can hear the echo of the common room of the complex she's in, while she awaits for her stuff to arrive from Tampa Bay. Corey was the subject of a blog post by Fred Jacobs at Jacobs Media that talks about the relationship between radio and resilience. And that word came up again in an article that touched Corey in 2017, titled The Secrets of Resilience by Meg Jay, and it was published in the Wall Street Journal. Corey Dillon joins me from the common room inside her apartment complex in Atlanta. So I'll roll you right back to the beginning because I've been dying to use my cheesy line all day. And that you started your radio career as a Cougar.
Yeah. KUGR Radio at Washington State University. I sure did.
And it was Cougar radio. And you also went to the Edward R. Murrow School of Broadcasting, is that correct?
I did, yeah.
And you got a journalism degree.
I know. I'm one of those rare birds that's actually using it, too.
How long did you spend at WSU?
Well, it's a four year University program, but I might have been there one summer session.
Are you going to say what course you had to repeat?
No, it's not that I had to repeat anything. I just somehow didn't get in like two credits. So the only class I remember taking, I think there might have been two. One was definitely a journalism class. It may have been a videography class, but the other one was Introduction to Jazz Music at 10:00, like on Wednesdays with everyone asleep in the class.
And from that point on, was it going to be radio or were there other thoughts of doing some news or television?
I thought about TV news, but Ironically, at the time I said I really don't want to be at a bus strike in the cold, freezing rain at 06:00 A.m. On any given day. And radio just took off more quickly for me, to be honest with you, I think because at the time I just looked super young, but I didn't sound as young as I was.
What were some of those early shows.
Like just flying by the seat of your pants? You have no idea what you're doing. And I didn't really have a mentor for the first year or so I would say that I was kind of feeling my way. I mean, I moved to Bakersfield, California and was working at a big band radio station and the morning DJ at the time I think his name was BB Hamilton. He actually played football for the Huskies, I think in the 60s, which is my alma mater's, archnemesis. But he was just a really nice man. It was kind of a retirement gig for him. I mean, he was just kind of having fun on the radio in the morning playing some big band hits on the Am band. And I was just his morning news reader. So he taught me a little bit about radio. But it really wasn't until I moved back home to Seattle that I got a job doing weekend overnights at Kayzokay and then I got a job producing the morning show for Kayzokay. So for about a year there I was doing both producing mornings for Robin and Maynard and then go home and go to sleep and then try to get up at Friday night and do my radio thing on the overnights.
So you were honestly living and breathing radio, are you Pacific Northwest girl?
Yeah. I mean, that's essentially where I spent my youth. Yeah.
And then middays came calling at Kiss 106. Yeah.
I was the first midday person at Kiss. I don't even remember what the format was, but they flipped it to Kiss 161 and at the time it was CBS Radio, which we know doesn't exist anymore. Now it's owned by Iheart. But I was the first midday Jock on Kiss 106.1 and I certainly learned a lot there under Mike Preston. But there was always so much more to learn and to do that, I think oftentimes you do have to sort of jump ship and go somewhere else. I mean, it wasn't necessarily my initiative that caused me to leave there, but I'm glad it happened because then I ended up doing mornings in Tampa for nine and a half years.
I read somewhere that you interned at Entertainment Tonight, is that correct?
No, I had the opportunity to, but it was after a summer or two interning for the CBS affiliate in Seattle. And Entertainment Tonight has a cache of overwhelming number of interns. I think I would have been something like one of 30 interns without a stipend in La. I didn't know that I could make that work. Maybe I could have, but at the time it didn't really seem like it was going to be a great possibility. I didn't have any family in La. It was one of those things. I just didn't know how to make it work.
So then you wind up going to Tampa and you do this long move. Is there really a longer move in the US to go from Seattle to Tampa?
Yeah, La to New York. I don't know. I know it's a little over 3000 miles. I think as the bird flies. And it was kind of a culture shock, too. I mean, the south and Florida is a whole lot different culturally than the Pacific Northwest is, but I found my footing eventually. And the next thing you know, you've been there for 17 years.
Well, I went there for about three days, and I wanted to stay forever. Now I'm from Canada, and we usually don't want to go back until the snow melts. And I thought this is really a place I could get used to. And the radio has always been quite extraordinary.
Yeah, it was fun. I think Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is a lot more competitive, to be honest with you, as far as radio is concerned. When I had the opportunity to go to Tampa, some people warned me against it, actually, because they thought maybe it was kind of too far off on its own. But guess what? People say the same thing about Seattle, too. You know, it ended up being a really great move. And yeah, the weather for much of the year is pretty fantastic. And you've got amazing world class beaches, and it's really come a long way as far as growing up. I mean, St. Pete, when I first moved there, just doesn't even compare to what it is right now. It's a burgeoning city, a huge art scene, the restaurants and culinary scene. It's just exploded. It's really exciting to see that happen.
When you first moved there, how long did you think you were going to be in Tampa for? You must think, oh, it's just going to be for a few years. And then the next thing you know, it's 17, honestly.
I mean, that first year was hard. Like, it is anywhere that you go. And I was to some degree that first year looking to go move on as soon as possible. But I think you just kind of find your stride and you find some success, and then you're like, this is pretty good compared to, I don't know, Chicago in January or Winnipeg in January, as you are well aware. So I don't know. I mean, I just grew to love it, and I made friends and built relationships and things that work were great. And that's one thing that everyone's asking me, how do you like Atlanta? And to be honest with you, I haven't even had a chance to explore much of it, Lana, just yet. But I'm so happy in the job, and that's such a huge part of my life that everything else is just kind of gravy. You know what I mean? You just learn how to deal with everything else.
If you're happy at work and being in Tampa for 17 years now, you went through a few job changes inside Tampa.
But then you go through the more recent one. By recent, I actually mean 2016. At that point, did you think it was kind of done or that you and Tampa were done or that it was going to be hard to get because you are Tampa after 17 years.
Yeah, that's a good question, because every time I've lost a job and a big job, you have to reevaluate you're like, is this what I'm meant to do? Do they want me back? And you really have to dig deep to figure out if it is, in fact, and how much our industry has changed? I'm like, I don't even know if there is a job out there for me again. And the fact that it happened the way it did and when it did is nothing short of what feels like a miracle after two years and seven months doing my own thing with voiceover and TV. But radio has just always been my first love. So I continued to apply and reach out and go to conferences and just nurture the relationships that I had been building for years.
How many times did you consider giving up?
Oh, I mean, up until the last minute. I mean, really, I got to the point where I said, well, okay, I'm going to sell my house because I think radio has played out for me. Like you mentioned, I'd worked for two different radio companies and four different stations in Tampa. And I knew that the next opportunity and the next opportunity that I would want wasn't going to be in Tampa. So I knew it was time to go. Sometimes you're ready and you make that move, and sometimes you don't know that you're ready and somebody else pushes you off the ledge, which is kind of what happened to me in Seattle. And I can't say that that's what happened to me in Tampa because I was ready to go. I wasn't super happy at Iheart, and I just wanted to move on. And so I had been looking for even longer than before I had left. Iheart for a great opportunity. Like I said, sometimes you're ready, sometimes you're not. Sometimes the universe knows that you're ready when you don't.
And I know when you're looking for work that it's not just resumes and phone calls and networking all the time, because like you mentioned, you were doing some television and you explored podcast as well, I believe. Is that correct?
Yeah, I had a podcast, but it was almost three years ago now. Even back then, I'm sure you've experienced this. It's hard to get people on board with the future, you know what I mean and what it could mean in the future. I was working with a couple of comedy clubs in Tampa, having on their owners and or the comedians that were coming through town. And the owner, he just didn't get it. He didn't see the bigger picture. He just said, well, I don't know if this is selling seats in my comedy clubs. And I wanted to tell him, well, I don't think going on the news talk radio stations that with the average listener being 62 years old, is putting rear ends in your seats either. He's a little old school. He just didn't get the big picture that not too many comedy clubs have their own podcast out there. I loved it. But selling it is another matter. And having to take off and get those numbers that everybody wants you to have. Not everyone is Snooky without following. It's a process. And again, nothing is overnight. I don't care if it's radio or podcasting or voiceover or TV. You have to toil away for sometimes years before it produces what you need it to produce.
Did you do some work with the Arizona Coyotes as well?
Yeah, again, in part came about because I have a relationship with somebody who had worked for USF outside of Tampa, who had worked with the Tampa Bay Rays and Disney, and he is now the marketing vice President, I believe, for the Arizona Coyotes, which is an NHL team. He actually gave me an opportunity to work with a minor League hockey team, which I still work with, out of Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms. When he made the move to Arizona, he called me up and said, hey, I'd like you to do some voice work for TV spots. And so he reached out not only to me, but other people that he had befriended to do the video work and some other voice work as well for the Coyotes. Like I said, it's all about relationships. Everything is in just a second.
Corey stays behind the microphone doing some voice over and continues to network her way back into radio. But I want to talk a little bit about what voiceover did for you and how you did voiceover because you've been doing voiceover for a long time, but you really suck yourself into it this time.
Well, and people had said to me a long time ago that it's not the kind of thing you can really do part time, but that's a scary thing. When you do have a job, you don't want to quit your job. Obviously, nobody wants to quit a paycheck and a full time salary for something that is so uncertain and takes so long to really build up because like anything, it's a business. You have to get regular clientele and customers and paying customers, and that's a whole other bag that you have to figure out. Like, how do you get people to pay you? Once you've done the work for them and they've agreed to pay you? How do you actually get them to pay you? Because everyone's on their own schedule. If any part of it was that I wasn't happy at Iheart I saw the writing on the wall, which is what was happening in the industry with the radio industry. I mean, there's fewer and fewer jobs every month, it seems, and those jobs aren't being replaced. So I said, well, what is the future for me? And I do think for a lot of us, the end game is voiceover. I mean, the need for voice is just so huge right now. And so I tell everybody I'm like, get a great microphone, get with the best that you can afford, get some training, which everybody thinks if I have a good voice, that's the end all be all. But guess what? They don't want radio talent. They want actors and just even the how should I put it, the tone or the characters or just how natural you can be? They just don't want you to sound like you're on the radio when you're doing something like that. And so I started training with a coach out of La over like ten years ago or so. After about a year and a half of training with her, we produced a demo. And then from there I put it on sites like Voice One, two, Three, and just started marketing myself to people like friends in the industry, advertising agencies, marketing directors, things like that.
You really networks hard, haven't you, like in that time that you were on the beach? I mean, not literally on the beach, because I know it's all that, but you're out networking all the time. And I think a lot of people who find their way out of work, that's something they're not really used to doing well.
And you have to I mean, you just have to because, again, everything that's going to help you succeed is all about networking. I don't care if it's radio, if it's TV, if it's voiceover. I mean, whatever industry you're in, that's what's going to help you. So you really do have to go to the conferences and meet people. I think I've only been to one Voiceover conference, and that was in La several years ago, but one of the biggest ones is in Atlanta every day, every year, actually. Everybody has to get better at it and really just connect with the people that are inside your industry that are doing the same thing you are.
Let me ask you a little bit about that conference circuit. Do you have a set number of conferences that you'll go to every year in order to network or to just connect with people? Do you have any favorites?
I love morning show boot camp, and I love Chicago, but I've been in Chicago and Atlanta. I went to a Voiceover conference called That's Voiceover in La several years ago, as I just mentioned, and then I went to Conclave in Minneapolis a couple of years ago. And that's outstanding. And that one really I think they really try to cater to people that are newer to the industry, which I don't qualify in that regard. And boot camp, some might just consider that kind of I don't know, almost like a reunion, but I've made great friends and relationships at that conference as well. I mean, there's so many others like worldwide radio conference that I would love to go to. But time and money has usually prevented me doing all of them.
And that's why I asked that question, because I think time and money really comes into play when making decisions about which conferences that you're going to go to. I think you mentioned Vo Atlanta, which is something that's quite popular worldwide Radio Summit. That's another one. And I'd love to go to the mall. I think we'd all love to go to the mall. But again, time and money well, right.
From what I gather from all these different conferences, it's going to cost you about $1,000 between the conference ticket, the airfare, hotel accommodations and the parties. That's about what it's going to cost everybody and anybody but some of these people. If you are on the beach or out of work, they will give you a discount on the tickets. I mean, I have certain people like Don Anthony be very generous, and Lori Lewis, too, when she was working with Conclave. I'm not even sure if she is still reach out to them and tell them your situation and chances are they're going to be receptive and embrace you.
Tell me a little bit about how you landed the job in Atlanta and how it all came to fruition years ago.
I went to the talkers conference in New York City. I think that was about four or five years ago. And I met Mike McVeigh for the first time. And so I see him at these various conferences. And I have to say he is probably the only executive that I've ever met in radio that is just he's so consistent and such a supporter of talent, and he always has gotten back to me. And when I saw him in Chicago, we talked a little bit and then we had a phone conversation after that. And he said, well, we've got lots of radio stations at Cumulus. We'd love to try to work something out. So we had a conversation, I don't know, a week or two after that. And Brian Thomas is the program director and he's executive and format leader with the format country. And I never thought I would work for Brian, but I've known Brian just personally through another radio friend for several years. He was in New York when he launched Nash, and then he moved to Chicago where he was at WLS. And of course, those are two legendary stations and markets that they have never done, country in Chicago. I mean, nobody wants to ever leave that station because it's such a legendary station. So I never really contemplated or considered the fact that I would one day go to work for him. I think I was driving back from the NAB radio show at late September and Brian called me and he said we might have an opportunity in the near future, but it was still months later that we really connected. And I interviewed for the job not till January.
Early thoughts on getting to Atlanta?
I mean, I'm so thrilled to be working with Cumulus. I mean, I can't even tell you just the opportunities that Cumulus radio has and with Westwood One and all the things that I want to do in voiceover and TV and who knows what else. The opportunities that exist with Tyler Perry Studios here in Atlanta are just incredible. So, I mean, I'm still trying to set up my apartment. I'm moving, like, every weekend. It feels like out of Tampa Bay and into Atlanta, and then I'm waiting on my stuff. So that's my new hobby. It's just moving.
I know, actually, when we're talking here, I can hear a distinctive Echo, and I can imagine that you're waiting for your stuff to arrive. And I think everybody in radio knows what that moment is and can fully understand the Echo that they're hearing right now in the room you're speaking in.
Right. Well, I mean, the funny thing is I'm actually in the clubhouse of my apartment building, so it's full, but it's cavernous. But yeah, I mean, it's super exciting and just all the things that I hope to do in Atlanta. And I went to my first concert, which was Dan and Shay last night. It was awesome. So I'm getting to know the venues and the listeners, and Cadillac Jack and I are so excited about everything that we want to do, and we're just having a ball. We like each other so much, and we're just laughing harder than I've laughed in years. I was just goofing around and just having fun on the radio.
When you found out you were getting the job, what did you do? Did you fall to your knees?
No, I went out and bought some champagne. Of course, that was my second guess.
I had champagne down next.
Well, see, now you know me better. Now you know me better. So it just became kind of a whirlwind of trying to figure out, like I said, how to change your life. I mean, how to move after you haven't moved anywhere for 15 years and just get all that stuff done in the process. I was also selling my house, which I tried to sell for a year and a half and then finally actually sold it, and it only closed just yesterday. So I'd already been here in Atlanta for like two and a half, three weeks.
And what about meeting your morning show partner for the first time, or had you known him beforehand?
No, there's I think, like two or three Cadillac Jacks working in the business. So I'm friends with the guy that just landed in Detroit, too, but it was great. I don't know when you've been working in this industry as long as both of us have. I think there's just sort of a knowing and a familiarity, and we get along. We had some phone conversations before we met in person in January. It's been smooth sailing so far. Knock on wood.
I want to thank you, by the way, for sending me the article by Meg Jay the secrets of resilience.
When did you first read that article and how did it touch you?
Well, I had been on the beach for like a year and a half. It was Christmas time, I believe. And my niece, who is well, she was premed at Brown, but now she's, I think, dropped out of premed, so she's studying psychology and so she had come across that article in the wall Street Journal, I think it's dated 2017. Right. And so she shared it with me just kind of knowing what I've been going through for over a year and a half and struggling. And so she shared that article with me and I've gone back to it several times now Because I think a lot of times, whether it's somebody that wants to get into radio or voiceover and they just think they're going to be an overnight success, nobody is an overnight success. It just goes to show you everyone from Henry Ford to Oprah Winfrey or any of those big names that you know and the most successful people we've ever known, nothing happened overnight for them and you're no different. It's like you have to toil away, as I mentioned earlier, I mean, sometimes for years, as I did for two years and seven months, doing my own thing, Which I plan to continue to do that as well Because I don't ever want to let that go now. I mean, just never quit, never give up and just keep doing what you're doing. Believe in yourself, which is the hard thing to do when you haven't found that person that believes in you as much yet. But that's what it takes is to find that person that gets what you are and what you're about and wants to give you a shot.
Corey, thanks a lot for speaking on the podcast and telling your story. It was a long time on the Beach, but we're glad you're back on the radio. It's where you belong.
Thank you, sweetie. I appreciate that.
Thanks for listening to the Sound Off Podcast. Find us online at soundoffpodcast.com and connect with us wherever great social media is housed. The show is imaged using the sounds from Core Image Studios. Written and hosted by Matt Cundill. A production of the Soundoff Media Company.