|Most people associate Michelle Wolfe with being the definitive voice of Bozemanís KMMS The Moose. Not as many know she graduated from MSU in 1998 with a degree in Policitcal Science (with Honors), has a passion for how cities operate, and is Chair of the North 7th Ave. Urban Renewal Board, doing ďinteresting and exciting things.Ē Her passions for excellence and community involvement were recognized in 2008, when she was inducted into the AAA Music Directors Hall of Fame in Philadelphia, an honor bestowed by industry peers, including record executives. The The RollingZone managed to chase down the popular DJ (sheís busy 24/7) and chat her up.
RZ:Gotta admire you getting up at 4 am every day to do the Morning Show.
MW: Itís not awesome getting up at 4 am. At least you donít have to wear makeup on the radio; I can be in my jammies... but you have to sound like you know what youíre talking about at 6 am, so a shower and caffeine absolutely need to occur before you crack the mic.
RZ: How long have you been at the station?
MW: On June 1st I will have been at The Moose for 16 years. Iíve worked in various capacities, and have been doing The Morning show for about nine years. Iím Operations Manager for Townsquare Media, so the am show is just one aspect of my job.
RZ: What does that job entail?
MW: Ensuring the health of the programming and products offered by all five of the radio stations: XL Country, Kiss FM, My 103.5, AM 1450 and The Moose. I love what I do and the things our building produces. Itís not just radio, itís a suite of media. We get to interact with listeners on so many levels that fit together: events, websites and on-air products. And to do it in a place like Bozeman is just incredible.
RZ: But you love going to Mexico, no?
MW: I love to do anything that involves a stamp on my passsport. Iíve traveled all over Mexico and have been to several Caribbean islands.
RZ: Have you traveled recently?
MW: The last 12 months itís been mostly domestic: Texas, San Francisco, Denver. I do a lot of industry related travel. If youíve gotta pack, itís a pretty fun reason to go. In February I went to a conference in San Diego. We had 50+ bands in four days ó it was just off the hook.
RZ: When you were younger did you play full albums or listen to individual songs?
MW: Growing up, I was an album listener. My folks have always been music lovers. Like a lot of kids, I stole their albums and listend with ginormous, can-sized headphones. Iíd go to sleep with ďDark Side of the MoonĒ at age 7 or 8.
RZ: That blows our theory that you chose songs ó that would have been good prep for a DJ.
MW: Actually, I wanted to be on TV. My father was cameraman for NBC for decades, and with the stories he has about world events and traveling the globe, I thought for sure I was gonna be Tom Brokaw, so I jumped at my first opportunity to get into media.
RZ: So did you go to school to get that opportunity?
MW: Heck no. I thought I was gonna be a lawyer (gestures grandly) and sue people.
RZ: Then how did you get your start?
MW: In 1994 I was working part-time as a DJ for a now defunct alternative station in town; in 1995 everybody got fired. Right after the meeting where I got canned, I went to The Moose after-hours and knocked on the window. I got hired the next day.
RZ: How did you swing that?
MW: I begged. I didnít know anything, but loved what I was doing and since everyone had been fired at the other station I wanted to be first in line.
RZ: You often introduce big-name artists who play in town; has anyone had you in awe?
MW: Most recently, introducing Grace Potter was special because I was nervous, and I donít really get nervous when introducing a band. But because Iím such a fan of their music and of them personally, I was nervous as hell when I got up there. Standing behind her Hammond, I just thought; Ďholy shit.í Sheís gonna be up here rockiní peopleís faces off.
RZ: Any great backstage experiences you can relate?
MW: Backstage experiences worth telling arenít print-worthy. That makes me sound bad, but itís usually the artist doing something stupid. So it would be kind of like kissing and telling. When artists allow you to be backstage and be part of that experience (considers her words with lots of facial expression) ... it can make you into a super-fan, cuz you feel like youíre a part of it. Youíre not just attending a concert. The most talented artists make every single person in the audience feel like they have a backstage pass. If an artist can make someone in the nosebleed section feel as good as the person next to the soundboard, thatís talent. Anybody with an all-access pass feels cool, but itís not about the great after-party. Itís about people who paid hard-earned money for a ticket. Thatís what I have respect for.
RZ: Whatís your favorite music genre?
MW: My favorite records are the ones I call road trippiní albums. Solid rock records. One of my favorites lately has been The Raconteursí ďConsolers of the Lonely.Ē The whole thing is great. I have musical history with both dudes involved and itís just a great album. I can put it in and listen to the whole thing and turn up every song. Thereís so much crap out there with one or two good songs and the rest are super mediocre. No wonder record companies canít make money! Iím happy when someone puts out an album and I know four or five songs could be played on-air. I like Dave Matthews; Iím also a junkie for a good pop record ó Eric Hutchintston, John Mayer. I also gravitate towards artists who deliver live as well as on their albums.
RZ: What makes a good DJ?
MW: Somebody who didnít go to broadcasting school! Being a good DJ in my opinion is about being yourself and being relatable. Just because somebody has a good voice and someone at the ding-dong school of broadcasting teaches them rules not to break is BS. Can they have a converation with a listener on the air? And going back to Times Square being media, itís about hosting events, Facebooking with your listeners, about interesting content that you write for your website and sounding like you know what youíre talking about. You have to be a well rounded individual who likes people. Following rules about how your break is supposed to sound is a lot of hoo-haa.
RZ: You like to ski and fish, donít you?
MW: I like do do anything that requires me to not to have my Blackberry. I lead a very spoiled and charmed life. Anybody in my position who says they donít is lying. I get paid to do what I love. I work with super-creative people who get to make stuff every day. We make stuff up, events, get to do cool contests, play great artists on the radio. I travel the world to go see live music. That does not get lost on me. Most of us are lucky to have a job to begin with ó to be allowed to do what I do is pretty exceptional.
RZ: You seem to be a fairly exceptional person.
MW: (Demurs). Iím a raging workaholic. I have three computers and a blackberry. Iím super busy, usually with work-related stuff, but I love all of it. Iím either on the air, in the production room, on the phone, on a conference call, on my crackberry, surfing the web for content, or doing voice-overs. I donít cure cancer, but Iím incredibly busy and I find it incredibly satisfying. I feel like there is a purpose and it does make a difference. Bozeman has a pretty distinct identity and in some small way I feel like I get to contribute to that. Itís pretty humbling.
RZ: Youíve seen corporate changes over the years. Can you comment on the Ďcorporate takeoverí of radio stations?
MW: I donít have an ill word to speak about any of the corpoarate owners. I will say that Town Square is by far my favorite. Whatís great for someone like me is that The Moose is all about live music, the city of Bozeman and the outdoor lifestyle. Itís convenient that those are sort of my core values, too, so I donít ever have to act. What weíre talking about on The Moose is really stuff we do. I donít hire anybody for our stations that doesnít actively engage in the community. Thereís no advantage to having someone on the air who doesnít relate to listeners. I genuinely believe in what weíre doing, and thatís what makes my job easy. You have to if youíre going to wake up at 4 in the morning and sometimes spend 15 hours a day with work-related stuff.
RZ: Whatís your next big event?
MW: (Big smile) I canít give too many details, but this year The Moose is celebrating its 20th anniversary, so on Labor Day weekend weíve got a pretty big event planned ó and thatís all youíre going to get. Itís a huge secret.
RZ: Tell us more about the conventions you attend to keep up with the industry.
MW: Itís not just about radio and which artists weíre going to play. Itís about how to develop websites, throwing big festivals. My favorite convention is South By Southwest (SXSW). Iíve been going for 10 years. Itís not just music, but film and interactive also. A good media company encompasses all three. You put these pieces of communication together so they fit. Itís like a puzzle you donít bother solving ó you just integrate the pieces and get excited about whatís next. When you get to sit down and listen to a FaceBook or Twitter VP, itís super important to be informed about whatís next. Itís not looking forward 12 months, itís looking forward 12 minutes. Not everyone leaps to the next trend well. The most heated discussions we have in our building stem from us learning so much so quickly and being able to adapt with what we do... it ainít just about getting up at 4 am and turning on a mic. Itís about interacting. Listeners have choices. I have people in Sydney, Australia listening along with people who heard my first broadcast. I spent six years in college, then graduated. Iíve spent 16 at The Moose and Iím not ever going to graduate óever.†