James McKay and the podcast that’s literally got the radio industry talking


During his high school days, James McKay used to listen to Hamish & Andy on the radio.

And like a lot of people, he dreamt of being able to do what they did for a living.

James tells Radio Today “I always wanted to be in media or entertainment. I wanted to make movies, host a TV show or be a radio announcer.”

TV talk shows held particular appeal, and when he was a bit older, James would watch Rove Live, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman.

“Their comedy really struck a chord and got me interested in broadcasting and comedy,” says James “Especially Letterman.”

Today, not only is James hosting his own talk show, he himself is generating talk within radio circles for his fascinating and compelling interviews with a host of industry names.

In his podcast The James McKay Show, James has so far interviewed Ash Gierke from 91.1 Hot FM, Caroline Hutchinson and Lyndon Smith from 92.7 Mix FM, the KIIS Network’s Zach Mander, Shannon Freeman from Hit105.9 Central West and former KIIS Melbourne Breakfast news presenter Clare Todhunter, to name just a few.

Episodes feature long-form interviews with a single guest and run up to an hour long. The podcast extends to movies and music.

“The guest is the theme of the episode,” James explains. “It’s all about them.”

That might mean laid-back conversations about their life or tales about working in their chosen industry.

“The podcast has given me the opportunity to chat to and meet some people in the radio industry that I’ve admired for years.”

“The mood is lighthearted but a few episodes have got really deep.”

James says it’s a huge privilege to be able to engage with guests about their lives, whether it be the story of how they got into radio or learning an interesting anecdote about their family.

“The podcast format allows for something different. It’s been great meeting new people in radio.”

 Having previously worked behind the mic in radio himself, James says he simply wanted to get back to doing what he loves.

“I could only interview my dog in the backyard so many times,” he laughs.

 Born in Toowoomba, James moved with his family to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 1997.

Childhood was a summery, Sunny Coast lifestyle filled with backyard cricket, footy, PlayStation and Star Wars.

Inspired by Rove McManus’s community TV beginnings, James got involved in community television in Brisbane, which saw him live out his fantasy of doing a Tonight Show style program.

“After that show wrapped up, I found my true passion, which was radio. It was something I’d always been interested in, was always on the radar, but I never knew the path to getting a legitimate job in the industry.”

For James, that path was getting experience, learning the ropes and basics of broadcasting at a community radio station.

“I started presenting a Drive show on a local community station on the Sunshine Coast.”

After about six months, James landed a commercial radio gig at Macquarie Regional Radio, presenting the Miners Overnight program from 2012 to 2014.

And while it meant pulling the graveyard shift, James says it was an absolute blast. A dream job in every sense of the word.

“It was midnight to dawn, which some might cringe at due to the late hours, but I loved it. It felt it was the perfect time slot. The creative freedom to try things. Mess up, try again. Do silly and great things. Talk to people from around Queensland.”

It was a simple music request show, aimed at miners and shift workers.

“You could fill the other time with silly breaks, call topics, social media games or chatting to a drunk caller at 3:45 in the morning.”

After the show wound up, James returned to community radio, hosting a Breakfast show for a couple of years.

He regards community radio as a great foundation on which to build a commercial career.

 “It’s very important and very practical to get hands on experience on a community radio station,” James says.

“It’s a place where you can develop the craft and develop your style. Try out things. Learn the basics and go live to air. There’s nothing like it.”

Whether you want to be a producer, panel op or radio host, James says it’s about soaking up all kinds of experiences.

“Learn as much as you can, announcing, panel operating, editing. Develop your skills. Make social media videos. Use the opportunity to craft different kind of breaks.  All tools you can use moving forward into commercial radio.”

“Make an awesome air check, apply for a gig.”

James says podcasting, YouTube, Tik Tok and twitch are also very good places in which to develop broadcasting skills.

“Do whatever works for you. Community radio isn’t the be all and end all to get a foot in the door, but it’s definitely an opportunity to get some live radio experience.”

 Today, James is as passionate as ever about radio.

“A lot of announcers will say they got into radio because they love music. I was more interested in the presenting, entertaining side. Going live on air, making fun breaks. I was never attracted to radio because of the music. It was more having the opportunity to make someone laugh.”

For now, James sees more podcasting in his future.

“I’m really enjoying the long form interviews. I’m planning on eventually having daily content. I’m also working on a movie-related podcast.”

“Hopefully one day I’ll be lucky enough to work in commercial radio again. The dream has been to do Breakfast or Drive on a commercial station, especially on my home turf – on the Sunshine Coast.”

“That’s a lifelong goal of mine that’s hopefully achievable. I’m open to any future opportunities.”

Find episodes of the James McKay Show podcast here.

Find The James McKay Facebook page here.

*Photos supplied

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22 Dec 2023 - 6:47 am

Good to hear my old mate Lyndon from MIX FM talk about his last few years…that crafting of music logs…the genius of creating compelling content in a music gig…


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