This is Robin Bailey – Part 1
Robin Bailey is the star of Brisbane’s top rating breakfast show on 97.3, and this week we caught up with her for a chat. From where she started, to how she ended up on Breakfast with 97.3.
We also talk about the loss of her husband, and how she and her boys are coping. “I’m so eternally grateful for my job and the fact that I’m good at it because there’s been many, many a day where the rest of my life has been falling apart”.
This is Robin Bailey – Part 1.
Blair: How long have you now been at ARN’s 97.3?
Robin: We will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary on the 17th of October.
Blair: This year? Unreal.
Blair: Geez, it’s been a good run.
Robin: It’s been a really good run, particularly in the last couple of years. You know it takes time to build a good show and I think during the first couple of years we were sort of working each other out, and it was an interesting mix coming together because Bob had been the Program Director at 4KQ, and had been on the air, Terry was the incumbent, and then I was brought in.
So it was an interesting dynamic to work out, but it’s funny we were just looking at the first video we made before we went on-air on that first day, and there was already a chemistry there. I think you know when you’ve got something, and we all felt it.
Blair: So where did it all start for you?
Robin: It started in high school in Year 9 at Concord High in Sydney. I did a radio elective for a term at a local community radio station in Burwood. We did a radio play and I really enjoyed it. My family had been in the media. Mum had, amongst other things, worked at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School as the head of research, she then went on to become a member of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal when that existed and my dad headed up the Film and TV unit at Sydney Uni, so my parents were very much involved in the media, and mum was also a Professor at Griffith University.
So I loved it, and I obviously knew a bit about it from my family history. So I got into Journalism at ANU after doing my HSC and decided to defer for a year and went overseas, and then came back and got a Cadetship with 2WEB in Burke in far western NSW.
Blair: That is way-out west!
Robin: Yeah I know but a great training ground, you did everything from preparing the rural news, to reading the news, to the funeral announcements. You knew everyone in the town, so if you were ever thinking of saying something nasty you would need to be prepared to have someone knocking at your door late at night!
So I learnt the trade, and came up through the ranks as a journo. I went to 2WS in the days when it had a massive newsroom, and was a kind of a lowly journo under people like Steve Blanda and John Christian, and then went to 2SM for a short period of time when Ken Sparkes was the PD.
In-between I was doing a bit of TV, and did a national audition for Hey Hey It’s Saturday as their Plucka Duck Girl, and got down to the final three, then to the final two and they alternated us week-about for two years. And that was kind of my foray into television, after that I was doing the weather on Tas TV, I read the news for WIN Television Toowoomba, I did a national kids science show for Channel 9 called Hot Science, a movie show for Channel 7 called Popcorn, and was busy trying to work my way up the ranks.
So I had kind of moved out of journalism and into programming and was at FOX FM back in the heyday of Paul Holmes actually. First of all I was with Grubby and Dee Dee as their Assistant Producer, and Paul Thompson was at the helm. He was really invested in young radio talent and if he felt you had potential, you were sent to either Canberra, Darwin or Hobart to learn your trade, and I got sent to Hobart as a Brekky Announcer. Greg Smith would fly down, and Paul Thompson would fly down, and they really trained us up. We had access to these great radio minds to learn from.
From there I went to Adelaide, and moved across when KAFM changed to Triple M. After I left, I kind of got out of radio for a little while and started feeling very keen to get back into it, so I flew up to Brisbane, got a job as a producer for B105 with Jamie Dunn, Donna Lynch and Ian Skippen, was moved on-air, and I did almost nine years with those guys.
Blair: I remember, I remember listening to you.
Robin: Yeah, oh my god, I was there for nearly nine years! After my time at B105 finished, I took some time off, which was really the making of me because I realised it was the only thing that I ever really had wanted to do, and the thing that I felt I was really good at.
I enjoyed connecting to people, and radio is the best way you can do that. So I got a job at Gold-FM on the Gold Coast, and did a national night-time regional show which got my confidence back, I was able to experiment with a lot of things, I was by myself, I learned to panel, it really was a great learning experience.
And then I came back up to Brissy, I was commuting and Barry Drinkwater asked if I would like to fill in for a couple of weeks on 4KQ with Gary Clare, I said yes, they seemed to enjoy it, and then I was offered the job doing Breakfast on 97.3.
Blair: You’ve obviously had great success in Brisbane, have you ever been tempted to head to a bigger Metro Market like Sydney or Melbourne?
Robin: I love what I do, that kind of really emotive, relatable content and I think it would work anywhere. People are desperate for that connection, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about doing it in Sydney or Melbourne.
I’m from Sydney, my family are in Sydney, my mum’s getting older and I would love to be closer to her and my sister’s moved back to Sydney from London after 15 years, so there’s a part of me that thinks it would be awesome. But the flip side of that is that my kids are here, Brisbane’s been so good to me, the people I work with are wonderful, and I am grateful that I can do what I do, and I continue to love it every day.
Blair: As well as 97.3 you also appear nationally on Nine’s Today show, what’s that like?
Robin: It’s awesome! I mean it’s funny because Nine use lots of commentators for various of things and I do some stuff for them on Tuesdays on a show called The Chat Room. I think they really like radio people, people like me because it doesn’t matter how much time we have or what we’re talking about, they just know we’ll have an opinion. And we don’t need an autocue because that’s what we do.
You know we facilitate conversation so people feel connected, and I think TV is swaying more and more towards that, and I think they should because it’s stripping back the veneer of trying to be so polished, that radio does really well, and TV could do more of.
Blair: Who are some of the other Female Breakfast Talents you’re a fan of?
Robin: Well a lot of them are my friends. I should say that upfront. Meshel Laurie is just an awesome chick, I really like her. And there’s a bit of a sisterhood I guess, when I started it was a tough game, and you really had to have your armour on.
I fought really hard to stay in this business and to be taken seriously back in the early days. So I think as more and more women have come through there’s a real kind of coming together. So I’d say Meshel Laurie, I’d say Chrissie Swan, Jackie O I don’t know her well, but we talk occasionally. All the Brisbane women I know, and say hi to.
Blair: 2014 was a very tough year for you, 2015 as well. How is this year feeling for you?
Robin: This year is gonna be awesome!
Blair: Any specific reasons?
Robin: Absolutely. There’s clearly been huge, huge emotional upheaval. To lose my children’s father, to lose my husband in such a violent and sudden way was so awful, and it takes a huge amount of re-adjustment to kind of come to terms with that, and when it’s to do with suicide there are no answers.
So you spend a lot of time, I think perhaps the first six months, just wanting to know why. And then over a period of time we all let that go. I’m fiercely protective of my children, and I guess my life has been running very much in tandem.
I’m so eternally grateful for my job and the fact that I’m somewhat good at it because there’s been many, many a day where the rest of my life has been falling apart, that I can go to work and feel like I’m still human, and feel like I can still connect with the outside world.
A lot of people say that our show helps them, but I am not kidding when I say that there are many, many, many days over the last sixteen months where being at work and being surrounded by the wonderful people that I work with, and the listeners, has got me through. There’s no question at all.
Blair: I haven’t been in the space that you’re in, and not a lot of people have. But the outpouring of support at the time was just amazing and you’re incredibly strong to get through what you did. Particularly with the boys.
Robin: But you know what’s interesting? Someone not very long ago said to me that it was so well orchestrated. And I looked at him and I said “What do you mean orchestrated?” And he said “Well you know, you must have sat down and really planned the comeback”. And I just looked at him and I said “This is my life”. There was no planning. There was no ‘well today we’ll do this and tomorrow we’ll take it like this’.
I was so lucky that ARN just let me do whatever I needed to do. They said I could take as much time off as I needed, I could come back when I needed, and there have been many days where I’ve had to say at the end of the show I’ve got a crisis at home. or there’s a problem at school, and I’ve had to fly.
There was no planning, but I think what has resonated most with most people is that all I did was say ‘this is my journey, I’m not going to sugar coat it and you’ll see the good the bad and the ugly’. And I guess that’s all you can do if you’re human.
In Part 2 with Robin Bailey, we talk about what makes the 97.3 Breakfast team work, we ask Robin to describe her on-air partners in just one word. And we talk female talent in Breakfast radio, and the new breed from the reality television ranks.