Akron, Ohio has a strong Country heritage as the guy I want to introduce to you today. James “Lee” Smith. James is a really talented imaging guy, banging out awesome stuff out off Akron. Why James and his wife moved back to Ohio, why working in the world of Country is a great experience and the secret way how to work in your dream job…
Read his inspiring interview, check his izotope Ozone presets and listen to his stuning audio pieces.
Enter “James Lee” Smith!
1. which production system do you use at station WQMX & WONE and why?
I use Adobe Audition 1.5 at the station & Adobe Audition 1.5 & 3.0 at home. I have been using Adobe since it was Cool Edit Pro 1.2. I first used the program when I was still in college and learned it through self teaching. Most of the stations I have worked at have used Adobe Audition to edit with.
2. what are your favorite plug-Ins (including screenshots)?
My favorites are the Waves Diamond Bundle. I have been using Izotope Ozone 4 more lately, as it gives a good bang for the buck, as well as their Trash, Vinyl, and occasionally Spectron.
3. how do you schedule your work (priorities…..)?
I’m pretty lucky with my schedule. I get to work from 6a – 2p. My main focus is imaging the country (WQMX) and rock (WONE) stations. With both program directors doing the morning shows, it is easy for me to connect with them everyday and find out what is coming up promo wise. Usually at the beginning of the week I try and work out a list of what needs to be done. Updating and freshening is done as needed, unless they hear something they want done sooner. Things do pop up being the Creative Services Director/Morning Show Producer, where commercial work may need done or last minute appointments with clients, etc. Most days, I just try to roll with what comes at me.
4. what do you love about being the head of production @ WQMX & WONE?
I oversee the department, but for the most part we are pretty self sufficient,. There are not a lot of issues that arise. There are two of us who are producing, and have been doing so for a long time. We trust the other is getting what needs done, done. We are lucky enough to have a continuity director to take care of the commercial side, production orders, and issues that come up with sales, as well as a sole part-timer to do our dubs and assorted work that needs done so we can focus on the client work and the station imaging.
5. what is the best protools or production trick anybody should know?
Keyboard shortcuts. It will increase your productivity and make life a lot easier. It took me a few years to work out the kinks of where my shortcuts should be and what custom ones I wanted created, but when I set up a new work station, adding the shortcuts saves me a ton of time in the long run. The other trick is an Adobe Audition trick; when saving a session, create a new folder just for that session, use the check box in the “save as” window, that says “Save All Associated Files As.” It copies, and saves all the files that are open and active in the session into that folder, it makes it easier for revisions, and moving sessions to another work station if you need to change studios.
6. how do you get inspired and what do you use as source of creativity?
I listen to a lot of music, watch TV, listen to other demos and I advise at Kent State’s Student run radio station. They have very creative ideas as to what fun, creative imaging is. Some days, when they play me something, I tell myself I can tame that down and it could really work and some days they are really the only ones who can use it. 7. who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a producer? I have to say the standards, Eric Chase, Jeff Thomas and even John Frost, though I really didn’t know about them until we signed up for Chase Cuts at KLZR, when it first came out. I had only worked for Clear Channel and Cumulus as a part-timer at that time, so I wasn’t privy to the internal imaging website. Most of the stations I have worked for have been small and locally owned. Most of my influence came from all the demos I could find and listen to.
8. what would be your 3 key advices for a youngster?
-Learn as much you can about everything you can. This includes web, history, pop culture, etc Learn about your target demo and know what they like and don’t like.
-Be open to what your PD has as a vision. It may not match what you think, but they are the ones programming the station. At the same time, don’t be afraid to try something new and approach your PDs correctly with your ideas and it may work out as a win win for both of you.
-Even if you’re not at work to make friends, do so. Your coworkers are your best asset. You spend enough time with them, that you should be able to work with them seamlessly. They may also be your connection to your next gig.
9. what is fascinating about working in the country format?
The openness of the artists and the loyalty of the listeners. When artists stop through, they have no problem meeting and greeting fans and helping to voice liners, sing a jingle, etc.
“The key to life is to find a vocation, that feels like a vacation” ~ Mark Twain
Learn more about James:
My first radio experience was at a non-commercial college station WLFC-FM in Findlay, Ohio, where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Telecommunications. I landed my first commercial gig at WVKS Toledo, 92.5 Kiss-FM as a board operator running Rick Dee’s and Casey Kasem. I then advanced to on-air work doing weekends.
My wife’s career and education sent us to Manhattan, Kansas, where I worked a regular day job, while she was in school, and also pursued my radio career, following my stay at Kiss, was a gig in Junction City where I did weekends/imaging production at KJCK-FM (CHR). My next stop was, Topeka, at KQTP, Q103, then Country KTPK. At all three stations I did a combination of on–air, weekends, and imaging.
From there I moved up the road to KLZR in Lawrence, Kansas, located in-between Kansas City and Topeka, with a signal that covered both markets. I was excited to get to work for a great set of program directors and a young radio staff that was in it to have fun. This experience brought many opportunities, and really fueled my passion for the business.
I felt my real break came when the PD called and gave me a big production project. He was pleased with the result and I ended up imaging KLZR, Lazer 105.9. This allowed for even more opportunities, including the imaging of a format change for the company’s AM station KLWN, from Sports to News/Talk. When the company bought KKYD, I got that added to my plate.
When my wife finished her degree, we decided to move back to Ohio to be closer to family. That’s when I landed my current job at the Rubber City Radio Group, as the Creative Services Director, for WQMX-FM (Country) and WONE-FM (Classic Rock/Rock).
I feel fortunate to work in a job where I have a passion for what I do. Makes it feel less like work.
Thanks to James for sharing his wisdom, audio and screenshots with us.