How to do a radio interview

One of the most common questions that I’m asked is “how do I do an interview on the radio”? to which I always respond with the question “have you got your story straight”?

What do I mean about getting your story straight?

Take into consideration that music and lyrics make up the narrative of your songs, the very thing that underpins your creation is your story. Your story is the accompanying, yet crucial, piece of information about you as an artist, the personal narrative to the overall narrative that you communicate through your song writing.

What elements do we need to consider when formulating your story?

My two favourite quotes are from Robert McKee, Hollywood screenwriter and Nancy Duarte, author and business innovator in communication.

“The best way to unite an idea with emotion is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling, but you also arouse your listeners’ emotions and energy”Robert McKee, Screenwriter, The Colour Purple.  

“You can have piles of facts and still fail to resonate. It’s not the information itself that’s important but the emotional impact of that information. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon facts entirely. Use plenty of facts but accompany them with emotional appeal”. Nancy Duarte, Author of Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. 

What McKee and Duarte are telling us here is that there are certain elements when putting your story together you might want to consider.

McKee talks about “arousing your listeners’ emotions and energy” and in an interview this plays a pivotal part in articulating yourself effectively. Show passion, tell us what this story means to you. To paraphrase Nancy Duarte, we could rattle off a series of information soundbites that do not resonate with the audience which runs the risk of a hideously dull method of delivery I fondly refer to as “death by Wikipedia”.

Death by Wikipedia

What is “death by Wikipedia”? It’s those interviews I dread; those interviews that sound like you’re telling your story like a series of historical dates, piece by piece information that’s delivered to the interviewer and then onto the audience. This is where there is an opportunity to deliver the facts but accompany them with emotional appeal.

This is where a sense of story plays an absolutely crucial role; an emotional investment by the artist, a means of connection to the band as a whole and a reference point. With a confident story, invested in by the whole band, it can create (to quote the painter Bob Ross) “happy little accidents”.

When working with clients we model our story on three points of reference.

  • How did we get here? What was the journey to this album/video/single/creation? What work did we do to make this record?
  • Where are we right now? What did we learn from our journey, what impact did that have on us as individuals, collectively or maybe on the song writing process itself? What message have we discovered?
  • Where are we going? Now we have everything together, what is the ambition with this product? Where are we taking it next and inviting the audience to take the journey with us.

The happy accident, the magic or consequence, of having a story that the whole band can identify with means you can ‘perform’ your story in an interview with confidence. Much like you do with your songs – you are confident in the lyrics and melody. So now you have your story that you all had a hand in writing, we are ready to do an interview.

The Basic Facts

A common misconception of an interview is that you are expected to recall all the important information from memory alone, this is wrong. The only people that can do that are those who have a high-functioning, photographic memory. Most of us, myself included, do not possess this skill. A pen and paper accompanied with some facts are your ideal partners in an interview situation.

So, what basic facts do you need in front of you before you go into an interview (or a series of interviews in a festival scenario)?

  • Album/Single/Video – What is it called? I have interviewed many bands that suddenly forget the name of the album. Write it down, it’s important.
  • The Journey – How did you get to where you are now with this album/single/video? Set the scene.
  • The Destination – What next? Where are you taking us now? Tour?
  • What are you selling? The album probably, but what are you doing as physical assets? CD/Vinyl/Bundles?
  • Where can we find you? Take us to your social media, website, web-shop, where can we find you and where can we buy your tickets/music/other products.

We are now in the interview, you have your story, you are connected to it, you are confident telling it. You also have a notepad with all the information on the current release, locations, dates and so on.

What’s next?

Endear your host. Remember that someone has taken the time and interest to interview you, they want access to you, your music and your story. It is important to acknowledge the interviewer and make them a fan. A simple way of doing this, and therefore connecting with the interview on a human level, is by remembering and recalling their name. What does that do? The Washington Post said, “A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. It is the one way we can easily get someone’s attention… When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important”. It’s an easy win that is often overlooked.

What happens when something goes wrong? What can we do?

We all have a member of the band who is the loose cannon – they sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time. They’re often a great asset to the band in many ways but if there’s a pause between question and answer, they fill it with whatever springs to mind. To avoid any blips, those gaps are great opportunities to bring your story back to the forefront and get the interview back on track firmly and confidently.

So, what’s our takeaway?

1) Story – Create it, invest in it and tell it from your perspective

2) Remember the name, the journey, the destination, the product and where we can find you/it.

3) Bring your bio to life

4) Prepare with confidence (and for the unexpected)

5) Enjoy the opportunity

To find out more, check out our courses here.

By Adam Hayward

I am the creator of Hayward Media Coaching Services, a business that takes your brand and helps clients realise their story and communicate that through engaging and meaningful interviews. As a former student of WaterBear, I have taken my 30 years of music business experience and realised my business through the Master's Degree process with a considerable amount of reflection and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I have had to date.
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