Photo by: Tyler Andrews for Cumulus Media
“I always knew I wanted to do something fun”, our May Woman of the Month Kelly Ford tells New York Country Swag in a recent phone conversation. Ford has worked in the radio broadcasting industry since she was in college, working hard at internships and proving she can follow her dreams and make it in this business. After making an impression during her final internship in college, she was bitten by the radio bug and knew this would be the career she would pursue. Growing up in Louisville, Ford was not a country fan, “I didn’t like it at all, when you grow up in the south you either love country or hate country and particularly back then and rock was so much better back then, U2 and Springsteen and it was just a great time for rock music.”
For twenty-two years, Ford honed her craft on the morning show in Denver on 98.5 KYGO, a highly regarded heritage country radio station. The year she started in the country music genre was also the year Garth Brooks started, making it a great time to be broadcasting country music. “I believe he changed country music and made it the kind of country I liked to listen to,” she explained. When the unique opportunity arose to be a part of launching New York City’s very first country radio station in 17 years, Ford took the chance, moving across the country to the Big Apple. “It was the most magical career moment of my life, even after winning three CMAs, an ACM and a Marconi, nothing replaced just that gratitude to be part of launching that,” she humbly tells us.
(l-r) New York Country Swag Founder Stephanie Wagner, Kelly Ford, Russell Dickerson, Nash FM 94.7’s Jesse Addy at New York Country Swag’s Country Night on the Water, June 2016
Ford’s voice was the first to be played across the tri-state area when 94.7 NASH FM station launched back in 2013. The station now serves as the flagship station for NASH brands all over the country, reaching over 85 million country music fans. “I can’t explain it, it was pretty magical and to be able to reinvent myself after being in a market for so long, as a broadcaster then, going to the number one market is even cooler. There are lots of elements to it, but the most exciting is being a part of history and launching something that nobody will ever be able to take away from the group of us that did it,” she recalls.
She continues to explain how the New York City country music fan base is unlike any other fans in the country. Because New Yorkers didn’t necessarily grow up with the music on the radio it didn’t become the soundtrack to their lives the way it was for anyone growing up in the south or the west, they are actively choosing to seek out the genre and now defending it. “They are New Yorkers, so the passion level is off the charts and artists notice it, we notice it,” Ford says. “I miss the fans on a daily basis, because it is a level of passion that you don’t see everywhere.”
When the syndicated morning show which was based out of Nashville needed a leading lady, Ford decided to make the move, leaving her station in New York, but still having hte ability to be broadcast there. “I get the benefits of New York without the taxes, and I am still on the air in New York which is really important to me. The thing about the syndicated show, I am such a big believer in local radio, but we are bringing Nashville to country fans. For this one case, the show needed to be syndicated out of Nashville. We are part of the community here, we have deep seeded relationships with the artists and the town.”
(l-r) Nash FM’s Ty Bentli, Kelly Ford & Chuck Wicks with New York Country Swag’s Stephanie Wagner & Christina Bosch
Ty, Kelly, and Chuck is a morning show syndicated across all of the NASH stations and is live on the air weekdays 5:00 AM-9:00 AM CST. It always brings you the biggest country songs, as well as featuring up and coming country acts, big country stars and fantastic banter between Ty Bentli, Chuck Wicks, and Kelly Ford.
“I missed New York greatly, I still miss it on a daily basis, but I get the best of both worlds doing this show and I hope we get up there more. Our New York audience is one of the major priorities and to be able to bring country music to the listeners there is awesome,” she tells us.
Her favorite part of her job is not what you might think, interacting with huge stars every day, but rather to interact with all of the listeners. She admits that Dolly Parton is the only artist that she gets nervous around, but that when it comes to the other artists, she appreciates them as people, not for what they’ve accomplished. “I look at them as people, a few people I get excited about coming in, because they are fun and interesting and are good humans, Garth Brooks, Chris Janson and Jennifer Nettles.” she tells us “I have a personal connection to them and I enjoy them as humans. I’m never impressed by what someone does, I am impressed by who they are, about having a good conversation and just liking somebody.”
Her advice to women pursuing a career in broadcasting and in the music business, in general, is to forge ahead and do you, pick your battles and stand up for yourself. “The cool thing about women is they’ve been quietly ruling the world anyway and we are now saying, we actually also want some recognition for doing it,” she conveys. “Good women on a like-minded mission are unstoppable, honestly. We have to make a statement by showing up every day and doing the best job we can do and that’s in everything, relationships, in motherhood, at work and everything. Your best one day may not be your best the next day, but keep your head up, keep your word.”
Keep up with Kelly on her Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
* EDIT: Kelly Ford has since returned to New York City on the rebranded New York’s Country 94.7. Check out the announcement here.
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