The Wally Show is one of the most popular morning shows in Christian radio in the country. Every weekday morning on Way FM, Wally and friends help people around the USA wake up with a smile. Wally has also been featured on I Am Second. I recently spoke to Wally recently about his favorite interviews and what it’s like being a morning host.
Gabe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What station are you at and how long have you been there?
Wally: I am at Way FM and I have been here for almost 8 years… probably like 7 1/2 years now… And that is about 6 1/2 or 7 years longer than anyone thought.
Gabe: (laughs) Well, it’s almost like dog years though. That probably feels like an eternity to some people.
Wally: Yeah. Seriously, people didn’t think I was gonna last here at all! When I was hired, my producer who has been with me since the beginning… He had people in the industry telling him, “Don’t take that job! He’s not going to be there 3 months!” (laughs)
Gabe: So have you been doing the Morning show the whole time?
Wally: No, we started off doing a night show called “Total Access” which was a bunch of artist interviews. And that was like the preeminent show on the network. And then we kinda grew it and made it something different. And as it expanded, we went to afternoon… And then we went to morning. And so then we changed the name from “Total Access” to the “Wally Show”.
Gabe: So how is your job as a morning host different from a regular DJ?
Wally: Your job is to be entertaining and it’s not just delivering information. A lot of times, we call them “liner-jocks”… Ya know, they put liners in the studio and they read them and then segue to the music. But our job is to create a show that’s an entertainment show. It has a lot of different elements to it. It’s a little bit more longer form… Even though breaks are getting shorter and shorter in radio because people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter… (laughs) Or their tolerance is getting less.
Gabe: A lot of that, I think, has to do with the emergence of podcasts. People can download those and skip back and forth to what they want to hear.
Wally: Yeah! And YouTube is another example… We’re just in that part of our society where this generation is like that… Where you want to consume things quickly and move on. Back in the day, when I started, doing 8-10 minute breaks was no big deal. Now, we try to get it done in 2 1/2 or 3 minutes! And me doing 3 minute breaks is more than most people do!
Gabe: Who have some of your favorite interviews been?
Wally: Mercy Me is always fun. They are one of my favorite bands to interview because they’re playful, have a great sense of humor… You don’t realize that about them because a lot of their music is so serious. But they’re not afraid to not take themselves seriously. And they’re just really good guys!
Gabe: And you and TobyMac seem to have some sort of rivalry…
Wally: Toby is fun to mess with! He’s fun to goof around with. He was telling me one day, “Dude, I’m funny on the bus but I get nervous when I come in on the show!” That’s why he always has Gabe, his hype-man, with him. But Gabe and I are really good friends and so Gabe will usually turn on him too which is a lot of fun! (laughs) It’s fun to make him squirm just because it’s fun to see him uncomfortable. But I gotta tell you that Toby is a really really good sport.
Gabe: What about an interview you’ve never gotten that you’d love to get? Doesn’t even have to be music…
Wally: Oh, wow… A lot of people would probably think you’d wanna interview the President and things like that. I don’t want to do that… Too many headaches. Because you’d be thinking “I have to ask the perfect question” and then everyone is going to be dissecting everything I ask. That one’s just not worth it at all….
I’ve interviewed most of my big heroes. Stryper was cool. I’d love to talk to Van Halen sometime. One of my favorite interviews was Robin Williams. It was so cool.
Gabe: Oh, wow. When did you do that?
Wally: It was years ago. He was so cool. He came into the room and just lit it up. It was just like “hang on” because you’re in his world now. We were explaining who we were. And he says “I know who you are”. And I’m like “What do you mean ‘you know who we are’?” He says, “I was filming in Russia and I saw a CNN story that had been done on you and your radio partner at the time. I saw it like 3 times that weekend.” So he had done his homework and he was prepared on his end for the interview. It was really cool.
Gabe: And he did so many impressions… You had no idea who you were talking to half the time…
Wally: That was the thing with Robin. The secret to interviewing him was to give him something that he could bite onto and then you get out of his way. You don’t have to try to be the star of the interview. You want him to be the star which is how you want all of your interviews to be. But for him, it was better to be quiet and stay out of his way.
Gabe: You said you have been there about 8 years. Obviously, the music industry has changed even in that small time frame. How has that affected your job?
Wally: It’s different for me because I’m so focused on content. Our rule is “content is king”. So when people are listening to the music, I’ve got the station down and I’m working on the next break usually. So I try not to get too worked up about the music changes… Because I know as soon as it changes this year it’ll be different next year. Otherwise, I’d just get so caught up in that. It’s not worth the headaches over time.
Music has gotten way better in the Christian format to where it actually holds its own. I like the sound of it. My producer Zach and I were working on a format for a college that is a hybrid for Christian and mainstream music… Like the clean mainstream music and the best Christian music. And the Christian music stacks up against it musically and lyrically. There’s hope in it and that makes it feel different. That’s been a big thing for us that I would love to see… Eventually, for music to go that route… where it can all just be music and you judge it based on it’s art. For that moment, you don’t judge the person that created it.