Carrie Lyell meets Kiss FM’s Charlie Powell to find out what it takes to get ahead in radio
BY CARRIE LYELL
From the age of 14, Kiss FM presenter Charlie Powell knew she wanted to work in radio. After years and years of early mornings, late nights and hard graft, she’s managed to bag a regular Saturday show on the station, and now regularly rubs shoulders with the likes of Britney Spears and Adele. We caught up with her to find out the best bits, the worst bits, and how she deals with dudes sliding into her DMs…
DIVA: What goes into preparing for a radio show?
Charlie Powell: As a producer and a music scheduler, you choose the music that goes into the radio show. It’s actually quite mathematical; you’ve got to make sure you’re not playing the same artist twice, the same song twice, the same song at the same time on a different day. You have to mix it up, taking into account people’s listening habits. Then you have to look at content. I’ve always got to be on the ball with current trends, what are audiences looking at, memes, what they’re watching, and try to reflect that on air. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes! As a presenter, we also have a lot of listen back sessions and training with tone and style of presenting.
How do you find listening back to yourself?
[Laughs] It’s the worst, but you have to just get used to it, because you can then critique yourself and get better from it. In the studio, you hear yourself really loudly through your headphones anyway. It does take a while to get used to. You have to learn to love the sound of your own voice!
Do you get nervous when presenting?
Yeah, sometimes. It depends on the show. I’ve always gone by the hate-but-love-a-quote, “Always get comfortable feeling uncomfortable”. I do get a bit nervous, but it’s not too bad for radio because you’re not actually in front of an audience. You are, but they’re not there! Sometimes, you do get a realisation that a hell of a lot of people are listening to what you’re saying right now and you cannot mess up!
You’re also a DJ. Is that more nerve-wracking, because it’s public facing?
Definitely. Because they react to you straight away. You can literally clear a dance floor if you play the wrong stuff [laughs]. So it’s quite high pressure to make sure you’re keeping them entertained throughout the whole night. That can be a lot more nerve wracking than actually presenting to thousands of people, because you have to actually react in the moment to what they’re feeling.
What comes most naturally? Is there one you prefer?
They’re just different. There’s more of a buzz with DJing; it’s high energy, you’re almost having a party at the same time. But with presenting I get to talk, which is what I like doing! I love them both the same in different ways. Interacting with people, and playing the music, is what I’m passionate about, and that’s what I get to do with both.
What would you say are the best and worst bits of your job?
The worst is if I’m having a down day, which everybody does, and I’ve got to go into the studio and do a four-hour live radio show where I have to be positive, happy and sounding like I’m on the top of the world. More often than not, when I’m doing the show, I am, but some days, you know… it’s not always like that. That’s the hardest. The best bit is being able to play music and interact with thousands of people at a time. I love making people happy by playing good tunes.
With both DJing and presenting, you’re live, and there’s always a danger that something can go wrong. What do you do when it does?
If you do fuck something up, I’ve learned not be too hard on myself. Everybody’s human, and everybody makes mistakes. Whether you’re a waitress and you drop a plate of food on the floor, or you’re a radio presenter and you take the station off air, there’s nothing you can do about it afterwards, so you just have to learn from it. And, believe me, you don’t make the mistake again! [Laughs]
Have you had any particularly embarrassing moments or real clangers?
At the 2019 Pride In London after party, the whole sound system cut out! It went dead and the whole room was like, “Boooo!” It was the worst, and it’s completely out of your hands. That’s always humiliating. And also taking a national radio station off air is always very stressful [laughs]. Forgetting to press the button and then going to the toilet and then not being able to get back and just hearing it go silent. That’s probably the worst. But you learn, don’t you?
Have you always been open about your sexuality at work?
Yeah, always have been, and I’ve never really had any problems. The only issues I’ve had are on social media, where – because I don’t “look” stereotypically gay – people don’t often realise, therefore blokes slide into my DMs. When I say no, that’s obviously not a good enough answer, and then I when I say, “No, I’m gay”, I often get comments like, “Oh, what a waste” and “Oh, it’s such a shame”. Sometimes it makes them even more persistent. So that’s where the problems are, I think. But in terms of the actual workplace, we have such a diverse team, and there’s never been a problem at all.
You’re at the beginning of your career – how would you like to see it progress from here?
The ultimate goal is to go on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Then I’ll know I’ve peaked and troughed! [Laughs] I love doing radio, I want to do more of it. On a bigger scale and get a bigger show, weekdays, full time. But also telly and entertainment presenting. Basically, you know Anna Richardson? What she does. She’s great. She presents entertainment and that’s exactly what I want to do.
Watch your back, Anna. Charlie’s after your job!
Exactly! [Laughs] I’m ready….
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF CHARLIE POWELL
“On the morning of a show, I get up, try and do a bit of exercise, listen to some good tunes. I like dance-y, party tunes, to motivate myself. I’ll have some breakfast and then go into work. Speak to my mum on the way in, always, to fill her in on what’s going on. Usually, I’ll have a voiceover session in the morning, for adverts. Anything from Diet Coke to Digestives. Then I’ll do show prep, preparing content. Then the show itself. Either prerecorded or live in the studio. Afterwards, I might have a screening or an event to go to, because we’ve got to be really on the ball with that sort of stuff. If not, I’ll try and chill. I love a good walk, somewhere leafy. Music in the evenings? I love an emotional banger. At the moment it’s RAYE and Jess Glynne.”
Tune into Charlie’s show, Saturdays on Kiss FM. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @hicharliepowell
This interview originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of DIVA – grab your digital copy right here!