A Career in Ten Songs: Garry Spence, drivetime presenter, Capital FM Scotland

GARRY Spence presents the weekday drivetime show on Capital FM Scotland. He also writes travel pieces for various Sunday newspapers, in addition to DJ-ing all over Scotland. Garry started his career at Moray Firth Radio in his native Inverness and presented daytime shows in England at Vibe 105 (now KISS) before heading back to Scotland to join the team at XFM and then Galaxy.

This is his career in ten songs…

1. Technohead – I Wanna Be A Hippy – First song I ever played; evidence, if needed, that a 14 year-old shouldn’t self-select. It was just before interviewing a local charity woman who was invited to Princess Diana’s funeral – we stared awkwardly at each other during the rave up while she wondered why she’d agreed to the appearance.

2. Utah Saints – Something Good – Earliest memory of deciding it was to be radio. In the car with my mum and I said to her, “Doesn’t that song sound great on the radio”. I waited to see how he would come off the back of the song. Not normal thoughts for a ten year-old. Radio is in you…

3. Example – Kickstarts – Interviewed him when he played the smallest stage at T in the Park, 2009. When he bounced into new single, Kickstarts, somebody in front of me shouted, “Hey, that’s the song on Galaxy I was telling you about,” to his mate. The first indication of the impact we were having, bearing in mind our RAJAR was still 200,000, as we waited impatiently for the number to rise.

4. Eels – Mr E’s – I remember Mark Findlay playing this on Forth FM. The Saturday Mob was the ultimate radio show – spontaneous, off the cuff, fun, but with a big, big city feel and a proper sense of the weekend. So cool hearing DJs from different shows all on-air together, it felt very real and genuine. I used to arrive at Waverley Station with Forth on my Walkman, hoping that one day I’d get the chance to work at such an amazing place.

5. Carl Kennedy feat. Roachford – Ride The Storm – Back to 2006 when I lost my job due to KISS rebranding – I was close to crying when I was told. But I never went bitter, that’s the only advice I’d give to anyone in that situation. It’s tough because radio is such a personal thing for some of us, but ultimately it’s not your time. If that time is yet to come, bitterness is the only thing that will stop it happening.

6. Guru Josh – Infinity – First song on Galaxy Scotland. So much speculation around launch time, rumour has it that about ten DJs turned down the gig due to the low fee. If that’s true, there are ten people out there without a show, because it was enough for me to get on with, start grafting and prove my worth on a massive stage. Up to our launch date, most stations in Scotland seemed to view the 15-24 market as an added bonus to bump up reach. That soon changed soon after we arrived…

7. Andreas Johnson – Glorious – One of the biggest hits on Northsound during my short time there when I was 16. It was short because I fell asleep on-air after being taken out by the staff to welcome me to the team. I threw up in the club VIP, asking one of the NS2 guys how he’d managed to end up “lumbered on AM at such a young age”. Sorry about that. Great people up there – and simply mind-blowing processing, the likes of which I’ve never experienced since.

8. Amy Grant – Baby Baby – I don’t even know if most stations employ the ‘powerplay’ idea anymore: basically, a big upbeat song with a kicking intro to get the hour under way. This song was always top of the list for me when we were self-selecting at MFR. Very basic, but I like to think there’s still room for this sort of theory in the age of technology, advanced research, focus groups, etc. Nothing is more powerful than gut feeling when playing songs on the radio.

9. Alesha Dixon – Lipstick – Okay, so the song didn’t exactly stand the test of time, but she came in to promote the song at Vibe. In another life, she would’ve been the greatest breakfast co-host of all time – she had everything, and I mean everything. A great voice, some amazing relatable stories on air, and she was so on-target it almost hurt. To top it all, she also has that amazing belly laugh. Wouldn’t be surprised if she turned up on Heart one day – she’s a radio person who simply followed a different path.

10. Moby – Porcelain – I was only a few weeks out of school when the Twin Towers were struck in 2001. To their credit and showing unfathomable faith, MFR allowed me to stay on-air when there were much more experienced broadcasters in the building. We flipped to rolling news and speech, and I played the odd song such as Porcelain which seemed to fit the mood at the time. I genuinely still feel the benefit of this kind of experience at such a young age, in everything I do. The formats I work with don’t call for much speech radio, but it’s in the tank. And I hope to use it one day…

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