By David R. Wheeler, Editor
Who is Corey Dylan’s favorite person to talk to?
It’s a good question. Dylan, a radio personality at Mix 100.7, has a lot of people to choose from. After all, she’s talked to Grammy-winning musicians, movie stars, and even former president Jimmy Carter.
But her absolute favorite? Easy. That would be you.
That’s right: You. The listener.
“It’s always a great compliment to hear when someone’s listening,” Dylan tells me as we sit in a conference room in the iHeart Media studios on Gandy Boulevard. “When someone says they listen to you, they’re saying that you’re being authentic. And that they feel a connection and a bond with you.”
A deep connection with the audience is what keeps Dylan going. It’s also what keeps her so busy. In addition to having a morning show at Mix, Dylan also hosts a podcast, appears regularly on television programs, does voice-over work, and maintains an impressive social-media presence.
Dylan’s ability to connect with people might explain how she was able to draw some personal stories out of pop star Meghan Trainor recently, despite the fact that Trainor was in the middle of an exhausting schedule of back-to-back interviews after winning a Grammy.
“Everyone wants a piece of celebrities,” Dylan says, “whether it’s a question or an autograph.”
But Trainor was “more than generous,” Dylan says. “She shared with me that she wrote her new song ‘No’ in just one day, which is pretty remarkable. That’s a sign that it’s a really good song — or a sign that you’re a genius.”
Dylan’s talent for being able to click with people, especially her interviewees, led to other personal stories from Trainor during the interview. For example, Dylan was struck by Trainor’s discipline and commitment to her craft. “She had gone to her record company with a bunch of songs for a new album, and they said, ‘Well that’s all great. We could sell this. But it sounds like your last album. You want to prove you can do any format? Go back to the drawing board.’”
And Trainor did. “She didn’t let that defeat her. That’s why she’s a success. She went home and wrote a song in nine hours.”
Such persistence also characterizes Dylan herself. Born in Detroit and raised in Seattle, Dylan started her radio career at Washington State University, hosting a midday show on “Cougar Radio.” After graduation, she got her first professional job as a news reader at a station in Bakersfield, California. At one point, Dylan was working two full-time jobs simultaneously — at KBID radio and the KERO CBS affiliate in Bakersfield. “You have to work 80-plus hour weeks at least once in your life, right?” Dylan jokes on her website.
Dylan went back to Seattle, where she did overnight shifts, worked her way up to being a producer, and eventually hosted a midday show at KISS FM. After September 11, 2001, as the country did some collective soul-searching, Dylan found herself pulled to Tampa. In 2002, she took a job at WPOI The Point, the longest-running 80s format station in the country. When WPOI flipped formats in 2011, Dylan joined iHeart Media at 970 WFLA AM, co-hosting AM Tampa Bay with radio legends Jack Harris and Tedd Webb. Her success at iHeart led to a promotion in 2015, hosting the morning drive at Mix 100.7.
Despite one success after another, Dylan never lets herself become complacent. “It’s getting more and more challenging every day,” she says. “No matter who you are, it’s a challenge these days in corporate America radio to get a job and keep it.”
Her advice for aspiring radio personalities? Be yourself.
“Not everyone’s going to love you,” Dylan says. “I had a program director tell me once, ‘You’re a star if they love you, or if they hate you. If they just don’t care or if they don’t remember your name, you’re not a star.’”
Up-and-comers will sometimes be pulled in various directions, but they should resist the pressure to become a carbon copy of another successful personality. “We already have the shock jocks,” she says. “You can’t be somebody else. You have to be you.”
Now that she’s an established radio personality, Dylan specifically wants to help other women succeed in the industry. This instinct kicks into high gear whenever she’s asked to be on a “women’s panel” at conferences.
“Why do we need a women’s panel?” she asks with an outstretched hand. “Why not just put more women on the other panels? For reasons like that, I try to be supportive of other women in this business, because it’s still a challenge.”
She added, “They may hire you to be the female voice, but that may not play out so well once you start using it.”
However, her advice extends to anyone wanting to succeed in the business, male or female. Although full-time jobs are scarce, opportunities to perform are everywhere, she says. Dylan’s do-it-yourself spirit extends to her side projects, including her podcast Mouthful, recently accepted into the iTunes catalog. The project sprang from a Facebook group she launched called 52 First Bites, in which she samples a new restaurant in Tampa Bay every week.
“I co-host with Carrie Mobley, a gal I met last fall — a Home Shopping Network guest host who does some work on PBS here locally,” she says. “We just have this chemistry that I thought would be funny and good. It’s definitely an irreverent podcast.”
Dylan thinks the best conversations are the ones you have over a meal. “Our podcast is kind of like eavesdropping on a dinner party, and we share our opinions and jokes liberally,” she says.
Young people who want to get noticed in the media business might take their cue from Dylan: Find a friend, pick a topic, and make a podcast. “As far as advice to anyone interested in radio or podcasting, everyone wants to be a star out of the gate,” she says. “So start your own radio show in your college dorm. It’s so easy. The equipment I use is not that expensive. If you already have a laptop, you can get microphones and the necessary equipment and just start something in your own dorm room or your own house.”
But she adds: “What’s your content? What’s your voice? People have so many options these days.”
She thinks for a moment. “How do you stand out?” Then comes a smile. “By being you.”
David R. Wheeler is the editor of Alive Tampa Bay.