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Gavin's Underground

Portia Early

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-06-02 -

A few weeks ago the broadcasting landscape changed drastically for one radio station, as X96 laid off several of its staff and put a lot of programming on the chopping block. In the process effectively ending the broadcast of any local music on the station. But from the ashes, a familiar name fired back.

Portia Early has been a fixture in local broadcasting for years, but the past five have put her front and center in the local music spotlight. Running the popular Live & Local series that helped give the scene a mainstream location and artists a chance to be recognized on a grander level. But once the writing was on the wall at X96, Portia picked up and headed out before they got the chance. Not more than a few days later a shift at UtahFM was hers, giving her the ability to play whatever she wanted and speak her mind like never before. I got a chance to chat with her about her career and on local music as well as some other random thoughts, all topped with pictures from a few weeks ago as everyone raided her first show.

Portia Early

http://www.utahfm.org/

Gavin: Hey Portia! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Portia: I was born in Burley, ID. My parents moved to Holladay, UT when I was two. They met in Salt Lake in the 60's, then moved in with my mom's parents in Idaho. I was born in 1971. Grew up in Holaday, went to Skyline High. I was always into theater since I was in the fifth grade. We had to do any book report then, and I found a book on plays. I asked it I could direct a play instead, which was Pippy Longstocking, and the teacher said yes. Of course I starred and directed it. That's how that started.

Gavin: What first got you interested in music?

Portia: I was nine when friends showed me tapes of The Cars and B-52's. I was exposed to B-52's "Hot Lava" and thought it was so weird! I preferred "Quiche Lorraine". That was the funniest song ever I thought. When I was 10 I owned Devo's New Traditionalists on Vinyl. Then The Go-Go's Beauty and the Beat was my second album. In 1985 a school friend told me about this really cool station called KCGL. It was all new-waver stuff ran by Mr. Mike Summers and Mr. Bruce Jones (A.K.A. Biff Raff).

Gavin: On college, how was your time spent over at Westminster?

Portia: I started college in 1989 at Chapman University in Orange, CA. I moved to Westminster six months later because I was homesick, but I wished I finished in Cali. That was a fun school. Westminister was a good school, but the theater department was horrible until 1991 when a new theater was built and more teachers were hired. (there used to be only one) I lived in the dorms my first year there and those kids were cool. I was kinds popular there because I started in all the plays.

Gavin: What inspired you to go into broadcasting?

Portia: I was in a talent agency in 1992 and ran into a DJ who worked the morning show on KJQ with Kerry Jackson (not Bill, and I forgot this guy's name). By that time Mike and Co. already established the new X96 and KJQ had a completely different staff with the exception of Kerry. I asked this guy if they still did "DJ for a day". I did that, got hired on Saturdays for no pay. I sent out ten airchecks and Summers called me back. I started X in January 1993 working Monday mornings 2-6.

Gavin: What was it like for you working there during the “heyday”?

Portia: The early X was fabulous and even though I was on the bottom of close to of the totem pole, I had a blast! We made our own sweepers (no big announcer guy voice back then). I interviewed a ton of 80's musicians like Rob Dickenson of Catherine Wheel, Sarah McClaughlan, Jellyfish, The Origin, Live; and Love & Rockets and Peter Murphy a month apart from each other! I was also the music news director. The news was played on-air and the website, which I wrote, produced, voiced, and recorded. That was my favorite!

Gavin: What was your initial reaction to the Simmons buyout in 1998?

Portia: The music news was cut, and so were my on-air hours. So I left. It was so sad!

Gavin: I read that you headed off to Arizona after that. How was your time down south and what were you up to down there?

Portia: I followed a boyfriend to Arizona in 1999 and worked at KEDJ in Phoenix. Not as fun as X was. And the people weren't the same.

Gavin: What persuaded you to come back to SLC and work at X96 again?

Portia: Boyfriend didn't work, I came back in 2001. I found out in 2004 that Todd was in charge and was hiring weekenders.

Gavin: How did you come to be involved with Live & Local?

Portia: I did Locals Only in 1996-1997 programmed by Sean Ziebarth. Doug was gone in 2005, Todd asked me to take over. I was thrill-illed!!!

Gavin: What would you say was your favorite or most rewarding quality of the show?

Portia: Getting the right bands in the right places. And calling the winners to tell them they are playing the main stage at the BASh. I loved their reactions!

Gavin: What was your reaction to recognition you got for your work on the show?

Portia: Overwhelming at first. I got a Slammy after I was the host for only three months, and I didn't know what it was!

Gavin: Did you know the end was coming or was it very sudden? And how did you react to it?

Portia: Kinda both. I wasn't happy for the last three years. I felt that I was being praised by everyone except for Simmons. I was making $10 an hour for a part time job. I went to ask for a raise and a better time slot, and that's when Todd told me that there would be no more overnight or weekend live DJs, except for Live & Local from 10-Midnight. Then I decided to leave. I left four days after the news.

Gavin: How did the offer for UtahFM come about?

Portia: I've been friends with Patrick Commiskey since February. I told him the Monday after I quit that Saturday. I got a job offer the next day.

Gavin: How has your time at the station been so far, and what do you think of the new shift?

Portia: Oh my God, I work during the day! It's liberating, I love the freedom I have and I'm going to be so involved with the community. No pay, but I'm having a blast and there have been a few paying opportunities outside of that.

Gavin: Now for the fun questions. What are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Portia: More bands are being unique and creative, and some are still stuck in metal or emoland. I hope we continue to grow. There are the music venues but we could definitely use more. More creative bands would be nice.

Gavin: What's your overall feeling on local radio, both corporate and local?

Portia: No comment on corporate. Local gives the freedom to play the creativity that needs to be noticed.

Gavin: What's your thoughts on local labels, and do you believe the help or hinder musicians?

Portia: Labels help, but I think just in the state they are in.

Gavin: What do you think of our current venues, and are there any changes you wish they'd make?

Portia: We need more, and they need to look nicer!

Gavin: Real quick, what are your thoughts on the local art scene?

Portia: The local art scene is awesome. It's so diverse and involves all age groups. I love Gallery Stroll and the events Art Access gallery provides.

Gavin: Where do you see Utah entertainment in the next five years?

Portia: Emo-free, and taking over the world!

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year?

Portia: I'll be living at the Utah Arts Festival this June. I helped pick the bands for that. I also may book shows at the Salt Lake downtown library and I may be on a media panel with everyone's boyfriend, Doug Fabrizio. I am for sure going to broadcast my UtahFM show live from different coffee shops playing live music. I am also booking bands and emceeing monthly at Huka by Fashion Place.

Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Portia: Me! I could use some extra cash. I DJ weddings and events. Just email me at
portia@utahfm.org. Also any major animation productions, I'm available for my break as a major cartoon voice!

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Post a comment
REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 11,2009 at 13:43

Did your KUTV blog have blurry pics, too? I don't mean to get rude here, but WTF? Digital cameras let you look at the pic to see if you need to re-shoot.

Of course, this might be a new technique, similar to using natural lighting and hand-held shooting in the movies. When they first came into use, those methods were panned by critics as being amatuerish and awful. Now, they are the standard.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 3,2009 at 13:19

Looks like someone has a crush on Portia. 17 blurry pictures of audio stuff and 1 shot of Portia making a goofy face. Are you sure that blog piece was big enough?

 

Posted // June 3,2009 at 14:02 - I'm taking a wild guess on this... you never read my blog at KUTV before, did you?

 

 
 
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