Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us about yourself. Who is Todd Bell?
Todd: Let’s see…I’d have to say that I am a father; I am a husband; I am a family man. I’d also have to say that I am a Renaissance Man and one who is a lover of knowledge. No doubt, I am an info junkie, seeking wisdom whenever I get the chance. I am one of those people who try to find the spiritual nature in things.
QFTD: How did your journey into the music and radio realm begin?
Todd: My journey started when I was young. My music roots came from my father, who was a singer in a Doo Wop group down in Florida. He always had me around music, exposing me to the sounds of artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Rev. Al Green. Then, of course, there were groups like The Spinners and Soulsters I’d hear playing throughout the house. This upbringing around music helped calibrate my musical talent. Though it took me until later in life to recognize this, I am so glad I was brought up around good music.
QFTD: Who are some influences that helped inspire your radio career?
Todd: First off, I have to say that I always knew I wanted to do media. My parents will tell you––I used to sit down at 3-years-old and pretend to be a broadcaster. By the time I got to college, my intent was to become a newscaster. I was inspired by newscasters like Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite. I also listened to a lot of sports people like Brent Musburger and Ahmad Rashad. Then, when I had a chance to try something new on my college campus, my interest shifted from television to radio. I fell in love with radio because of my experience as a DJ on WHOV. During that era of my life, I looked up to guys like Jay Wright, from WHOV, and KJ Holiday, from 103 JAMZ; they gave me a shot. As I grew on the radio, they were good guys who always looked out for me, giving me sound advice. They were very encouraging.
QFTD: What brings you the most joy about what you do on the radio?
Todd: The same thing from day one: the immediacy of it. I just love painting a picture in the minds of the listeners. If you think about it, radio is very intimate; it’s more engaging than television. Just think of the time when Orson Wells read War of the Worlds on the radio. People listened to it, and it was so compelling, people were scared!
QFTD: What attributes are needed to become a radio personality/DJ?
Todd: You really need to be able to connect with your audience. To do this, you must be aware. Therefore, you have to study your audience, knowing the importance of demographics and trends in the broadcast area. You have to sit down and know that you could be talking to thousands of listeners. Because of this possibility, you must be careful not to talk about yourself too much; people could get tired of that and tune you out. I think you also have to be genuine. Do what you love to do on the radio, and be genuine.
QFTD: What is your most memorable experience being on the radio?
Todd: I really remember interviewing a lot more people in college than when I became a professional. Something memorable from one of my early interviews happened when I was talking to a famous DJ back then. We were talking, when suddenly he began to sob. He was crying because of all the pressure he had on him in the industry. He said he loved the music, but record labels didn’t understand. Seeing him so vulnerable, I did not know how to take it; as I got older though, I understood. I feel him now because expectations rise, and people, fans, and business executives who see you as one way, want you to always stay that way.
QFTD: I bet the pressure can be daunting.
Todd: It can. May I add another memorable experience?
QFTD: Absolutely. Go right ahead.
Todd: In 2001, the morning of September 11th, I was coming in to do my midday radio show, subbing for someone else. The tragedy happened right before my shift started. I just remember that day we stopped the music and started giving news updates. We turned into what radio stations were intended to be––a public service, giving public information to concerned citizens. It demonstrated the immediacy of what was needed, and through it all, we had to keep calm for the public. David Haynes, the news director at the time, stayed with me that day, and we talked about the event and how it unfolded. That is a day I will never forget.
QFTD: For the young person out there hoping to break into radio / media, what advice would you give?
Todd: Now, more than ever, is the easiest time for people who want their voices to be heard. With traditional, satellite, and Internet radio, there are so many platforms. As good as it is for the opportunities to be there, it can be a bad thing, too. Why? Because anyone, trained or untrained, can do it. I listen to a lot of radio, and all I can say is school is important to get your technical skills on point. If you are a good communicator, you can make it. You need to be willing to study, though. Also, you have to know who you are going to be talking to in order to be effective. Something else to consider is to find someone who is doing what you want to do, and study them. The key is to perfect your craft and find an authentic voice.