Late last year, I wrote a story on Consequence of Sound interviewer/ WFPK Music Director Kyle Meredith for my gig at TOPS Louisville. It was intended to run in January of this year, but the issue ended up being a bit too full of content and it was bumped. Efforts to get the story rescheduled never quite panned out, so I’m presenting it here.
I found Kyle to be very sharp, knowledgeable, and possessing an innate curiosity and sense of empathy that I would say are the keys to his great ability as an interviewer. I think he’s a good guy, I’m happy for his success, and I’m also happy that this is finally seeing the light of day.
This was written as he was moving towards securing his current gig on Morning Joe, something that he alludes to at the end.
WFPK Music Director and masterful interviewer Kyle Meredith has made quite a name for himself, all while being based right here in the Derby City. He’s a man who believes in reinvention and moving along to explore new ideas when the time is right. “I’m a fan of things having an ending,” he says, and then laments the fate of TV shows that linger past their prime. “There’s not too many shows that can still have fresh new ideas after the fifth season. I don’t want to be like a character on a show that’s been on too long.”
Looking over his career, you can see where Kyle has put this principle into practice ruthlessly over the years, continually moving from the comfortable to the challenging in search of the next big idea. He reminisces about his first experiments with radio, all the way back to being nine years old when he and his friends would record themselves on cassette making mock programming. “We had a kid who would do sports talk, we would DJ and do jokes and stuff. I don’t think that if you asked me then I would have had the presence of mind to tell you that I wanted to work in radio, but it was definitely something I was into.”
Music was always a passion and in 1998, before he was out of high school, he got a gig with a company that specialized in street level promotions on behalf of record companies. “I was on the phone with the interviewer, and I was claiming to be a college student because I knew that’s what they wanted,” Kyle remembers, “the guy asked me how many hours I was taking. I had absolutely no clue what that meant. I just said I wasn’t sure, and after a pause, the guy said ‘Oh yeah, man, who keeps up?’ Luckily, they really needed somebody in this area, so I was hired.” It would be the first small step on a remarkable journey that no one could predict.
That job put him into continual contact with local music stores, venues, and radio stations. When an internship opened up at LRS a couple of years later in 2000, Kyle jumped on it. He took it seriously and stuck with it when others did not, and doors kept opening. He would end up on the air for the night shift, then the afternoon drive time, then he became music director at just 21 years of age. This all happened inside of nine months. It was too much too soon. “I wasn’t ready for that,” he laments, “I don’t know if anybody could be at that age. I couldn’t make it last.”
Although he lost that job, Kyle stayed on the radio waves. He found himself on DJX as the self-described “stunt guy” during the morning show. “I was doing things like going out in the cold wearing silly costumes and sticking microphones in people’s faces while they’re just trying to pump their gas or whatever, asking them goofy questions that they didn’t want to answer,” Kyle recalls. It didn’t feel like he was living his best life, and when the opportunity to work on the other side of the industry again came along within a few years, he took it.
Kyle found himself as a band promoter, something that he enjoyed doing for five years, representing top groups. However, when he heard the word in 2008 that there was an opening at WFPK, he was intrigued and, looking for another new horizon, checked it out. “I went after it because I heard that they had an opening on the night shift, but I missed it. They had filled it just before I came in.” Undaunted, he worked as a fill-in host and pitched a few ideas for shows. One of them made the cut, and that became Weekly Feed, a series that Kyle describes as ” a wrap up of the web’s biggest, newest and most discussed songs creating buzz in blog land.” It was a hit, so much so that it found national syndication…and soon won Kyle the position of music director at WFPK. This time he was ready, and he still holds that position today.
Weekly Feed was a hit, but true to form, Kyle still ended it after six years and started Speed of Sound in 2013, a series dedicated to interviewing musicians, usually gleaming golden nuggets of information in seven minute installments. Interviewing had been his favorite part of the Weekly Feed and his natural aptitude for candid conversation has taken him far. The pedigree of the guests on Speed of Sound was mind-boggling. Paul McCartney, Tori Amos, Emmylou Harris, Styx, and John Cale to name just a few of his guests.
Kyle brought Speed of Sound to a close at the end of 2016 and boiled his technique into a longer form series called Kyle Meredith With…, a program devoted to longer form interviews that is a partnership between WFPK and Consequence of Sound, a hugely successful and influential website devoted to exploring music. He says that the key for successful interviewing is simple: “Ask the question and then shut up. If you shut up, they keep talking, and that’s when they get into their deeper truths.” Kyle is also a big advocate for doing the due diligence and heavily researching his guests so that when they have their conversation he’s prepared for almost anything. He attributes his success to hustling and pitching, always looking for ways to keep building. “So many times, things have worked out for me because I just kept at it, kept showing up. It’s amazing how often that ended up being the key.”
So what’s next for Kyle Meredith? “There is something that I’m working on that might be a big deal that I’m not quite ready to speak about,” Kyle says, coyly. “I won’t make any promises because it might not pan out, but if it does…I will just say it will be very exciting.”
One thing is certain where this young man is concerned- whatever he does, it’s sure to be remarkable.
KYLE’S FAVORITE INTERVIEWS
Kyle has conducted hundreds of interviews over the years with notable musicians. These are a few of his favorites.
1. Paul McCartney- “The first thing that I heard when I answered my phone was that familiar voice saying ‘Oh hey, Kyle!’ That was it, I felt like that was my entire resume right there.” What was originally slated to be a quick Q and A became a real and lively conversation, complete with Paul talking warmly about his time with the Louisville Lip himself, Muhammad Ali.
- U2- Kyle was flown to Chicago along with a few other journalists to see the band perform and even attend a soundcheck ahead of the show. The handlers told him and the others to not engage with the band, but Bono had other ideas. “He saw us and immediately started talking to us and got right with us…then when he sang, he was standing right next to me! I knew the words to the song, so I sang along.” Luckily, Bono was amused. “So technically, I can say that I sang a duet with Bono.” The next day his interview with the Edge and Adam Clayton was nearly undone by technical difficulties, but it was fortunately salvaged.
- Dwight Yoakam- The country legend invited Kyle on his tour bus for a somewhat raucous talk, one that Dwight enjoyed so much that he didn’t want it to end. “The stage manager kept kind of banging on the door telling him it was time to go stage, but we just kept right on talking.” Dwight’s parents lived in Louisville and he was born in Pikeville, so he decided to take all the time he liked with a fellow Kentuckian.
- Father John Misty- Over a series of interviews, Kyle has managed to become friendly with the critically acclaimed artist known as Father John Misty, and Kyle has continued to be granted interviews with him even after he has largely disengaged from doing any other press. At one point when Misty was engaged in a bit of a feud with Taylor Swift, Kyle asked him off air if he wanted to discuss it on the record. “He just said ‘Why don’t you ask me when we’re on the air, we’ll see where it goes.’ He ended up going into very deep detail on the matter, and I let it unfold.” It would seem that the trust that Kyle builds and allows to flourish might just be his greatest strength.