Sports Scene

Sports radio’s Jake Kemp talks about his shows and his ‘Ticket’ to the big time

While he was in college at UT-Arlington in the early “aughts,” Jake Kemp had a delivery job that made it easy for him to listen to his favorite sports station, KTCK/1310 “The Ticket,” while he was on the clock. He’d grown up listening to the station, a powerhouse in DFW sports radio.

On a whim one day, he emailed Danny Balis, producer of afternoon show “The Hardline,” about a possibile internship.

The show didn’t usually have interns, but Balis said they could give it a try. At 18, Kemp had his foot in the door of the cutthroat sports-media world.

Now Kemp, 32, who graduated from Richland High School, is producer of “BaD Radio,” hosted by Bob Sturm and Dan McDowell. He also hosts the station’s Dallas Mavericks postgame and Dallas Cowboys pregame shows. He’s one of the few personalities other than the weekday-show hosts who has consistently had an on-air presence during the station’s nearly 24-year run in DFW.

After taking a break to attend Texas State University, he returned to the Ticket, where he worked his way up to his current role.

Kemp is the only on-air personality at the Ticket — located in Victory Park, a few steps away from American Airlines Center — who lives in Fort Worth. He took some time out to discuss his time at the station and some of his favorite spots in Fort Worth. The conversation has been edited for space.

JB: In addition to your role at the Ticket, you also co-host the popular “It’s Just Banter” podcast. How did that come about?

JK: The same day that I was hired, the Ticket hired T.C. Fleming. He was a “BaD Radio” intern and I was a part-time board-op in late 2008. One reality up here at the Ticket is there is very, very little available air time, especially if you are a young person who is trying to get their foot in the door. The Ticket’s success is such that there is no turnover. ...

After about a year or so, the idea of podcasting was really getting off the ground and much like blogging before it, the barrier of entry into publishing was very low. Essentially, you just needed to know how to record yourself, edit audio and figure out how to get it onto iTunes and out on the internet. T.C. and I would work opposite shifts and finally at some point, I got the nerve to ask him if he wanted to do a podcast together. I thought it would help us to practice and help raise our profile. It would also help in convincing the on-air guys that we have a little something that might be of interest.

We’ve been doing it for seven years now and we are serving a younger demo. ... I kind of think of it as a companion to listening to the Ticket and we’ve met a lot of people and developed a following of people that seem to enjoy our brand of things. It’s been really rewarding and a ton of fun.

JB: What advice do you give when asked how to break into the sports radio business?

JK: The main thing I say is that you have to be willing to work for very little money for a very long time and for really long hours at a time. Weeks can go from 55 to 70 hours of work. Early on when you run the board overnight and you’re doing a podcast that no one pays for and you’re writing a blog that no one is advertising on, you’re going to probably have to do it in addition to your regular job.

The main thing for somebody coming from a non-media job and trying to get into it, is that you should record audio, shoot YouTube videos, write blogs and do podcasts in your spare time. You have to want to do it enough that you would do it as a hobby. The second thing is a little more technical and that is be as diverse as possible in your options by learning how to edit video and audio and be OK with really any job that could come along. As the years go by, this business shrinks to a certain extent and everybody has to be as comfortable doing as many things as possible to make themselves as marketable as they can.

JB: Does it irk you when people say how great it must be to “only work three or four hours a day,” and how far from the truth is that assumption?

JK: I get it all the time and it shouldn’t, but it does. It varies based on the time of year. Sometimes I have a Cowboys pre-game show or Mavericks postgame show, but on the most normal, average day, I’m usually at the station from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. because I live in Fort Worth and I don’t want to get caught in traffic. There’s really not much work space up here and my general rule is that I have to have two hours of work on BaD Radio before and two hours after the show.

I do daily prep from 7:45 to 9:45 a.m., which is editing audio for that day’s show, answering emails, searching through stories, going through segment ideas while also thinking about the next day’s show and the next day’s show and so on. In the afternoon when I’m back home, I’ll do another two hours.

JB: What is the biggest challenge of the job?

JK: The biggest challenge, outside of the sheer hours involved, it’s being able to come up with something every day that people will find interesting. One thing about this job and really any media job, there’s really no beginning and end. You don’t have a project that you wrap up, like moving from one account to the next.

JB: Do you envision a day when you host your own show or are you content in your current role?

JK: There can be a ton of opportunity to fill in here and I think that I am as close to one of those positions to my knowledge as anyone else that they’ve had here. They let me create and they put me in a good spot to not be just a producer and I don’t feel like just a producer, so that has helped quite a bit. I obviously want to do this full time for a living and my goal has always been to do my own show.

JB: By virtue of working at the Ticket, what is an experience that you’ve had that otherwise would not have been possible?

JK: This is going to sound like I’m kissing up, but if you would have told me when I was 16 or 17 that I would be personal friends with all of the people that work at the Ticket, I honestly think that would have been crazier than anything that I have been able to do at this job. ... Going to a Super Bowl, you can pay for that. There’s no way that I would have been able to buy my way into having Corby Davidson wearing some cheap khakis to my wedding. These friendships are something that I really treasure.

JB: Being that you are the only one from the Ticket who lives in Fort Worth, do you have any favorite spots over here that you like to frequent?

JK: For sure, my wife and I and our group of friends, which is basically the same group of friends that I went to high school with, all still live around the Fort Worth area and are fortunate enough to get to all still go out together. We spend quite a bit of time over on Magnolia — any of those places are great. My favorite bar is probably the Chat Room.

JB: So you are more Magnolia than West 7th?

JK: Oh, yeah. We’ll go to West 7th every now and then, but primarily Magnolia for hanging out. As far as food goes, I’m a big fan of Heim Barbecue. Travis and Emma are awesome people and they have a phenomenal place and great food. I’m a big fan of Swiss Pastry Shop, that’s top notch for sandwiches and pies. For tacos, I’m a big fan of Meli’s Taqueria. There’s also a new Twilite Lounge in Fort Worth and I’ve already been there like three times in a couple of weeks, so I’m pretty sure that will quickly vault to the top of these lists you do.

We also love going to the breweries. ... I love Wild Acre, those guys are awesome, we love Rahr, and Collective is a great place. Those places are a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon with your people.

JB: Do you see yourself continuing to make the commute over to the Ticket studios in Dallas?

JK: I absolutely love Fort Worth. The main reason that I’m able to stay in Fort Worth is because of my hours. It takes me 45 minutes each way, but there’s usually no traffic. . . . The houses are less expensive, a lot of my friends are over on that side of the Metroplex and just in general, no shot at Dallas, but I just in general prefer the vibe of Fort Worth. Especially where it’s headed, we have a ton of cool stuff popping up all the time while also still maintaining the relaxed vibe that makes me love Fort Worth. I wouldn’t want to live in an actual small town, but I like living in a larger town that sometimes feels like one and I’m fortunate to be able to live in Fort Worth.

Fans can keep up with Jake Kemp on Twitter @NotJackKemp.

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