Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Interview: Kenny Curtis

Kenny Curtis is the XM Kids Senior Director, & the host of a hilarious morning show, "The XMK Animal Farm." If you haven't heard it yet, you simply must. It's quite a treat! He's also a father of five kids & has a recipe for "Monkey Brains!" (I kid you not!)

Naturally, we got to chatting...

1) How did you get into children's radio?
I originally started in TV, actually. In the fall of 1989, I was hired as one of 2 young “co-hosts” of the “Fox 45 Clubhouse” on WBFF-TV in Baltimore. I was replacing a legendary Kids Show host who I grew up watching named “Captain Chesapeake”. It was cool, but kind of strange. I wasn’t paid very well, but on TV in between cartoons 6 days a week. Everywhere I went people recognized me… but I was driving around in this crappy car and living in a row house in a run-down neighborhood, etc, etc… It was a growth experience. I got into radio when Radio Aahs (The Children’s Satellite Radio Network out of Minneapolis) was brought to Wahsington DC and Baltimore by and independent company called, “Capital Kids Radio”. They took a chance and hired me to host their local morning show. Eventually, I became Program Director but I kept doing a lot of hosting and free-lance video work on the side.

2) I love the XMK Animal Farm! Do you do all the character voices? How do you make it sound like real conversations?
Yep. They’re all me except “Dentyna” the Tooth-Fairy. That’s Jinx. I can’t give away any trade secrets, but it involves a voice processor, 4-track audio editing and a lot of post-its. Basically, I’m just doing improvisational comedy with myself. That’s why the bits tend to… uuuhm… digress from time to time.

3) Where do you get ideas for the characters? Do your kids help?
My kids inspire a LOT of what I do on-air… and they also serve as an in-home test market. When I was doing the hands-on programming for XMKiDS, we used to say that I wasn’t really the Program Director – I just represented the focus group that called the shots. Some of the characters have been around since my days with Radio Aahs in DC (Dirk, Uncle Luigi, Forrest Skunk…)Others are brand new to XM (Lorenzo Llama, Vinnie DaPu)

4) For Lorenzo Llama: I heard Dirk hug you on the air. Does this mean your are now open to an occasional hug?
From Lorenzo: No. There is no touching the llama. Don’t believe everything you hear. The Chipmunk lies.

5) XM Kids plays a wide variety of children's music. How do you choose what gets on the air? What are you looking for?
Mindy Thomas has been doing most of the day-to-day music selection, but we both agree that our standards have had to change a bit. There’s a lot of good material out there produced by some truly talented people, but almost all of it is unknown on a National scale. We are always looking for material that stands out.

6) Do you get kid feedback on the music?
Every day – XMKiDS is live almost 13 hours/day and no amount of research can substitute for hearing the real opinions of real kids (and parents).

7) If you could build the ultimate kids band/act what would it look or sound like?
Like nothing that has been done before – only better.
I’m actually not 100% sure what that means, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. I guess I don’t really know what it should look or sound like. But I can tell you that it shouldn’t be a knock off of whatever the current trend is. Viral marketing trends like The Wiggles, the Power Rangers etc are just that -- trends. You can’t really count on peer pressure affecting your business plan unless you have a LOT of money to invest in a media TV campaign… and even then it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Just be creative, do what you enjoy… and stick with whatever idea suits you best.

8) What are you thoughts about independent artists? Any advice to upcoming artists?
Our format is pretty much based around bringing Kindies to the world, mixed in with SpongeBob and kids movie soundtracks.

9) Any new XM Kids programming ideas on the drawing board?
We want to release an album of Food songs and call it “What’s Eatin’ Kenny?” but I get the feeling that’s been done before…. Hmmmmm …
Actually, our current focus is interviewing and auditioning candidates to replace Denise Hill Smith (aka D.Dynamite, Super Sitter) who left XM to pursue her dream job of launching an Urban Gospel Radio station in New York City. We’ve narrowed it down a lot, but it’s not easy finding someone with the right mix of creativity, Kids experience/sensibilities and on-air radio experience.

10) At home, are you a goofy dad or a harsh disciplinarian? Wait! How would your kids or wife answer that one?
Uhhh…. I think we’d all say “Goofy Dad”. But I’m also a normal dad: I get grumpy, I coach soccer. I like to watch the game. I get annoyed when the kids don’t close dresser drawers. (…I mean how hard is it to do that, really?... You open the drawer, get out your shirt, and then shut the drawer… It seems so simple, but my kids just can’t get that third step down...) I’m your basic, normal suburban dad who talks to imaginary chipmunks on national radio.

11) What hobbies or activities do you enjoy when not on the air?
Sleeping. But I don’t do that all that often… Actually, my wife Kim and I are also foster parents, much to the surprise of some folks who know us (We have 5 kids already).. So we currently have a baby living with us. He’s 6 months old and belches like a sailor. I also like movies, reading, pickles and long walks in the moonlight…

12) What would you like to see next in you career & the children's music world?
I’m hoping to see the current trend in Children’s Music turn into a real genre of content. I hear that sales of Kids Music increased by nearly 60% in 2006… This has the attention of a lot of people, and I’d love to see that develop further. We’re on the verge of something big, but it’s an important time for us –we have to keep going forward if we don’t want to slide back.

You can hear Kenny Curtis every morning on XM Kids, 7AM -Noon, EST.
Call in, or e-mail your song requests:
866-328-2345, xmkids@xmradio.com.


Lisa said...

Thanks for the great interview! We love XM Kids at my house - especially the XMK Animal Farm! Kindie artists are lucky to have friend like Kenny Curtis!

cincin said...

My Grandson's and I absolutely love the animal characters especially Lorenzo Llama. We would love to hear him more often.

My oldest Grandson does a good impersonation of Lorenzo and makes us all laugh at some of the things he comes up with about not touching the Llama. I find myself pushing the preset button for kids place live even when the kids aren't with me, just for a chance to hear Lorenzo or our favorite song, Mechanical Man.

Thanks for making us laugh.

Cassandra Crichlow said...

Lorenzo Llama on a t-shirt! That would be awesome!

Cassandra Crichlow said...

Lorenzo Llama on a t-shirt! That would be awesome!

Unknown said...

My grandsons did a you tube search looking for Lorenzo Llama. But we're very disappointed when they found non.