There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and radio. As a Radio student, I’m obviously biased. But for those of us in the industry, listening to the radio is a big part of our lives. Eric Holt, a NAIT Radio and Televison graduate and co-host for the Dustin Neilson show on TSN1260, would likely feel the same.
Better known to his listeners as Lt. Eric, Holt has loved radio since he was a child.
“I grew up around [radio] a lot. My folks always had it on. We always had music around and everything, specifically radio. Basically, my dad worked and my mom was a stay-at-home mom … she would always have the car radio on, like 50s and 60s hits. So we always listened to the oldies on the AM and then my dad, in the meantime, he’d work. And then he’d get off work and we would listen to like WHL and SJHL hockey games,” said Holt.
“I liked radio because it was always around. Getting to be older, my brother and I, we always fiddled around, we taped stuff off the radio.”
Growing up with radio caused Holt to have a natural interest in the technology. He remembers DJing his brother’s hockey tournament and burning CDs as a child.
“I always liked playing music … just having music and matching it to stuff and kind of playing around with audio,” he explained.
Without even knowing it at the time, Holt’s passion for audio would translate to a career. He didn’t pursue post secondary right away. “After high school, I just worked and dicked around and partied a bit … I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” Holt explained.
But coincidentally, he was offered a position at a radio station in his hometown.
“There’s a heavy metal show in Saskatoon called Metalurgy and it was on like all my life. I listened to it all the time. And I was like, ‘Oh, Larry Lava’s so cool,’” said Holt.
“And then Larry Lava retired, and coincidentally I just graduated high school … and the program director at CFCR 90.5 FM Saskatoon … said, “Hey, Eric, would you like to take over?”
Holt worked there for five years, playing heavy metal on Thursday nights from 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. He played mostly local music, but brought in bands and friends to promote shows.
“It was so much fun … I worked Friday at 6:00 a.m. so some nights you’d stay out all night, it was wild.”
After doing community radio for five years, Holt set off to Edmonton to complete the Radio and Television program at NAIT in hopes of bringing his career to life, in any sort of way.
“I just said, ‘Well, I’ll see where [the program] takes me.’ … I guess when I went to NAIT, the goal was to get paid. To make somewhat of a living.”
He didn’t have goals coming into the program, just a passion for music and sports. He had always dreamed of calling games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, his hometown football team. But the main goal was to just do what he loved.
He already knew how to work a lot of the equipment from his previous position, but Holt still learned a lot during his time at NAIT.
“I learned to be comfortable with myself in front of large groups of people … I was pretty introverted before NAIT,” he explained.
“I got to chill with people outside of my age group, which was neat … it wasn’t so much a technical learning side from the class, but I met a lot of interesting people, which I never would have met.”
These days, Holt’s life still revolves around radio, but long gone are the days of staying up all night spinning heavy metal and partying.
“I used to go out and party all the time, but I can’t do that anymore, so I’ve got to be pretty on the ball.”
Instead, Holt prioritizes rest and staying current on what’s happening in the world.
“You’ve got to have your finger on the pulse and know what’s going on at all times, specifically with whatever you’re covering,” Holt explained. “Get your sleep, wake up at a good time, get there an hour before and do a bunch of prep and you should be good to go.”
“I’ve got to be in a routine now, I’m not young anymore. I’ve got to make sure I’m taking care of myself.”
Although he loves what he does, there are still challenges. Dealing with the public, especially in the age of the internet, can be taxing. Many radio station have text or phone lines where listeners can immediately share their thoughts.
“[With] a text line, people can instantly tell you what they’re thinking of you,” Holt explained. “There’s some stuff sometimes that’s flung at you and you can’t fling it back … you have to handle it in a responsible way.”
The industry can be hard to break into, with so many avenues of media these days. But Holt explained the most important part to landing a job in radio is who you know and what you know. “Sometimes one can take precedence over the other. In my case, it was who.”
If you don’t know anyone in the industry, Holt suggests doing something where you can be consistent and stand out. That could be getting tape, or starting a YouTube channel.
“There’s no guarantees, but try to be unique in the large, large landscape of online channels.”
Ultimately, Holt recommends just being a good person and employee.
“Your odds are better if you’re helping people, walking around with a smile on your face, not being an idiot. You know, being on time, being punctual, being somebody that people can depend on.”
Being on the radio is such a different world from regular jobs. You’re booked for certain times, you’re supposed to be there. You have to give 100 per cent of your effort and be exciting all the time, even if you’re having a bad day. But in the end, being a radio personality is a way to connect to people from afar.
“You do have a bit of a duty to the people who listen to you. People plan their days sometimes around you, and if you’re not going to be there for them, that’s a thing … we’ve been on the air during some pretty trying times at certain points, but you are a respite for the listener,” said Holt.
“Whatever you’re doing, you have a duty to uphold.”