Hi Greg James! How have you found taking over the Radio 1 breakfast show?
Honestly, I’m having the time of my life. I work with the most brilliant team, and our number one aim every morning is to try and make the listeners laugh. Hopefully we achieve that more often than not. It’s been a huge life change, but I’m slowly getting used to swirling wine on a weekday. At the risk of sounding like a boring actor doing their 50th junket interview, I feel incredibly lucky to get to do this job and am so happy with the response to the show so far. I’m going to carry on keeping my head down, working hard and coming up with silly sh*t.
Where do you want to be, what do you want to be doing, and who do you want to be surrounded by in 5-10 years time?
I want to still be on the radio for sure. It’s the best job in the world – especially getting to be there when people wake up, and I just want to continue doing that. Hopefully I’ll continue to progress as a presenter, testing myself and allowing the show to evolve too. I also want to write some comedy scripts. I have a few decent ideas I want to sit down and flesh out.
You have some great segments on the radio show like ‘unpopular opinions’. How do you come up with new and exciting ideas like this for each show?
This isn’t a show you can do unless you have a brilliant team around you. We have a ridiculous WhatsApp group where the whole team constantly send around things they find funny. We know our audience really well and we trust our judgment with things like that. Sometimes there’s a temptation to over think or over produce an idea. We try to resist that temptation and just deliver it with confidence. The best ideas come from a little nugget and then organically take on a life of their own on the show. The listeners soon tell us what they like and don’t like.
Do you feel pressure to make the radio relevant for a certain audience or do you just plan to create a show with everyone in mind?
The show is very much supposed to reflect the day as much as possible. The show isn’t about pandering to celebs or pretending that everything is brilliant, instead it should be like a mate who accompanies you on your morning routine, cuts through all the noise, makes you laugh and tells you the things you need to know in order to be plugged in to pop culture. I don’t think it should have an age limit.
Did you always want to be a radio presenter? How did you first get into radio?
I did, yeah. I started at hospital radio in my local town when I was 15, then went to university and got heavily involved in Student Radio. After some work experience at various other stations, R1 heard me and got me in for a pilot. I can’t believe that was 11 years ago. It totally changed my life and I’ve never lost my love of the medium.
What do you think you’d be doing now if you hadn’t been given the chance to work in radio?
I think I would maybe have tried to do stand-up. I didn’t really enjoy it when I gave it a go age 18, but I think that was mainly because you don’t have much to say at that age. I have always preferred presenting radio shows and using the audience as part of the show, but showing off on stage brings a buzz which I’ll definitely go back to at some point.
You’ve spoken previously about the importance of discussing mental health with others. What advice would you give to someone who’s reading this and may be struggling?
This sort of follows on from my last answer, in terms of radio being a wonderfully intimate medium. You don’t just do a show to the listeners, you do it with them, and when you have that close bond with them, you essentially become mates chatting. So many people opened up and confided in all the DJs when we ran various Mental Health Awareness campaigns this year, and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. The key is to open up and talk frankly and calmly. Talking about it on a huge platform like Radio 1 goes some way to removing the stigma of mental health problems, without demeaning the severity of some of them. Find some people to talk to, lean on your friends, and take time for yourself. Use music, radio, film or whatever to keep you company and find a safe place for your thoughts.
Do you ever worry about putting too much of your life out into the world on social media, or is this something you enjoy?
I always hold things back. I mainly post things to make people laugh; that tends to be my main aim. I posted about our wedding because Bella is such a huge part of my life and an enormous reason for why I feel so calm and content at the moment, so I wanted to share that with people. Also, if you give hungry tabloids a little something, then at least it’s on your terms and they tend to leave you alone a bit. As well as this, I absolutely love creating stupid things on social media – it’s a massive part of my job and so vital to make sure the spirit of the show lives on throughout the day.
Interviewing celebrities is a big part of your presenting career. Who have been your best and worst interviews and why?
David Attenborough is the only guest you ever need. I feel sorry for all other guests because they just won’t be as good. Lord Sugar was the worst interview as he’s a miserable bastard, but we made that aspect of it into a virtue and I sort of enjoy winding him up.
You’ve ventured into a lot of things such as the triathlons, books, anD acting. Is there anything else you plan to take on in the future?
I want to wear more turtle necks.
What’s been the most embarrassing moment in your career?
Trying to pay for five turtle necks at the till in Uniqlo and my debit card not working.
Greg James interview by Lucy Rix