It was kind of like a dream come true. There I was, driving myself to the radio station studios I’d grown up listening to as a child. I remember calling in 1,342 times to try to win tickets to see the Backstreet Boys in 1994. I remember listening with baited breath as I desperately tried to win a free “Titanic” soundtrack CD. I can legitimately call myself a lifelong listener to 99.1 WMYX, and there I was. At the studios. About ready to spend some time on set with Wes McKane and Elizabeth Kay on the Morning Mix. And I was nervous.
Yet somehow the second I walked through the door, I felt at ease. That is among the things I am most surprised about after my visit to the Morning Mix.
Wes and Elizabeth are Wes and Elizabeth. It really is as simple as that. We listen to them on our way to work in the morning. We identify with their stories, confessions and opinions. They feel like family. They are our friends.
But I wondered, as I stood there at 7:12 a.m. waiting for Elizabeth to come let me inside, what would they be like in real life? How would they be behind the scenes? (And also, would I keep my cool as I met and spent the morning with a dynamic duo of local celebrities?)
I knew the second Elizabeth opened the door and held out her hand that I had nothing to worry about. She was indeed family. She was indeed a friend.
Over the course of the next hour, I learned a lot about the pair of people we know as Wes and Elizabeth. From their favorite songs (at least at the moment) to how they really get along, I got the inside scoop on all things Morning Mix.
30West: Elizabeth, I hear you moved to Waukesha from Bay View recently. How did you come across Waukesha as an ideal place to settle?
EK: It started with my stepson; we have split custody with him, his mom lives in Oconomowoc and he goes to school in Hartland. At the time I was living in Bay View. We fell in love with this (Waukesha) neighborhood! We have privacy and space, but we’re not too far from the action, which is nice. And we also enjoy riding our Harleys and ride along the lakes out there. I love that area because you can have so much more space and privacy, but I’m only 20-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee which I absolutely love.
30West: Can you elaborate at all on what has drawn you into the neighborhood?
EK: We’re big fans of everything going on in downtown Waukesha … we love Friday Night Live and everything else going on down there. I’ve always said that wherever I settle down I would love for there to be a fun downtown that’s not too big, not too small, and we enjoy it because we can take an Uber from our house for $5. I love downtown Waukesha. We joke around (about how) we moved to Waukesha, and we came all in.
30West: What are some of the things you most enjoy about the neighborhood?
EK: One of our favorite restaurants is 225 So Mia Famiglia. We once went there three times in one week — it’s so good. We’re obsessed with this Italian Restaurant.
30West: What is your favorite dish?
EK: Oh my gosh, the mushroom ravioli is amazing. They don’t have it all the time, so sometimes I call ahead to make sure they have it before we go.
WM: What?! Check it out! There is a dog driving a car on TV! (he says, gesturing to the TV airing local news in the background).
Seconds later, Wes is talking on air about how summer vacation brings all kind of surprising twists and turns, including (but not limited to) the time his 14-year-old daughter’s friends spend at his house.
“They’ve infiltrated my home,” he teased to radio listeners a few minutes prior. “They’ve infested it … I can’t get them out no matter what I do.”
30West: That was one of the things I’ve always wondered about as a listener. How do you come up with these ideas for stories?
EK: The way it works is every show we want to make sure we are live and local. We ask ourselves: what are people talking about? We talk a lot about what is going on in our life — anything you would talk to your friends about —that’s what we’re here to do. We are constant observers of life. There are things that go on in our lives, or our friends’ lives, things we see on TV, and we’re always taking notes like, “this would be a good topic,” “we should talk about this.”
30West: So how (and when) did you know this was the career for you?
EK: I knew when I was at a concert at the Waukesha County Fairgrounds at a Lonestar concert in college. I was studying advertising and public relations and I saw the (FM 106) morning show DJ come out on stage and introduce the band, and I was watching her and thinking what a great job. (Ultimately) I started interning at FM 106, and that’s where I got my experience to actually get into radio. Sometimes I wonder how have I been doing this for so long? But it’s such a fun job. I absolutely love it and think all the time, how they pay me to do this?
30West: So how would you describe your relationship with Wes off the air? You guys seem pretty friendly on air. How does that carry into your personal lives?
EK: I don’t think there is a difference with Wes and me — that’s why this works. For radio, for entertainment purposes, who we are as people is pretty accurate in this case. What we’re finding now with modern day radio is you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not because with social media and being more accessible to people, they’ll call you out and it just doesn’t work. I feel like radio 20 years ago you could have had jocks (that) played a different role.
WM: You’ve heard the whole “face for radio” thing, and when I first started many times (radio hosts) were socially awkward … now it’s like so much of our lives.
EK: That’s how it works with social media. Social media is when that shift changed. Now they do see us; they’re watching our Facebook live videos, they’re following us on Twitter. We say hey, ‘we’re here,’ and they show up right away. It’s a totally different ball game. That’s why this is who we are; we’re just opposite enough that someone listening might be interested in what we have to say.
WM: She’s my big little sister.
EK: And he’s the brother I never wanted.
30West: So how has the transition gone for you guys? As far as hosting is concerned?
EK: Well I should disclose that I’ve known Wes since I was 20 years old. He dated one of my friends. Joking aside, when Kidd was taking the job in Washington, D.C. … well, that was working with my best friend. We knew we wanted to find someone to have that same kind of rapport with, but be different enough that there is conflict on the air, because conflict triggers emotion. That’s what people listen to and want and gets them to call into the show.
30West: So how do you deal with things like what happened with the massacre in Florida recently?
EK: What just happened in Orlando we call big-world scary. (Our listeners) don’t come to us for that kind of information, but we’re also human and can’t not talk about it, so we did talk about it. But they’re not coming to us for that. We’re not journalists, we’re not reporters, so we are able to give our opinions on things, but we’re also not a show known for being controversial either. We’re here to help you forget about everything happening in the world. We’re here to entertain and play your favorite song.
30West: So let’s get real. What is your favorite song right now?
WM: Star Spangled Banner. For sure.
EK: OMG, Adele, “Show You My Love”! I love that song right now!
30West: So if you had to sum up your job to a complete stranger from another planet, how would you describe what it is you do that you love so much?
EK: It’s actually something pretty profound that Wes says about morning radio. He describes this dynamic like being on a road trip alone with someone in a car for four hours. That’s kind of how a road trip is, you’re in a car together —you kind of have to talk to each other so you’ve got to make the best of it. Also, you might as well enjoy the ride.