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Deneé Hughes Interview 5-21-18

Deneé Hughes
Operations Manager, content creator, and co-host

Career Capsule: I unexpectedly began my career in radio in 2011. One day I’m a massage therapist and the next I’m on the morning show with Aaron Dicer.  The story of how I came to be at 88.3 The Wind in Springfield, MO is a wild one.. almost unbelievable.. but that’s how God works when He calls someone into their purpose. During my three years as Morning Show Co-host and Promotions Coordinator, I really came to see that inside the realm of radio, God could use all of my gifts and talents at once. I remember thinking back on the verse about God wanting things for you that are so good you can’t imagine them and I knew that this new career was His gift to me. I could be goofy and honest, curious and confident, creative and passionate. All at once. And all while encouraging other people to enjoy the journey God has planned. Truly mind-blowing! In 2014 our show was picked up by Boost 101.9 in St. Louis, which lead to the start of our independent studio, called “studioDNA”.  We produce a daily syndicated morning show, “The Morning DNA”, a weekend show “The Weekend DNA” and several weekly podcasts on a variety of topics including life, news, music, and pop culture.


Deneé tell us what’s new at The Morning DNA.. news, changes, & with YOU.. etc?

Well, the biggest news is that my co-host and best good friend Aaron Dicer did NOT die and I don’t have to worry about carrying on without him.  Can I start by saying a HUGE thank you to everyone who reached out when he was hospitalized? It was SO touch and go there for a few days and I couldn’t have picked up the reigns of our studio without your prayers and kind words. So thank you!
Pretty much everything else pales in comparison, but I’ll add that I can confirm that having a child does indeed provide an endless stream of show content. (I realize that “endless stream” brings on certain visuals.. which of course we don’t talk about on air) .. (ok maybe once or twice) .. I have LOVED talking about mom-failing and fears and really showcasing my humanity. I’m assured by many that I’ll be failing with my kid for life. So yay show prep!

Other news? Ok ok, I’ll dish. We’re adding a new affiliate soon! I just love connecting to a new station and coming up with clever and creative ways to meet needs. Our hope is to be a friend for your listener and a partner in purpose. Because we work independently we have a lot of freedom to get crafty, so connecting to a new station is always a ZING feeling. Like getting plugged into a great network of amazing folks. I mean, you are all amazing even if we’re not your show.. you get what I mean though.


Christian radio is competitive, what do you do to stand out from a crowd?

We do stand out for a few reasons, that is true, but I don’t think we’re competitive. Aaron and I are both more likely to help you find what you’re looking for even if it isn’t what we do. We love being around our friends and peers so we’re far more likely to want to catch up at lunch than pitch our show. BUT.. here are a few ways we stand out.

The obvious way. Aaron is tall. He literally stands out in a crowd.  Ok ok, I’ll be serious.

We are independent from a radio station, meaning how we deliver our show, manage the business, and travel are all decisions we make together with our team.  If we want to prioritize helping a station with a fundraiser, we do that.  If we need to rearrange our recording schedule so I can have a child.. we do that.  There is a lot of freedom in how we can interact with our affiliates because we don’t have to ask anyone else permission to do so. 

Another way we stand out is our podcast network! Aaron has been podcasting for 10 years and his vision for podcasting became mine when we launched our first podcast.  We now have an amazing team to help us manage the network and most recently Corey Mann joined our roster with his podcast! We talk to people about their ideas and coach them on how to get started, as well as help them launch their own.  We’re happy to help anyone interested!

Finally, I think I’ll mention how our radio show stands out from others.  We sort of inadvertently wound up in the “CHR” camp, I think because we laugh a LOT and fearlessly make fun of ourselves.  We’ve been labeled as “young” and “transparent” and “millennial sounding”.  Our show, however, has aired on both CHR and AC stations.  We syndicate our content just as it is and we don’t really work that hard at “trying to sound” one way or another.


What is the best and worst programming advice you were given?

Are you trying to get me in trouble here? You are. That’s ok. I forgive you.

Well the worst advice I ever received was to “not be yourself so much” and “don’t use these words”.  Suddenly I went from being able to just be me, to having to worry about being someone else’s version of me.  It was like adding 10 middlemen to my mind and it really slowed down the creative process and my confidence behind the mic.  Thankfully the BEST advice I ever received was the opposite of that, which removed those filters and has allowed me to confidently be the person I am.  In my 7 years of experience, the people listening want to hear YOU. Quirks and all.


Some say more Christian stations in the market the better. Do you agree?

In my hometown, there was a school that taught how to be a massage therapist. (go with me on this) This school was a very popular place and there were graduating classes every Spring and Winter. It was like an endless faucet pumping out therapists every year! The topic of having a “saturated market” came up frequently and it was clear that there were two types of people.  Those who were focused on there being too many therapists and not enough clients, and those who weren’t worried at all. As an advocate for networking and unity, I wasn’t worried about Springfield running out of people who needed help. I was committed to providing my client with the best care possible, and if that meant that I needed to refer them to someone whose work was different than my own.. then that’s what I did.  I found my specialty over the years, and I knew my limits. It’s not about “keeping people”.. it’s about guiding them to what serves them best even it if means passing off a resource. Serve the people, God provides the rest. I think the same could be true for Christian radio.


What’s the ONE thing you must have EVERYDAY for your show?

Right now I’m on a half cut tea with light ice and a small tater tot with three packets of mustard kick.  I show up every day with these Sonic items and I’m ready for radio gold.


Where will the future of Christian radio talent come from?

Oh buddy.  Well if it’s like my origin story the talent will come “off the streets” with no experience in broadcasting but a TON of experience in communicating and having a fun time doing it fearlessly. 


Generally speaking, what are the biggest obstacles in Christian radio?

I think the biggest obstacle EVER is fear.  My prayer is that the great decision makers in our industry are winning their fights with fear.  I realize there is the healthy “fear God” part of our faith, but I’m talking about fearing man, fearing messing up so you don’t try, fear of losing a donor, fear of change, fear of losing a rank, fear of asking for help.  Pray for each other so we can keep kickin fear in the pants. There are a lot of places for fear to creep in, and man it’s like a nasty weed. Grab the weed killer friends. Get on your knees and pull that stuff out of the soil. We have a lot of work to do together, so if you need fear killin’ weed pullin’ encouragement. Call me.


Who are your radio heros?

If I had a deck of hero playing cards my top picks right now would beeee…

-Aaron Dicer. Come on, this dude died and came back to life and wouldn’t change a thing bc he loves what he does so much. That’s inspiration right there.

-Kris Love. From day ONE he has been such an encourager of our show.  He once said that we were his hope for the future of radio and on my hard days I think about that and carry on. He ALSO makes sure our lil’ ol’ independent studio has great artist interviews!

-Johanna Antes- This wonderful woman taught me so much about fundraising and kindness. She manages so much, works incredible hours, loses her voice, but still goes on. I’m inspired by her and always thankful to chat over dinner or coffee.

-Chuck Finney. We asked for his help to guide us as we parted ways from working in a “station proper”. He has since become so much more than a studio coach. He has pushed us outside our comfort zone, pressed us toward God and given the most profound wisdom. Many of our greatest decisions came as a direct result of Chuck’s prompts.

-Mike Couchman. One of the hardest working people I know, and he still makes time to connect.  I sometimes think about what he accomplishes in a week and I wonder what I’m doing with my life. He is an exceptional leader has that perfect balance of someone that’s easy to talk to and profound respect. You just want to knock it out of the park for him every day.

-LuAnn Schafer- A solid friend from the start who constantly encourages me and shows me what hard work looks like. I’m inspired by her grit, passion and I love that she always has a smile on her face!

-Michelle Younkman- When Aaron went down last month I was S.H.O.C.K.E.D that Michelle reached out to me to be sure I was ok. This incredible person manages SO much and she made time to connect, listen, and pray with me. Talk about leading by example! I want to lead like that.